Boris Johnson should be knighted for his Brexit intervention, Jacob Rees-Mogg has said.
The Foreign Secretary has caused a major row with his Cabinet colleagues after his 4,000 word article outlining his vision for leaving the EU overshadowed Theresa May’s imminent speech in Florence on the subject.
He has been accused of preparing a leadership challenge, slapped down publicly by other ministers and ambushed in a lift by journalists who demanded to know whether he was resigning.
Rees-Mogg, whose profile was boosted over the summer by a bizarre campaign to make the backbencher Tory leader, told Sky News that Boris deserved a knighthood for his Daily Telegraph column.
Rees-Mogg, who has backed Brexit longer than Johnson, was asked by Kay Burley whether May should sack the Foreign Secretary, something she is perceived to be too weak to do.
“It would be unusual to sack someone for supporting Government policy,” Rees Mogg said.
“What Boris Johnson has done is give the right approach to Brexit, emphasise the positivity of it, and he should certainly be given knighthood not sacked.”
He laughed, adding: “A Dukedom!”
He also claimed Johnson’s intervention would boost, not hinder May when she speaks in Florence on Thursday, adding his vision for Brexit would “boost the morale of the country”.
He added: “It is no good going into negotiations being wet about it and lily-livered to use your turn of phrase.
“You have to go in boldly, believing that your cause is right and that you will do better at the end of the negotiation than you were doing at the beginning.”
Rees-Mogg backed Johnson for Tory leader in the days after the Brexit vote, before he withdrew from the race before the result was declared.
When Burley asked whether Johnson would make a good prime minister, Rees-Mogg said May was a “fabulous” one.
“My question remains the same,” said Burley. “Even Conservative leaders are not immortal. Would he make a good Prime Minister?”
He said: “Boris Johnson is a man of immeasurable ability and I did actually back him at the beginning of the leadership campaign last year. And I obviously did so because I thought he would be an excellent Prime Minister.”
He also said of the approach to Brexit until now: “There’s been too much Eeyore, we want more Red Rum.”
He then denied he was comparing either Johnson or May to a donkey.