Tory anger over Boris Johnson reignited today as one MP told him to “keep his bloody mouth shut” and Scottish leader Ruth Davidson suggested she would sack him.
The Foreign Secretary continued to overshadow the Conservative party conference in Manchester as he faced fresh criticism for setting out new demands for a swifter Brexit.
Irritation with Johnson erupted over his latest intervention - when he warned the post-Brexit transition should last “not a second longer” than two years - as well as over claims from some of his allies that Theresa May could be out of office within a year.
Chancellor Philip Hammond said that ‘everyone is sackable’, while MP Antoinette Sandbach told HuffPost UK: “We live in an era of cabinet collective responsibly.
“If he doesn’t want to take that responsibility he should do the honourable thing and resign”.
John Howell – Johnson’s successor as MP in Henley - also told ITV Meridian: “My message to Boris is to keep his bloody mouth shut”.
Davidson told a Times RedBox fringe meeting that she would have sacked any MSP if they had written an article similar to Johnson’s Daily Telegraph piece, where he revived his call for £350m a week to be spent on the NHS.
“I have a lot of MSPs at this conference - if any of you think about writing anything without telling me that runs counter to Conservative policy, you’re out on your ear, because nobody is unsackable,” Davidson said.
A new ConservativeHome poll of activists appeared to show that Johnson’s high-profile stance had paid off, installing him once more as the favourite among the grassroots to become the next Tory leader.
And Tory peer and publisher Lord Ashcroft told the BBC that the Foreign Secretary’s interventions had helped her to maintain a tough negotiating stance with Brussels.
Johnson is due to deliver his conference speech on Tuesday, but has been mobbed by media and activists wherever he goes in Manchester.
Earlier, First Secretary of State Damian Green moved to counter Johnson’s claims, insisting that the Brexit transition period set out by the PM could indeed last longer than two years.
“The phrase the Prime Minister used [in her Florence speech, for the length of the transition] was ‘around two years’ but that means a few months either way.”
On Sunday, Cabinet ministers and MPs lined up to criticise Johnson for destabilising the conference, with many convinced he was setting out his own leadership stall.
Johnson was described by Home Secretary Amber Rudd last month not to play the role of “back seat driver” in the Brexit talks.