Boris Johnson has admitted to having regrets over “bottling” the 2016 Tory leadership contest.
Speaking to LBC the day before parliament’s key vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal, the former foreign secretary said: “In retrospect, if I had my time again, I might have done things differently.
“I certainly have engaged in a lot of heart-searching about it ever since,” he added.
Johnson unexpectedly pulled out of the race to replace David Cameron as Conservative leader following the 2016 EU referendum after fellow Brexiteer Michael Gove made a shock last-minute bid for the role.
Asked whether he had “bottled” his chance to be leader, Johnson said there was “no point crying over spilt milk”.
“The key point is to get on and look at where we are today, and there is no vacancy today.”
However, he said that the prime minister’s deal was likely to go down when MPs cast their meaningful vote on the proposal to leave the EU on Tuesday.
“I think, possibly, some colleagues are being scared by this idea that there might be no Brexit as a result of voting it down. I think that’s nonsense,” Johnson said, saying people would feel “betrayed” if parliament tried to thwart the UK’s exit from the EU.
“Britain will leave in March, absolutely, and that’s the bottom line.”
But the former Mayor of London did not express the same regret over controversial comments he made in his Daily Telegraph column comparing Muslim women who wear the burka to “letter boxes”, denying claims it was anti-Muslim rhetoric.
“Having written that piece, I received overwhelming support, not just from Muslims but above all from Muslim women, who agreed with me...” he told the radio station during a phone-in.
Johnson went on to admit he would “of course” use that kind of language again.