15/02/2019 10:50 GMT

Michael Portillo Brands Chris Grayling 'The Most Incompetent Minister Of All Time'


Former Tory cabinet minister Michael Portillio has dubbed beleaguered transport secretary Chris Grayling “the most incompetent minister of all time”.

In a damning assessment of his fellow Eurosceptic on the BBC’s ‘This Week’ programme, Portillo echoed cutting claims from the opposition about Grayling’s performance on the front bench.

“As Labour said in the chamber – the most incompetent minister of all time, probably,” the former defence secretary said, when asked by host Andrew Neil whether Grayling was “fit for purpose”.

The reason he is still in the cabinet is because he is pro-Brexit and “nearly all the other Eurosceptics have jumped ship by now”, he continued.

“And for the prime minister to lose another Eurosceptic would be very, very damaging.”

Portillo’s comments came after Grayling refused to apologise to MPs over the Seaborne Freight debacle earlier in the week.

Despite signing a £13.8m deal with the ferry firm – which was later revealed to have no ships and to have never run a ferry service – the Epsom and Ewell MP described criticism of him as “baffling” and “inexplicable”.

On Wednesday, the UK’s top civil servant for transport admitted to MPs that the government had signed the deal – which was axed over the weekend – based on a promise from Seaborne that it had financial backing from Irish company Arklow Shipping.

Grayling only received formal written confirmation from Arklow that it planned to back Seaborne the month after the shipping deal had been signed, it was revealed.

But Portillo was not the only member of the ‘This Week’ team to attack Grayling’s abilities on Thursday.

Neil said there were rumours Theresa May does not like people “to be too talented around her”, suggesting both she and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn are “uncomfortable with bright people”.

Former Labour home secretary Alan Johnson replied: “For Theresa May I think there might be a little bit of this, you know, keeping them there makes the rest of them look good.”

It was announced yesterday that the BBC’s late-night political show would end in July, to coincide with the end of Neil’s run as host.