With the race hotting up to replace Theresa May, Mr Johnson has been named as the odds-on favourite to enter Downing Street with a promise to get Britain out of the EU “deal or no-deal” on October 31. But the attacks on him were led by Nigel Farage who – writing for the Sunday Express – furiously criticised the former London Mayor for voting for Theresa May’s deal. He said: “Never mind turkeys voting for Christmas, this was more like Spartacus voting for slavery.
“Now Boris pledges that the UK will definitely leave the EU on 31 October, ‘Brexit deal or no deal’.
“But why should we trust him to keep his word?”
From the Remainer wing, cabinet minister Rory Stewart, a leadership rival, said he could not work with Mr Johnson.
He posted an apparent reference to the former Mayor in a Tweet, saying: “The star name will not always be the best choice. There may be times when Jiminy Cricket would make a better leader than Pinocchio”.
In an interview he also suggested he had been misled by Mr Johnson.
He said: “I spoke to Boris, I suppose, about two weeks ago about this and I thought at the time he had assured me that he wouldn’t push for a no-deal Brexit.
“So, we had a conversation about 20, 25 minutes and I left the room reassured by him that he wouldn’t do this.
“But, it now seems that he is coming out for a no-deal Brexit.”
Meanwhile, it was claimed that dossiers on Mr Johnson’s private life and his main rival Dominic Raab are being prepared to “take them out of the race”.
The two appeared to be engaged in a “Brexit arms race” in a promise to members of the powerful European Research Group (ERG) of Brexiteers that they will push for no deal with the EU to deliver a clean Brexit.
On Friday, Mr Johnson was personally calling a number of MPs to pledge to them that he would opt for World Trade Organisation rules unless the EU made an enormous compromise before the new official leave date on 31 October.
It is understood that Mr Raab, who quit as Brexit secretary in protest over Mrs May’s deal with the EU, has suggested to MPs that he would prorogue (suspend sitting) Parliament to allow time to lapse to stop a Remainer majority among MPs supported by Speaker John Bercow from preventing no deal.
In a further twist though, environment secretary Michael Gove, who led the victorious Vote Leave campaign, is said to be looking at a harder Brexit policy to persuade Brexiteer MPs to back him.
Mr Farage’s verbal assault on Mr Johnson comes as his Brexit Party is expected to be the big winner when the European Parliament election results are announced tomorrow.
There are fears among Tories that their party will have been pushed to an historic nadir into fifth place.
But supporters of Mr Johnson, who see him as the best hope to insisted he was the only one who can deliver Brexit and turn around Tory fortunes.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the chairman of the ERG, compared Mr Johnson to the “Titans” of the Victorian political age Lord Palmerston and Benjamin Disraeli.
In an interview with the Sunday Express about his book on the Victorians, Mr Rees-Mogg described Mr Johnson as the only politician capable of making the political weather.
Mr Rees-Mogg said: “Disraeli and Palmerston were both big figures, who filled the space for the patriotic leader who understands the national mood.
“I think the patriotic leader who understands the popular mood is exactly what we need. We need a big figure.
“I think either of them would have seen the opportunities in Brexit in making our own way and standing up for what we wanted to do and pushing very strongly for British interests.
“Boris fits this mould of a big figure who can make the political weather who has considerable optimism about the future of our country who believes we can not only succeed but be more successful than ever.
“Also like Disraeli – I think he is a very Disraelian Conservative – he believes in a strong nation but he also believes in what might be called now compassionate Conservatism or what what Disraeli called improving the condition of the British people which was one of the driving forces of what Disraeli tried to do.
“I think you can see that very much in what Boris Johnson did as Mayor of London. He was very concentrated on improving people’s daily lives whether that was by reducing crime or cutting council tax. It was helping people lead the lives they wanted to lead.”
However, another potential leadership contender Priti Patel, who was considering her options over the weekend, issued a warning today that her colleagues need to see the real threat of the Brexit Party.
Ms Patel cut her political teeth as director of communications for James Goldsmith’s Referendum Party in the 1990s which ensured the Tories suffered a humiliating defeat in 1997.
A ComRes poll for the Sunday Express last week revealed that nine in 10 Brexit Party voters would consider voting for them in a general election as well as for the European Parliament.
Writing today she has warned that the Conservative Party will struggle to win voters back and she has made it clear that there needs to be a complete change at the top with a cabinet clear out.
She said: “Those responsible for the denial of democracy and this establishment stitch-up have created a stain on our democracy.
“You cannot give people a referendum, promise them that their decision will be respected and then go back on that.
“The people of this country value the rules and fair play, which is why the way some in Parliament and Government have cheated them out of the result is provoking such a backlash.
“That means root and branch change and a new generation of political leaders to restore democratic accountability and trust in politics.”
Meanwhile, health secretary Matt Hancock has tried to position himself as a continuity candidate to replace Mrs May seeking to bring back her compromise deal.
Announcing his candidacy, he said he would take a different approach to try and get Commons support for a Brexit deal than the one Theresa May used.
He said: “She didn’t start by levelling with people about the trade-offs.
“I think it is much, much easier to bring people together behind a proposal if you are straightforward in advance.”
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