Jeremy Hunt launched a stinging assault on ‘populist’ Boris Johnson today – insisting Britain needs a PM who keep their promises.
The Foreign Secretary sought to turn the screw on his opponent after it emerged the police was called to a blazing row between Mr Johnson and his 31-year-old girlfriend.
Without referring to the episode, Mr Hunt left no room for doubt that he wants the contest to be about character.
He said activists had to ask themselves who they ‘trust’ to negotiate a deal with the EU, suggesting that Mr Johnson’s plans were not realistic. He insisted part of the problem over the past three years was that politicians made promises they could not keep.
And in a vicious swipe he warned that Mr Johnson could plunge the Tories into the same chaos and misery as Jeremy Corbyn did to Labour.
‘We could choose our own populist – or we could do better, and choose our own Jeremy,’ he said.
Jeremy Hunt (pictured today) sought to turn the screw on his opponent after it emerged the police were called to a blazing row between Boris Johnson and his 31-year-old girlfriend
Earlier, Mr Johnson flatly refused to answer questions about the explosive row with his girlfriend as he ran the gauntlet of the first Tory leadership hustings
Earlier, Mr Johnson flatly refused to answer questions about the explosive row with his girlfriend as he ran the gauntlet of the first Tory leadership hustings.
Speaking at a hustings in Birmingham, Mr Johnson did not mention the issue in his opening comments, insisting: ‘We need to get Brexit done… and I am the right man.’
And repeatedly challenged by broadcaster Iain Dale on stage, he replied: ‘I don’t think people want to hear about that kind of thing.’
Mr Johnson admitted the public was ‘entitled to know about my determination and character’. But he added: ‘Let me tell you that when I make a promise in politics about what I want to do I keep that promise.’
The dead bat response drew cheers from the audience – who also started booing when Dale tried to push further.
Mr Hunt insisted a ‘wise PM’ would make choices on the basis of the options that are ‘actually available’.
And he warned that Mr Johnson was making promises he could not keep.
‘Now we don’t know what the situation will be on the 31 October, but if there is no prospect of a better deal, if the European Union have been as inflexible as you say, and if no deal is on the table, then I will leave without a deal because we must keep our promise to the British people,’ he said.
Hunt insists he DOES feel Brexit ‘in my gut’
Jeremy Hunt insisted he feels Brexit ‘in my gut’ as he came under pressure from Tory activists today.
The Foreign Secretary faced claims of flip-flopping by backing Remainer in the referendum, before claiming to be a convert to the cause.
But in a swipe at Boris Johnson, who failed to vote for Theresa May’s Brexit deal in two out of three key divisionsm Mr Hunt said: ‘At every stage where I could support Brexit I have voted for it.’
And he pleaded with activists to move on from the divisions of the past three years.
‘If we carry on three years after the Referendum labelling people as Remainer Remainer Brexiteer Remainer Brexiteer we’re not going to unite our party, and we’re not going to get this vote through the House of Commons.
‘We’ve got to come together and deliver Brexit.’
He added: ‘This language is so destructive because we are going to need a coalition inside the Conservative Party.’
‘But I would do so with a heavy heart, because of the risks to businesses up and down the country and the risks to the union.
‘But if we have to, in the end I would do that. But the reason that I haven’t made the pledge that Boris has made is because I think it’s very important that prime ministers keep their word.
‘It is entirely possible that Parliament will rule out no-deal between now and 31 October.’
Mr Hunt urged activists to consider: ‘Who is the PM we trust to send to Brussels and lead us out of this crisis?
‘Send the right person and there’s a deal to be done.’
But he said , ‘catastrophe awaits’ if they make the wrong choice.
‘If we send the wrong person there’s going to be no negotiation, no trust, no deal, and if Parliament stops that, maybe no Brexit,’ he said.
Mr Hunt also had a dig at Mr Johnson for failing to back Theresa May’s Brexit deal in two of the three ‘meaningful’ votes.
‘At every stage where I could support Brexit I have voted for it,’ Mr Hunt said.
Mr Johnson and his girlfriend were recorded by neighbours having a ‘plate-smashing, screaming row’ during which Miss Symonds demanded he leave. Police were called, but no formal action was taken.
In the wake of the controversy Miss Symonds ‘liked’ a tweet stating ‘we must have have entertainment at number 10’ – seemingly making light of the extraordinary incident.
But she was nowhere to be seen at the hustings this afternoon, despite attending his campaign launch earlier this month.
Mr Johnson rejected claims he has been softening his position that Britain must leave the bloc by the end of October, deal or no deal.
Without referring to the episode, Mr Hunt left no room for doubt that he wants the contest to be about character
Mr Hunt jibed at the hustings: ‘We could choose our own populist – or we could do better, and choose our own Jeremy.’
Mr Johnson also doubled down on his claim that the UK would be able to waive tariffs on EU goods even if there is No Deal. Bank of England governor Mark Carney dismissed the idea yesterday, as has Trade Secretary Liam Fox.
But senior Tories mocked him during the speech by posting images of unicorns on Twitter. And one Tory member at the event turned the air blue by condemning his ‘f*** business’ jibe about companies raising concerns about hard Brexit.
Mr Johnson said the swipe had been ‘one stray remark to the Belgian ambassador’ during a private reception.
He said his record was ‘pretty extraordinary’ when it came to supporting business, even defending bankers after the 2008 financial crunch.
He also refused to rule out cancelling the HS2 rail project, or taking direct action to stop the expansion of Heathrow Airport. Asked about his previous pledge to ‘lie down in front of the bulldozers’, Mr Johnson said: ‘We’ll have to see when the bulldozers appear.’