Johnson undamaged after deliberately dull campaign launch

He refused to be drawn on his conflicting statements about using cocaine when he was younger

Boris Johnson said it was 'astonishing' that anyone would remove a No Deal Brexit from negotiations at his launch for the Tory leadership bid. Video: Reuters

 

Boris Johnson emerged undamaged from his deliberately dull campaign launch on Wednesday, taking just six questions from reporters and dodging the difficult ones.

He promised to take Britain out of the EU by October 31st, and said he wanted to avoid a no-deal Brexit, but offered no details of how he would negotiate changes to Theresa May’s deal.

In his pitch for the premiership, Johnson ignored his record as foreign secretary, reaching back instead to his happier experience as a two-term mayor of London. He suggested that he would govern from the centre, drawing on the talents of a strong team as he did at city hall.

He refused to be drawn on his conflicting statements about using cocaine when he was younger, asserting that the “canonical account” was well known and that voters were more interested in his plans for the future.

The ugliest moment came when some of Johnson’s more thuggish supporters in the European Research Group booed and jeered Sky News political editor Beth Rigby.

In response to Rigby’s question about his history of offensive statements about women and ethnic minorities, Johnson said he was sorry for causing offence but that he would continue to speak directly.

Wednesday’s Commons vote rejecting a Labour motion aimed at blocking a no-deal Brexit was a boost for Johnson and other leadership candidates who insist that leaving the EU without a deal must remain on the table. Too few Conservatives voted in favour of the motion, and too many Labour MPs voted against it. The defeat came as a surprise at Westminster.

One more option

Some Conservatives may have been reluctant to support a motion in Jeremy Corbyn’s name, or were shy of rebelling while the leadership contest is still under way.

A similar motion could win a majority in the future, and former Conservative attorney general Dominic Grieve warned his party that MPs have one more option for blocking a no-deal Brexit.

“If we get to a point where a prime minister is intent on taking us out of the EU with no deal, the only way of stopping that prime minister will be to bring down their government,” he said. 

“I have to say here and now that I will not hesitate to do that if that is attempted, even if it means resigning the whip and leaving the party.

“I will not allow this country to be taken out of the EU on a no-deal Brexit without the approval of this house, and without going back to the country and asking it if that is what it wants.”

BREXIT: The Facts

Read them here
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