British Prime Minister Theresa May has signalled that she could sack Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, a newspaper says, as she tries to reassert her authority after a series of political disasters.
The Sunday Times said it asked May about her plans for Johnson, who has professed loyalty but is accused by some of the prime minister’s allies of undermining her by putting forward his own vision for Britain’s exit from the European Union.
“It has never been my style to hide from a challenge and I’m not going to start now,” it quoted May as replying, in what it called a signal that she was prepared to bring in new ministers to her cabinet and axe those who had caused her problems.
“I’m the PM, and part of my job is to make sure I always have the best people in my cabinet, to make the most of the wealth of talent available to me in the party.”
May has seen her authority over her Conservative Party erode since she called a snap election in June in which she lost her majority in parliament.
Johnson, seen as a potential successor to May, said Conservative MPs pushing to unseat her were “nutters”, adding that a change would lead to demands for another election that could bring a resurgent Labour party back to power.
“Are we really going to be stampeded myopically over the edge of the gorge, with an election that no one wants?” he said in the Sunday Telegraph.
Johnson wrote a newspaper article last month outlining his vision of Brexit just days before May made a major speech on the subject.
While professing loyalty, his interventions have been seen as undermining May and causing unnecessary unrest ahead of the party’s conference last week that culminated in a disastrous speech by the prime minister, marred by a coughing fit and letters falling off the slogan on the set behind her.
Johnson made a plea for loyalty with a typical rhetorical flourish on Sunday.
“‘Quo quo scelesti ruitis?’, as Horace put it at the beginning of a fresh bout of Rome’s ghastly civil wars, and which roughly translates as: “What do you think you are doing you nutters?”
Britain’s Sunday newspapers were brimming with briefings from unnamed Conservative figures suggesting May’s days in Downing Street were numbered.