Theresa May’s Brexit plans would defy democracy and cheat the voters, Boris Johnson blasted today as he launched his biggest challenge yet to the PM.
The former foreign secretary made his most impassioned attack yet on her handling of Brexit, pulling huge crowds to his unofficial fringe event.
“If we cheat the electorate — and Chequers is a cheat — we will escalate the sense of mistrust,” Mr Johnson declared to a crowd of 1,500 Tory activists , media and visitors crammed into a side hall.
He also added “And I am afraid we will make it more likely that the ultimate beneficiary of the Chequers deal will be the far-Right in the form of Ukip.”
Mr Johnson timed his arrival in Birmingham to coincide with a keynote address by his reputed leadership rival Sajid Javid. It meant the Home Secretary addressed a 3,000-capacity main hall that was half empty.
The threats to Mrs May intensified as her DUP allies hit out at reports that No 10 is considering new Brexit plans that could mean regulatory checks at the Irish Sea.
Sammy Wilson, the party’s Brexit spokesman, attacked the “down-at-the-heel and sloped-shoulders” approach of the Government and, by contrast, praised Mr Johnson’s “vision”. The Northern Irish party’s votes are propping up the PM at Westminster.
Mr Johnson’s attempts to steal the limelight on the fringe of the Birmingham conference began with an early-morning jog near his Oxfordshire home, followed by a car ride to the gathering.
Some fans of Mr Johnson arrived as early as 9am to guarantee a seat in Hall 1, where the Uxbridge and South Ruislip MP was due to start speaking at 1pm. Luke Shortland, 19, from Croydon, said: “I think there will be fireworks. There could be a rally or a leadership bid.”
By about 11am queues were snaking through the conference centre.
Mr Johnson’s speech will be received as a brazen leadership pitch. Brexiteer MPs Iain Duncan Smith, John Redwood, David Davis and Steve Baker were all in the front row.
Calling on activists to “follow our Conservative instincts”, Mr Johnson attempted to elbow the Prime Minister into the shade. He demanded a revival of the popular house-buying policies of the Thatcher era, and attacked as “useless” Mayor of London Sadiq Khan for allegedly letting down the young by taking his foot off the house-building pedal.
“It is a disgraceful fact that we now have lower rates of owner occupation for under-40s than the French or the Germans,” Mr Johnson said.
“That reflects the failure of governments for the last 30 years to build enough housing, but it is also a massive opportunity for us Tories.”
He boasted that when he was Mayor “we built more homes of all types” than his Labour predecessor Ken Livingstone, and turned his guns on his successor, coining a social media hashtag #uselessKhan.
“You will see that now under #uselessKhan the number of new builds is slumping because Labour gets tangled in its cynical political objectives and it is the Conservative approach that gets things done,” he jeered. “So let’s follow our Conservative instincts and give millions more young people the chance to become owner-occupiers.”
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