Boris Johnson’s political demise can be trace back to his key role in the 2016 Brexit referendum, Jacob Rees-Mogg has claimed.
The Brexit opportunities minister, a Johnson loyalist who has backed Liz Truss for the Tory leadership, suggested Remainers seeking revenge had helped bring him down.
“I think part of the reason has to be Brexit,” he told GB News on Johnson’s downfall. “There’s a lot of people who resent the fact we left the European Union. And therefore to bring down the standard bearer of Brexit was a triumph for them.”
He added: “And you had people like Lord Heseltine and Lord Adonis, saying no, Boris, no Brexit. And I think they really thought that. And I very much hope it’s not true.”
Rees-Mogg also called on Labour MP Harriet Harman to “stand down” as chair of the Commons inquiry probing whether the PM lied over Partygate.
The Tory minister said Harman’s critical tweets about Johnson should count her out of leading the cross-party privileges committee probe into whether he misled parliament over his knowledge of rule-breaking gatherings.
“I do not believe you can have a fair judgment, when the chairman of the committee has already judged the matter. And I think she should stand down,” said Rees-Mogg on the Labour veteran.
He added: “I’m astonished that she accepted it, because she is, if I may put it this way, a good socialist. Oh, she’s a very respectable individual. She’s admired across parties. And I think she’s doing genuine damage to her reputation by putting herself in this position.”
The cabinet minister’s attack on the committee chair follows a warning by the government’s chief whip for all Tory MPs to keep quiet about the inquiry.
Fellow Johnson ally Nadine Dorries has been accused of waging a “terrorist campaign” to discredit the investigation, after she urged Tory MPs on the cross-party committee to quit the “witch hunt”.
In an email to all Tory MPs, chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris urged colleagues to stop making critical remarks about the committee. “Invariably these comments will be misinterpreted by those who do not wish to help us.”
Meanwhile, Rees-Mogg said he thought Truss’s admission she had been wrong to side with the Remain campaign was “brilliant” and “refreshing”.
“She’s enthusiastic about Brexit – and that’s terrific. Because if we’re to get the benefits of Brexit, we need enthusiasm,” he said.
In an attack on Truss’ leadership rival Rishi Sunak, Rees-Mogg said: “The area where I think the government has not been so strong is on economic policy. But there’s somebody else that I would blame for that.”
The cabinet minister also played down the chances of Johnson ever returning as PM. “Nobody’s come back having lost the leadership of the party since Gladstone. And I just don’t think in modern politics, the chance of coming back is realistic.”
The minister also said Johnson’s decision to hire Vote Leave supremo Dominic Cummings backfired because the adviser believe he was in charge.
“In the end, it turned out that his eccentricity was absurd and self-serving and that he thought he was prime minister, and that was never going to work,” he said.
In a new broadside against civil servants working from home, he said British officials were becoming “French” in their attitude to work.
“Nobody can do any work when it’s hot, apparently, for two days in a century, and we all have to stay at home.
“And now what’s the excuse now? Oh, no, it’s August, so no one can possibly. We’re becoming French. We need to see people get back in the office.”