David Cameron has compared the decision by Tory activists to make Boris Johnson party leader to a doomed love affair.
They had a fatal attraction to him and knew they would be betrayed – but were seduced into electing him regardless.
The former Prime Minister’s provocative view has been disclosed by his No 10 director of communications, Sir Craig Oliver.
It is the latest episode in a political and personal rivalry that has raged between Cameron and Johnson for more than 40 years since they were at Eton.
Oliver says in his new podcast series: ‘David Cameron once said to me “Boris was an affair the Conservative Party had to have, even though in its heart it knew it would end badly.”’
Discussing the matter in an interview with ex Home Secretary Amber Ms Rudd, she agreed, saying: ‘It’s true. Boris is a candle that moths go round and get burnt. They know it is going to end badly, but can’t resist.’
Cameron was humiliatingly brought down as Prime Minister in 2016 by Johnson after his successful leadership of the Brexit campaign.
Both went to Eton, met at Oxford University. were members of its notorious Bullingdon Club and entered the Commons in 2001.
Johnson’s biographer Tom Bower said their parallel careers were ‘characterised by intense rivalry and paradoxical co-dependence in which they have relied on each other to achieve their political ambitions.’
When Cameron became Conservative leader in 2005, Johnson was said to be ‘shocked to his foundations that the man whom he claimed to have outshone at Eton and Oxford could have leapt over him.’
When Cameron left Johnson out of his Shadow Cabinet, Johnson reportedly remarked to a fellow MP: ‘I dimly remember Cameron at Eton as a tiny chap known as Cameron minor.’
According to another Johnson biographer, Sonia Purnell, he always believed that he is ‘cleverer, more original, more popular… than the (in his view) undistinguished but super-privileged son of Berkshire (Cameron) who beat him to the top.’
Writing for the Independent in 2016 Purnell said Johnson felt ‘eternal disgust’ that unlike Cameron, he failed to achieve a First Class degree at Oxford.
Sir Craig Oliver’s podcast, ‘Desperately Seeking Wisdom’ is available later today (Monday) on Globalplayer and other podcast apps.