George Osborne “loathes” Boris Johnson because his rival became prime minister, according to the former No 10 communications chief Guto Harri.
The senior ally of Mr Johnson said it was worth bearing in mind the “deep rivalry” after Mr Osborne accused the former PM of trying to bring down Rishi Sunak over Brexit.
The former chancellor claimed at the weekend that Mr Johnson was exploiting the Northern Ireland Protocol row and “hitting Sunak over the head with it” in a bid to topple the PM.
“He loathes Boris Johnson, because they were both rivals, and they both wanted to be prime minister and Boris became prime minister and George did not,” Mr Harri told the News Agents podcast.
“And at the Olympics in 2012, 60,000 people lined up in Hyde Park to chant Boris, and George Osborne went to the Olympic Stadium and got booed. So, this is deep rivalry.”
Mr Harris also revealed that Mr Johnson “may still be interested” in returning to No 10 in future – but denied he is actively plotting to return to oust Mr Sunak this year.
“If in years to come, there was an opportunity and there was a vacancy, then, I think he still may be interested,” said the close ally, who worked for Mr Johnson at No 10 and City Hall.
“I am not going to deny that at some point in future, if the ball came loose, that Boris would want to be prime minister again. But I don’t think that he actively wants to bring down Rishi Sunak, because he knows what it feels like for that to happen to you.”
It comes as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer revealed his own “loathing” for Mr Johnson at the live recording of Matt Forde’s podcast The Political Party last night.
“I really couldn’t give a toss” he said when asked about Mr Johnson’s insults at PMQs after the ex-Tory leader called him “crasheroonie snoozefest”.
Criticising Mr Johnson’s personal life and the various political scandals which have embroiled friends and allies, Sir Keir said: “Is there anybody who’s had any relationship with Johnson – you know, in any sense of the word – who hasn’t ended up in the gutter?”
Sir Keir also revealed that he had swapped numbers with Mr Sunak, in remarks reported by Politico.
“He phoned me the day he became prime minister, gave me his personal number, and we said we would work together on things like Ukraine and if there was a terrorist incident,” he said.
But the Labour leader added: “We’re not texting about the Southampton-Arsenal scores.”
Mr Johnson was accused of “treachery” by senior Tories after intervened in the Brexit debate by suggesting it would be a “great mistake” to ditch the bill allowing UK ministers to scrap protocol check unilaterally.
But home secretary Suella Braverman said the protocol bill remained “one of the biggest tools we have”, and Commons leader Penny Mordaunt said Mr Johnson’s intervention was “not helpful” in reminding the EU of the nuclear option.