Philip Hammond launched an extraordinary attack on Boris Johnson in which he said the former foreign secretary would never be prime minister and is “incapable” of grown-up politics.
After a day in which Theresa May and senior Tories lined up to heap criticism on her most high-profile critic, the c0hancellor launched his own attack on his former Cabinet colleague.
“I don’t expect it to happen”, Mr Hammond told the Daily Mail when asked whether Mr Johnson could become prime minister.
He went on to suggest Mr Johnson could not do “grown-up politics”, adding that he had ”no grasp of detail” on complex subjects like Brexit.
The former London’s mayor’s greatest achievement to date had been introducing the “Boris Bike” cycle scheme in the capital, Mr Hammond said.
The attack came at the end of the first day of the Conservative Party’s annual conference in Birmingham in which its fault lines over Brexit, already exposed, started to crack open with just weeks to go to settle a withdrawal deal with Brussels.
Mr Johnson had described Ms May’s Brexit policy as “deranged” and “preposterous” in the lead up to the conference.
In remarks that fuelled speculation about his leadership ambitions, the former foreign secretary suggested that he could negotiate Brexit better than Ms May, he said: “Unlike the Prime Minister, I fought for this.”
Ms May meanwhile, sought to put herself on the front foot by announcing a new levy on foreigners buying homes in the UK and plans for a national festival in 2022.
Asked about his suggestion that her Chequers plan for the future relationship between the UK and the EU was “deranged”, Ms May insisted she was acting in “the national interest”.