Prominent Conservatives have criticised Boris Johnson for comparing Theresa May’s Brexit strategy to wrapping a “suicide vest” around Britain and handing the detonator to Brussels.
Several MPs have accused the former foreign secretary of going too far in his comments, which were made in an article for a Sunday newspaper.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “I think there are much better ways to articulate your differences.
“It’s a reminder for all of us in public policy, whichever party we represent, to use measured language because I think that’s what the public want to see.”
Amid growing speculation that Mr Johnson is angling to replace Theresa May in Number 10, Mr Javid added: “The Conservative Party is not looking for a new leader because we are lucky to have a very good leader. She is also the prime minister of this country and is doing a great job.”
In The Mail on Sunday, Mr Johnson once again attacked Mrs May’s so-called Chequers plan, writing: “We look like a seven-stone weakling being comically bent out of shape by a 500lb gorilla.
“And the reason is simple: Northern Ireland, and the insanity of the so-called ‘backstop’. We have opened ourselves to perpetual political blackmail.
“We have wrapped a suicide vest around the British constitution – and handed the detonator to Michel Barnier.
“We have given him a jemmy with which Brussels can choose – at any time – to crack apart the Union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.”
Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan, Mr Johnson’s former deputy, wrote on Twitter: “For Boris to say that the PM’s view is like that of a suicide bomber is too much.
“This marks one of the most disgusting moments in modern British politics. I’m sorry, but this is the political end of Boris Johnson. If it isn’t now, I will make sure it is later.”
And Tom Tugendhat, the Tory chair of the foreign affairs select committee, said: “A suicide bomber murdered many in the courtyard of my office in Helmand.
“The carnage was disgusting, limbs and flesh hanging from trees and bushes. Brave men who stopped him killing me and others died In horrific pain. Some need to grow up. Comparing the PM to that isn’t funny.”
James Brokenshire, appearing on Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme, also criticised Mr Johnson’s remarks – but said the government should be moving forward.
He said: “Boris has obviously expressed his views… I think he’s wrong on that. I think the tone that he’s used isn’t right and I think we just need to be very focused, all actually moving forward with the Chequers plan.”
Labour’s education spokeswoman Angela Rayner said Mr Johnson’s comments showed the state that the Tories were in.
She said: “Tory leadership battle has not yet officially started and they are already using analogies such as ‘suicide vests’ to slur one side against the other. The other side is reported to have a ‘dirty dossier’ on Boris Johnson. Truly awful stuff in our politics.”
Meanwhile, the head of the TUC has called for the public to have a say on the terms of the Brexit deal through a “popular vote” – warning that time is running out to avoid the UK “crashing out” of the EU.
The union’s general secretary, Frances O’Grady, told the Andrew Marr Show: “That would be an absolute disaster for the people we represent. If we don’t get a deal that working people need, the TUC will be throwing its full weight behind a campaign for a popular vote so that people have a say.”