Boris unveils Tory bid warning party will DIE unless Brexit happens

Boris unveils Tory bid warning party will DIE unless Brexit happens

Boris Johnson finally broke cover to launch his Tory leadership bid today – but was left blustering as he was grilled over cocaine use. 

At an event in Westminster packed with his MP backers – and his girlfriend Carrie Symonds – the former foreign secretary gave an impassioned account of why he should be the next PM. 

He warned that politicians must ‘rise to the challenge’ of delivering Brexit by the end of October or face ‘mortal retribution’ from voters who are ‘in despair’ at the impasse.

Mr Johnson said the Tories will ‘kick the bucket’ and open the door for Jeremy Corbyn to sneak into power unless they counter the threat from Nigel Farage by following through on the 2016 referendum result. 

But Mr Johnson also faced pointed questions from journalists over whether he is gaffe-prone and lacks the discipline to be a good PM. 

He flannelled desperately when asked by the Daily Mail’s Jason Groves whether he had taken cocaine in the past – something that has threatened to destroy Michael Gove’s campaign. 

Confronted with his 2007 comments in an interview with GQ Magazine – when he said he ‘tried it at university’ and ‘remembered it vividly’ – Mr Johnson merely said: ‘I think the canonical account of this event when I was 19 has appeared many, many times. 

‘I think what most people in this country want us to focus on is what we can do for them and this great country.’ 

Piers Morgan, who conducted the interview for GQ, immediately responded on social media that Mr Johnson had ‘unequivocally’ admitted taking cocaine during their conversation. 

‘Boris admitted taking cocaine. Unequivocally. I know this because I’m the one he admitted it to,’ he tweeted. ‘The interesting question is why such an admission is deemed campaign-wrecking for Gove but not for Boris… ‘ 

Despite delivering a performance that seemed deliberately more serious and shorn of his trademark jokes, Mr Johnson said he would never be afraid to shake ‘plaster off the ceiling’ by ‘speaking directly’ – saying the public hates politicians who ‘muffle their language’.  

Mr Johnson is the hot favourite to win the race to take over from Theresa May in Downing Street – despite rivals such as Jeremy Hunt and Michael Gove accusing him of adopting a ‘submarine’ strategy of avoiding scrutiny. 

The press conference today was the first time in months that he has taken questions from journalists, and even then only six were allowed.  

Formally launching his campaign in Westminster today, Boris Johnson said there was ‘despair’ across the country at the failure to deliver on the result of the 2016 referendum

Mr Johnson raged that a ‘great country’ was being let down by the ‘morass’ at Westminster

The launch event was packed with his Mr Johnson’s MP backers – and his 31-year-old girlfriend Carrie Symonds (right) was seen arriving to watch, accompanied by friend and FGM campaigner Nimco Ali

Ten MPs are on the ballot as Tory MPs prepare to vote on who will be their next leader 

Piers Morgan, who conducted the 2007 interview for GQ, immediately responded on social media that Mr Johnson had ‘unequivocally’ admitted taking cocaine

The scale of the challenge Mr Johnson faces to keep his Brexit pledge will be underlined this afternoon, when MPs stage a vote designed to kill off No Deal.  

Speaker John Bercow has caused fury by bending parliamentary rules to allow a motion to be put down by Labour with cross-party support. It would seize control of Commons business from the government at the end of this month so a law can be passed banning the UK from crashing out of the EU without an agreement. 

Chancellor Philip Hammond waded into the row today by warning that Mr Johnson’s commitment to leave the EU by the end of October is ‘impossible’. 

In an impassioned speech, Mr Johnson said the ‘dynamism’ of the British people meant the economy was still thriving.

Boris Johnson’s pitch to the people 

  • On Brexit: ‘Now is the time to unite this country and unite this society. And we cannot begin that task until we have delivered on the primary request of the people, the big thing that they asked us to do. After three years and two missed deadlines we must leave the EU on October 31.’
  • On the threat from Labour: ‘Delay means defeat. Delay means Corbyn. Kick the can and we kick the bucket.’
  • On his ability to beat Labour: ‘Last time I would remind you that we faces an emanation of that cabal I defeated him (Ken Livingstone) when the Conservatives were 17 points behind in London.’ 
  • On sorting out Westminster politics and uniting the country: ‘We cannot ignore the morass at Westminster where parties have entered a yellow box junction, unable to move forward or back, while around the country there is a mood of disillusion, even despair, at our ability to get things done. 
  • On whether he has ever broken the law: ‘I cannot swear that I have always observed a top speed limit of 70mph…’ 

But he added: ‘We cannot ignore the morass at Westminster where parties have entered a yellow box junction, unable to move forward or back,’ he said. 

‘Now is the time to unite this country and unite this society… After two missed deadlines, we must leave the EU on October 31. And we must do better than the current Withdrawal Agreement.’

Mr Johnson said he did not think No Deal would happen – but it had to be kept on the table. ‘This is a great country and we will rise to the challenge,’ he added. 

He said there would be a sense of ‘overwhelming relief’ once the departure from the bloc had been sealed.

Mr Johnson also unloaded a vicious salvo at Mr Corbyn, saying he was determined to do everything necessary to stop him taking charge of the country.

‘I will do absolutely anything I can, within the bounds of the constitution and the law, to prevent the government of the UK from passing into the hands of those who by their total disdain for wealth creation and their contempt for the normal aspirations of millions to improve their lives, would compromise our ability to fund the NHS and so much else besides,’ he said.

‘My friends, we cannot let them anywhere near Downing Street. Last time I would remind you that we faces an emanation of that cabal I defeated him (Ken Livingstone) when the Conservatives were 17 points behind in London.

‘We can do it again and we must.’

Mr Johnson refused to say whether he would quit or call an election if he was not able to follow through on his solemn promise to take the UK out of the EU by the end of October. 

Instead he insisted that ‘maturity and a sense of duty will prevail’ among MP – despite Parliament having so far failed miserably to come to an agreement on Brexit. 

What did Boris mean by the word ‘canonical’? 

The word ‘canonical’ is usually used in a religious context.

It can refer to something that is recorded in authentic texts, or has the attributes of an official text. 

The word derives from the Greek word meaning ‘rule’ or ‘measuring stick’. 

‘I think it will be very difficult for friends in Parliament to obstruct the will of the people and simply to block Brexit,’ Mr Johnson said. 

‘I think if we now block it, collectively as parliamentarians we will reap the whirlwind and we will face mortal retribution from the electorate.’ 

And he blustered frantically when pushed on on his previous confession at having used cocaine during an interview with British GQ magazine – in which he said it ‘achieved no pharmacological, psychotropical or any other effect on me whatsoever’, 

He said: ‘I think the canonical account of this event when I was 19 has appeared many, many times.

‘I think what most people in this country want us to really focus on in this campaign, if I may say so, is what we can do for them and what our plans are for this great country of ours.’

Mr Johnson said he ‘cannot swear that I have always observed a top speed limit, in this country, of 70mph’ when asked whether he had ever done anything illegal. 

Alongside Ms Symonds in the audience today were an array of senior Tories – including Cabinet ministers such as Geoffrey Cox, James Brokenshire and Liz Truss, as well as influential Eurosceptics Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker. 

Mr Johnson was introduced by the booming voice of Mr Cox, who insisted it was time for a new approach to politics. He said Mr Johnson would ensure ‘full self-governance outside the EU’. 

Mr Johnson’s brother Jo and father Stanley were on hand to watch him make his big pitch for the keys to Downing Street

Mr Johnson was very animated during his speech to the launch in Westminster today – waving his hands around and gesticulating to hammer home his points 

The move to wrest control of Parliamentary business from the Government has the backing of former Tory Cabinet minister Sir Oliver Letwin, as well as all the Liberal Democrats, SNP and Greens.

International Development Secretary Rory Stewart indicated he supported Parliament’s efforts to block No Deal, but later said he would not vote for it after being warned he could face the sack.

The move follows an extraordinary decision by Mr Bercow to allow Labour to table a Commons business motion, which would normally be the preserve of the Government.

Mr Hammond said Mr Johnson was unwise to box himself ‘into a corner’ over his ‘impossible’ promise to leave by October 31.

Cocaine ‘didn’t do much for me’ but cannabis was ‘jolly nice’: What Boris Johnson told Piers Morgan in 2007 GQ interview

Boris Johnson was coy today when asked about his historic use of illegal drugs – but he has not always been so reluctant to discuss it.

In an interview in 2007 with fashion magazine GQ he admitted taking both cocaine and cannabis as a young man. 

His openness was in contrast to answers he gave at his leadership campaign launch today, following the weekend revelation that his rival Michael Gove had taken cocaine in the 1990s. 

Sitting down with Piers Morgan, now the host of Good Morning Britain, the then MP for Henley and wannabe London mayor said he tried cocaine while at Oxford in the mid 1980s.

Prompted about his drug use he said: ‘I tried it at university and I remember it vividly. And it achieved no pharmacological, psychotropical or any other effect on me whatsoever.’

He also owned up to enjoying ‘quite a few’ ‘spliffs’ – slang for a rolled-up marijuana cigarette-  as a teenager while studying at the prestigious Eton College.

He told the magazine: ‘There was a period before university when I had quite a few. But funnily enough, not much at university.’

Asked what the effect on him has been he said: ‘Yeah, it was jolly nice. But apparently it is very different these days. Much stronger. 

‘I’ve become very illiberal about it. I don’t want my kids to take drugs.’

Today, asked if he had ever done anything illegal, Mr Johnson said: I cannot swear that I have always observed a top speed limit of 70mph.’

Asked directly about the GQ interview he added: ‘I think the account of this event when I was 19 has appeared many, many times.

‘I think what most people in this country want us to really focus on in this campaign, if I may say so, is what we can do for them and what our plans are for this great country of ours.’ 

Speaking at Bloomberg’s Sooner Than You Think Summit in London, moments after the party leadership frontrunner addressed supporters nearby, Mr Hammond compared committing to the October deadline with driving ‘towards this cliff-edge at speed’. 

He also predicted the EU would not reopen the Withdrawal Agreement, which sets out the terms of the UK’s departure from the bloc and includes the controversial Northern Ireland backstop as well as Britain’s GBP39 billion ‘divorce’ settlement. 

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has also told Tory leadership hopeful they will not be able to renegotiate Mrs May’s Brexit deal. 

Mr Hammond told delegates: ‘I don’t think it’s sensible for candidates to box themselves into a corner on this. ‘Parliament will not allow a no-deal exit from the EU and our experience to date has suggested that it might not be that easy to agree a deal in Parliament. 

‘Boris and any other candidate is perfectly entitled to say that they need to go and test this for themselves. 

‘But I can advise them that the EU is not likely to be prepared to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement we have already opened with them.’

Mr Johnson’s status as frontrunner was boosted today as a poll predicted he could win a majority of 140 seats in a general election.

The ComRes research for the Telegraph identified him as the only candidate capable of besting both Jeremy Cobryn on the left and Nigel Farage on the right.

Ahead of the first round of voting by MPs tomorrow, Mr Johnson has nearly double the number of public pledges of support from colleague as rivals Mr Gove and Mr Hunt.

Mr Johnson said today that any further delay beyond the current Article 50 deadline of Halloween would mean ‘defeat’ for the Tories at the next election. 

He said Brexit will never be delivered if MPs give the ‘slightest hint that we want to go on kicking the can down the road’ adding in his campaign launch speech: ‘Delay means defeat.

‘Delay means Corbyn. Kick the can and we kick the bucket.’ 

Mr Johnson said his preferred solution is to negotiate a new Brexit deal with the EU, but the central plank of his campaign is that Britain will leave the EU by October 31 with or without a deal – something his critics say is not possible to guarantee.

But the launch today promises to be turbulent as it is the first time Mr Johnson has faced sustained questioning from reporters for months. 

There were claims today that business leaders are deeply worried about the prospect of him getting the keys to Downing Street, after he jibed ‘f*** business’ when asked about their Brexit concerns at a meeting last year. 

Mrs May warned the Cabinet yesterday that Parliament would never allow her successor to take Britain out of the EU without a deal.  

The MP seemed pleased with the way things were going as he set out his vision for the UK should he win the leadership race

Mr Johnson dodged questions during the launch about whether he had broken the law or used cocaine in the past

Jacob Rees-Mogg was among the MPs on hand at the launch as supporters of Mr Johnson staged a show of strength

Former Cabinet minister Priti Patel was among the MP backers at Mr Johnson’s campaign launch today

Treasury chief secretary Liz Truss (left) and senior backbench Brexiteer Steve Baker were also at the launch today 

Ex-defence secretary Gavin WIlliamson (pictured) has been coordinating Mr Johnson’s charm offensive in Parliament, and was at the launch today

Carrie makes her debut as Boris’s ‘First Lady’: Johnson’s 31-year-old girlfriend watches from the sidelines as the man she affectionately calls ‘Bozzie bear’ makes his pitch for Number 10

Boris Johnson has used the official launch of his leadership to unveil his ‘First Lady’ Carrie Symonds, the young woman credited with making her ‘Bozzie Bear’ a ‘lean mean Brexit machine’.

Miss Symonds, who is 23-years Boris’ junior, has totally revamped his image, helping him lose several stone in weight by quitting alcohol and ‘late-night binges of chorizo and cheese’.

She also urged him to head out on his bike most days – and helped him with his new ‘trendy’ haircut ahead of the 10-Tory leadership battle.

Friends have said the couple are madly in love and suggested that he plans to make her the third Mrs Johnson.

Behind the closed-doors of their £1million ‘love-nest’ flat in South London Carrie is said to call him her ‘Bozzie Bear’ – after Fozzie, the fluffy-haired Muppet.

While the former foreign secretary calls her ‘Otter’ – who he says have the thickest fur of all animals – a nod to his tough partner who rose to the top of the Tory party as an aide by 30.

Her success also came after the ordeal of being one of the youngest victims of taxi driver rapist John Worboys when she was just 19.

And now she is just weeks away from becoming entering No 10 as Mr Johnson’s girlfriend. 

Boris Johnson’s partner Carrie Symonds arrives at his Conservative party leadership campaign in central London – her first public engagement with him since their relationship began last year

Writing in The Spectator, Boris (pictured with Carrie Symonds in 2012) revealed he had lost 12 lbs by quitting alcohol and ‘late-night binges of chorizo and cheese’

Boris Johnson’s partner Carrie Symonds arrived at his Conservative party leadership campaign in central London – her first public engagement with him since their relationship began last year.

And his decision to bring Carrie to his leadership launch – the biggest day of his political life – is hugely significant and will increase rumours he plans to make her the third Mrs Johnson.

Sources have said that Boris hopes to wrap up his divorce within weeks. 

Carrie protesting outside the Japanese Embassy, London, in January. Carrie has proved her steeliness tempered by an empathy and political conviction her lover often lacks

31-year-old Carrie, who quit the Tories after their relationship emerged, arrived at today’s launch wearing a fashionable red ankle-length dress but did not speak to reporters.

Her appearance came less than a year after their controversial coupling.

Last September Mr Johnson’s second wife Marina threw him out of their family home in London amid claims he was having an affair.

His daughter Lara Lettice called her father a ‘selfish b*****d’ and said her mother ‘would never take him back’ having accused him of cheating. 

The Tory leadership hopeful has moved into a £1 million ‘love-nest’ flat with Carrie, 31, where he spends every night.

Last September, Boris and his wife Marina, a barrister and mother of his four adult children, issued a joint statement, in the wake of the furore over the friendship, confirming they had separated some months previously and were in the process of divorcing.

Carrie quit her position as director of communications at Conservative Campaign headquarters after eight years, and went to ground, before taking up a role with media giant Bloomberg, leading its ecological initiative, Vibrant Oceans.

Far from cooling the friendship, they became very serious during a New Year holiday at the Greek villa owned by Boris’s father Stanley, where last summer Boris holidayed with his children.

‘Carrie loves him, it’s as straightforward as that,’ one acquaintance said earlier thus year.

Boris’ dramatic makeover comes mid reports he’s moved in with his glamorous new girlfriend Carrie Symonds, who is 24 years his junior (pictured in a recent Instagram snap)

But such is the perception of Carrie’s behind-the-scenes influence on Boris — an arch-critic of Theresa May’s Brexit deal and believed to be manoeuvring himself for a leadership bid — she is said to have already attracted the nickname FLOTUS, as in ‘First Lady of the United States’, the acronym used by White House staffers for the President’s wife.

They met in 2012 when Carrie was one of four officials seconded from Tory HQ to work on his campaign to be re-elected London Mayor.

The daughter of Matthew Symonds, a founder of the Independent newspaper, and Josephine Mcaffee, one of the paper’s lawyers, she grew up in East Sheen in South-West London and attended the private £20,000-a-year Godolphin & Latymer School.

After gaining a first-class honours degree in theatre studies and history of art from Warwick University, she joined Conservative HQ as a press officer in 2009.

Gregarious, intelligent, ambitious, strong-minded and attractive, Carrie quickly made a name for herself, winning professional and more personal admirers.

When Boris was appointed Foreign Secretary in 2016, Miss Symonds must have been a natural choice to work with him on the Vote Leave campaign.

The beginning? Carrie and Boris at a fundraising ball, February 2018. Despite the age gap, the pair are seen in some quarters as the dynamic duo of Tory politics

Rumours about a close friendship between them started when the pair were seen dining at London’s oldest restaurant, Rules in Covent Garden, on Valentine’s Day last year — chaperoned by bodyguards who were seated at a discreet distance on a nearby table.

In March, Boris was again socialising with his adviser as a guest at a house party to celebrate Carrie’s 30th birthday. He reportedly burned up the dance floor flamboyantly to the sound of ABBA’s greatest hits, trying to impress her.

The beginning? Carrie and Boris at a fundraising ball, February 2018. Despite the age gap, the pair are seen in some quarters as the dynamic duo of Tory politics

When photographs emerged of them chatting outside the Tories’ Black and White Ball at the Natural History Museum early last year, many noticed that they appeared to share an unmistakeable chemistry in just one glance.

Again, at a private get-together for Brexiteers last autumn, they reportedly arrived and left together, and spent all evening talking.

The keen environmentalist, who has clearly had an influence on Boris, who has repeatedly tweeted this year about being more green and even wrote about his respect for the Extinction Rebellion activists who brought London to a standstill this year.

Carrie protesting outside the Japanese Embassy, London, in January. Carrie has proved her steeliness tempered by an empathy and political conviction her lover often lacks

Carrie has also campaigned to keep taxi rapist Jon Worboys behind bars, having been his youngest victim.

The prospect of his release has haunted her since the fateful night she encountered him in July 2007 during her first year of studying theatre and history of art at Warwick University.

Aged just 20, she gave evidence in the witness box when some survivors couldn’t bear the ordeal of facing down their attacker and having their reputations potentially trashed in a bid to discredit their testimony.

It was as if even then she took it upon herself to represent others, perhaps understanding she had the physical and mental resources to do so when they might not.

Mr Johnson, 54, has been dating former Tory spin doctor Carrie Symonds (pictured), 31, since last summer. It is understood he wants a hasty divorce from his wife so he can move with Ms Symonds into 10 Downing Street if he is elected Tory leader and prime minister

Boris Johnson is looking to divorce his wife Marina (both pictured) within the next six weeks

Maybe it was the satisfaction, in March 2009, of seeing Worboys finally brought to justice (with convictions for 19 offences including one rape) that renewed her confidence and allowed her to go on to secure a first-class degree. And after the bungling parole board agreed to his release, she then supported the legal action that stopped it.

Mr Johnson married first wife Allegra Mostyn-Owen in 1987, then Marina Wheeler, a QC, in 1993 after they had an affair.

Ms Wheeler is the mother to Mr Johnson’s children Milo, Cassia, Lara and Theodore.

But a string of affairs followed and Ms Wheeler kicked him out twice, only to take him back.

The first time was in 2004 over his affair with writer Petronella Wyatt, who had an abortion and miscarriage.

Ms Wyatt, who worked with Mr Johnson at the Spectator, said yesterday: ‘We remain friends. I think he would be a good Prime Minister.’

The second came six years later, when he was suspected of having a love-child with art consultant Helen Macintyre, who was 39 at the time.

During a fractious meeting of her top team, the outgoing Prime Minister said: ‘There were as many people, if not more, on the Stop No Deal side as there were in the ERG [group of Eurosceptic Tory MPs] who would not support my deal. My successor is going to have the same problem.’

One senior Tory last accused Mr Bercow, who has spoken out against Brexit in the past, of ‘constitutional vandalism’.

How will the Tory leader battle play out? 


This will be another critical day, as the first ballot takes place.

Anyone with fewer than 16 votes will be automatically eliminated, and at least one will be ejected. 


Further rounds of voting will take place during June until there are just two candidates left by this point.

They will then go to a run-off ballot of the 160,000 Tory members.


The winner is due to be declared this week.

They will take over from Mrs May as PM shortly afterwards – probably in time to take a session of PMQs before the Commons breaks up for its summer recess. 

But his decision means MPs will be asked to vote on a Commons motion today which would give pro-Remain MPs control of the parliamentary timetable on June 25. Labour said MPs would then ‘have the chance to introduce legislation that could help avoid the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal’.

The legislation is expected to focus on ruling out the option of suspending Parliament to push through No Deal, which has been floated by leadership contenders Dominic Raab and Esther McVey. But a Tory source involved in the move last night said further legislation would follow if any new PM tried to pursue a No Deal Brexit. 

The source said: ‘We will start by ruling out proroguing Parliament but at a bigger level it is showing that Parliament will block No Deal. 

‘We are flexing our muscles to remind Boris and anyone else that they cannot do this.’ 

The initiative is modelled on the successful bid by Labour’s Yvette Cooper earlier this year to change the law and force Mrs May to seek an extension to Article 50 rather than leave without a deal.

That bid passed by just one vote. But a rebel source insisted there were ‘easily enough’ Conservative MPs to push it through this time.

Former Tory minister Nick Boles has said he will fly back from abroad to back the bid.

How would the Remainer plan work? 

Normally only the government can table business motions in the Commons.

But Speaker John Bercow has bent the rules to allow Labour to lay a motion in their Opposition day slot, with support from other parties.

If passed in a vote this afternoon, the plan would seize control of the Parliamentary timetable on June 25.

On that date MPs will be able to put forward legislation instructing the government how to handle the Brexit process.

Initially the Remainers say this law would be restricted to preventing the Commons from being suspended to stop it blocking No Deal at the end of October – as some Tory leadership hopefuls have suggested.  

However, rebels have made clear they will go further if any PM tried to take the UK out of the bloc without a deal. 

The move is also embarrassing for Mr Gove, who counts Sir Oliver among his leading supporters. Mr Gove last night described the proposals as ‘Labour’s plans’ and vowed to ‘resist them’.

He said: ‘While I would prefer to leave the EU with a better deal, we must not rule out No Deal. If ultimately it came to a choice between No Deal and no Brexit, I would choose No Deal.

‘Labour’s plans to seize control of the business of the Commons must be resisted.’

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer described the Tory debate about No Deal as ‘disturbing, ludicrous and reckless’.

He added: ‘We have witnessed candidates openly advocating a damaging No Deal Brexit and even proposing dragging the Queen into politics by asking her to shut down Parliament to achieve this.’

The move came as ministers argued over Brexit at a meeting of the Cabinet.

Government Chief Whip Julian Smith warned that Parliament could ultimately prevent a No Deal exit and would use ‘all endeavours’ to do so.

Mr Barclay called for preparations to be stepped up for a potential No Deal Brexit in October, but was slapped down by Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, who said the cash would be better spent dealing with priorities like child poverty and education.

Boris Johnson (pictured arriving at his campaign launch today) vowed to stick to the October 31 Brexit deadline, saying ‘delay means Corbyn’

Jeremy Hunt staged his own photocall with supporters in Westminster today as Mr Johnson held his launch

Boris grows up: Johnson delivers an uncharacteristically serious speech – but can’t resist cracking jokes during Q&A with media

The Tory heavyweight is well known for his rhetorical flourishes, gags and the occasional bit of bombast.

But the former foreign secretary struck an altogether more serious tone as he launched his Tory leadership campaign on Wednesday.

However, while Mr Johnson remained largely on-the-leash during his speech, he could not resist trying the odd joke as he took questions from the assembled media.

Boris Johnson struck a more serious tone during his leadership launch speech but he could not resist cracking jokes during the Q&A with journalists afterwards

Minestrone and croutons

The Bioreports’s Laura Kuenssberg asked the leadership frontrunner whether he believed the British people could Bioreports him because he had previously said Brexit would be straightforward but had instead turned into a ‘chaotic mess’.

Ms Kuenssberg also suggested Mr Johnson was seemingly all things to all people on whether he would take the UK out of the EU without a deal on October 31.

Mr Johnson prompted laughter in the room as he compared the question to minestrone soup, famous for its wide variety of ingredients.

He said: ‘Yes, of course, Laura. Perhaps in that great minestrone of observations there is one substantive question which was that – one crouton I picked up – you think that I have been somehow inconsistent, Laura, in saying that I don’t want a no-deal outcome but I think it is right for our great country to prepare for that outcome.’

The former foreign secretary (pictured after he delivered his leadership speech on Wednesday) is the overwhelming favourite to succeed Theresa May


Mr Johnson was told by Sky News that many Tory MPs were concerned about his character.

He appeared to mishear the statement and quizzically looked to the side of the stage and asked: ‘My parrot?’

When Sky’s Beth Rigby then clarified she had said ‘character’, a grinning Mr Johnson said: ‘Sorry.’

Crumbling ceilings

Mr Johnson defended controversial comments he has made in the past, for example when he described burka-wearing Muslim women as looking like ‘bank robbers’. 

But he could not resist a descriptive turn of phrase as he did so, telling the audience: ‘Of course occasionally some plaster comes off the ceiling as a result of a phrase I may have used or indeed as a result of the way that phrase has been wrenched out of context and interpreted by those who wish for reasons of their own to caricature my views.’


Asked if he had ever done anything illegal, Mr Johnson sparked laughter as he replied: ‘Have I ever done anything illegal? I cannot swear that I have always observed the top speed limit in this country of 70 miles per hour. 

‘I would not want to be catechised too closely on that.’

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