David Cameron and Boris Johnson are the two biggest beasts in the Tory jungle. But they are currently involved in an increasingly undignified scrap over Brexit. As I say in The Sun today, it is hard to see how it ends well for both of them or the Tory party. As one Cabinet Minister lamented to me recently, ‘it is a personal fight’ between Cameron and Boris and that ‘the Conservative party is on a hiding to nothing.’
Boris and Brexit is the itch that Cameron can’t resist scratching. When Iain Dale asked him about Boris going Out, Cameron—in effect—accused the former Mayor of putting his personal ambition ahead of the national interest which is about the most serious charge you can make of a politician. This, inevitably, led to Boris punching back, pointing out that he was for Out because Cameron had failed to get the reforms to the EU that he had proposed in his Bloomberg speech.
At the start of the campaign, Boris likened the referendum to a rugby match where the two sides could knock seven bells out of each other and then go for a beer afterwards. But the eye gouging and stamping that has been going on in recent weeks is making that increasingly hard.
Boris blames Number 10 for Michael Heseltine, his predecessor as MP for Henley, going out and saying that he wasn’t fit to be Prime Minister. One Boris confidant tells me the Heseltine intervention ‘made him realise, right, you’re trying to destroy me.’
Number 10 insiders are quick to say Cameron has been the victim of some off the ball unpleasantness too. One of them says indignantly of Vote Leave, ‘they accused the Prime Minister of corruption’.
With four and a bit weeks to go, one can only think that these exchanges are going to get more heated. Putting the Tory party back together again after this referendum is going to be far from easy.