The Boris Johnson campaign has been very quiet this week. But as I say in The Sun this morning, it will move into a higher gear next week. Liz Truss is set to become the first person who sits round the Cabinet table to endorse the former Foreign Secretary. I understand that the campaign will also unveil a slew of endorsements from MPs, giving it more declared supporters than any other campaign.
One MP who won’t be endorsing him, though, is Amber Rudd. Her and Boris Johnson sat down on Thursday. But ultimately the differences between them over Brexit policy are simply too great to make any kind of dream ticket work.
I understand that Rudd pushed the former Foreign Secretary to budge on his commitment that the UK would leave the EU on October 31st with or without a deal. But Johnson would not. Rudd felt that she couldn’t support someone holding this position.
Another complication was that Johnson and Rudd’s differences on Brexit policy made it very hard for them to agree on a joint governing agenda.
Johnson, though, should still have more votes in the first round than any other Brexiteer candidate. Though, he needs to finish 20 votes clear of Dominic Raab if he is to establish himself as the clear Leave choice; Raab is more likely than him to pick up support as the second tier Brexiteer candidates drop out.
On the Cabinet side of the contest, Sajid Javid is attempting to reboot his campaign by today setting out his plan for how to deal with the Irish border issue.
The Cabinet side of the contest is becoming increasingly fractured. I understand that the Cabinet Ministers most opposed to no deal have privately agreed to back either Matt Hancock or Rory Stewart in the first round.
Stewart and Hancock are both running interesting campaigns. Stewart is out doing social media walkabouts while Hancock is making arguments that the other candidates are being forced to follow. I’m told that next week he’ll propose a levy on betting companies to fund treatment for gambling addiction.
The energy of these campaigns is causing trouble for the more established Cabinet contenders. I understand that backers of one of them is now warning MPs, ‘go to bed with Hancock, wake up with Boris’.
But Hunt’s biggest problem is the sense that, in the words of one senior Tory, he is a ‘completely wasted place’ in the final two as it is hard to see how he could beat a Brexiteer candidate.
This is why a growing number of Tories think that the party is ‘heading to the destined psycho-drama’ of a Boris / Gove run off.