Alan Duncan may have been the first to resign ahead of Boris Johnson’s expected coronation as prime minister but he won’t be the last. Philip Hammond has already announced he’ll jump before he is pushed. And the rest of the so-called Gaukeward Squad are preparing to make their feelings about Boris known.
But what about the MPs and politicians doing the opposite ahead of Boris’s anticipated win? For years Boris is the man certain Tories have loved to hate – and they haven’t been shy about admitting it. Yet now some of the loudest of Boris’s critics have changed their tune. Mr S profiles the members of the reverse Gaukeward squad:
Amber Rudd was once at the vanguard of the Remain-leaning Cabinet contingent. Last year she warned that a no-deal Brexit would be so catastrophic that a second referendum would be ‘absolutely’ preferable to it. Now she is busy down-playing her previous opposition to no deal, telling TalkRadio earlier this month that she accepts ‘no deal is part of the armoury going forward’.
Rudd also hinted during the 2016 referendum campaign that she didn’t trust Boris personally, saying he was ‘not the man you want driving you home at the end of the evening’. Now Rudd has applauded Boris’s ‘charisma and charm’ and is expected to join his administration.
Only a few weeks ago, Matt Hancock took a pop at Boris Johnson during his failed Tory leadership bid with his ‘f*** “f*** business”’ remark. The comment was a dig at Boris over his alleged comment about business.
Yet after pulling out of the Tory leadership contest, Hancock has since changed his tune, heralding Johnson’s candidacy as the best ‘to deliver Brexit, unify the country, and defeat the scourge of Jeremy Corbyn.’
Michael Gove single-handedly destroyed Boris Johnson’s chances of becoming PM in 2016, when he famously announced that he didn’t believe Boris could ‘provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead’.
Since then, it seems that Gove has had a change of heart. The environment secretary now claims to trust him ‘on every critical issue’. Could it have anything to do with the fact that a Cabinet job is on the cards?
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson may privately fear that Johnson will wreck the party’s electoral progress north of the border, but she too has back-pedalled from her attacks on him during the 2016 referendum.
Back then, she disparaged what she called his ‘bumble-bluster, kitten smirk, tangent-bombast routine’ over Twitter, but now claims she is reserving judgement on his suitability, pointing out that ‘you can never tell how someone’s going to perform in the office of prime minister until they assume that office.’ She added that she would campaign for him on the doorstep in an election against Corbyn.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who had criticised Johnson for his 2018 comments about the burka (‘I don’t think any serious politician should use language like that’) now claims that of the final two Tory leadership contenders, Boris is best placed to ‘deliver what we need to do at this critical time’.
Chancellor turned newspaper editor George Osborne surprised readers when his Evening Standard came out for Boris in an editorial a few weeks ago, describing him as ‘the PM to turn Britain around.’
As recently as May, Osborne castigated Boris for possessing two self-serving identities: ‘hard Brexit Boris’ and ‘the mayor who won Tory victories in a city that previously always voted Labour… we’ll see which Boris emerges’. Fortunately for Osborne, in an interview on the day the Standard endorsed his campaign, Boris assured the paper’s readers that he could make these two Borises ‘completely coherent’.