Boris Johnson says Tories ‘drifting to defeat’ in attack on ‘stooge’ Rishi Sunak

Boris Johnson has said the Conservatives are “drifting to defeat” under Rishi Sunak and claimed the prime minister is nothing but a “stooge” for a cabal run by Dominic Cummings.

The disgraced former PM offered a bitter attack on Mr Sunak in an interview for the new book by his uber-loyal ally Nadine Dorries.

Mr Johnson claimed he was the victim of a plot by his former adviser-turned nemesis – referencing the famous political thriller about betrayal by a brainwashed double-agent.

“I heard that Cummings has said he started to plot to get rid of me in January 2020,” he told Ms Dorries. “The plot was always to get Rishi in. I just couldn’t see it at the time. It’s like this Manchurian candidate, their stooge.”

The former leader also accused Mr Sunak of failing to inspire – arguing that the PM has given voters in former red wall Labour seats “nothing to rally behind” after he won them over by promising to deliver Brexit.

Mr Johnson also said the government now needs a “massive kick in the pants”, suggesting that the chancellor Jeremy Hunt should be cutting corporation tax.

“You’ve got to have an agenda for change in the country. You know, people will feel hacked off,” he told Ms Dorries for her book, The Plot: the Political Assassinationof Boris Johnson, finally released on Thursday.

“They voted for change in 2019 and they are drifting back to Labour in those Brexit seats because they’re not seeing a changed government. Nothing to rally behind, nothing. We are just drifting to defeat.”

Despite the attack, Mr Johnson told Ms Dorries – who quit parliament in protest after failing to land a peerage, blaming Mr Sunak – that he is not bitter. “Never be bitter, no good can come from it.”

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak in happier times together (PA Archive)
Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak in happier times together (PA Archive)

And yet he suggested he could still be leading a popular government if not for Mr Sunak and his allies. “We could have kept the whole thing going if people had not prevailed upon Rishi to do something that was not fundamentally in his interest or in the best interest of the country.”

And Mr Johnson continued to criticise various policy moves made by his successor – suggesting Mr Sunak had destroyed his legacy.

He described HS2 “become a total joke” after its northern leg was scrapped – as first revealed by The Independent – said the levelling up agenda had been “all but forgotten”, while social care reform had been “junked”.

“There was a massive agenda we had as a government to transform the country, and it doesn’t seem to be happening in any form of articulated way,” he said.

Nadine Dorries was a strong backer of Johnson throughout his premiership (PA)
Nadine Dorries was a strong backer of Johnson throughout his premiership (PA)

Adding the criticism pushed by his immediate successor Liz Truss – disgraced when her mini-Budget tanked the economy – Mr Johnson said he is “particularly concerned that there’s no grand economic strategy for growth”.

He condemned Mr Sunak’s decision to hike the rate of corporation tax from 19p to 25p. “Why the hell are we putting up corporation tax in this way?”

“It’s absolutely mad,” Mr Johnson told Ms Dorries. “The whole thing needs a massive kick in the pants; I think it’s all drifting. I really, really think that unless we grip it the results of the local elections will be repeated at a general election and Starmer will be a complete disaster.”

Ms Dorries has claimed that the Conservatives have been controlled for 20 years by a shadowy cabal known as “the movement” which brought down Mr Johnson.

She alleged the group included levelling up secretary Michael Gove, Mr Cummings and an adviser called Dougie Smith – claiming “the movement” also toppled Iain Duncan Smith as leader and undermined Liz Truss.

Mr Cummings has responded to the allegations sarcastically, saying: “She’s right, there was a giant conspiracy including MI6, the CIA and, most crucially, the KGB special operations department. It’s a tribute to Nadine she has figured this out. The movement wishes her well.”

Speaking on TalkTV on Wednesday night, Ms Dorries said Mr Sunak “doesn’t realise he’s been totally played and totally used” by the people who “captured him” – before comparing to a boy band member.

“I’m sure Rishi is a very good and honourable person, but he was very politically naive … the thing about Rishi, he’s kind of like a boy band member on autotune isn’t he? He’s got the looks, he’s got the suit, he’s got the background, he’s got the money, he fits the demographic but he’s very politically naive.”