Theresa May can’t win with Boris Johnson after her Foreign Secretary appeared to go rogue with a 4,000-word essay on Brexit which continues to upstage the Prime Minister’s pending speech on Friday about the terms of Britain’s impending departure from the European Union.
If she sacks her one-time leadership rival for disloyalty – and Mrs May has been looking for an opportunity to reassert her authority – she will inflame, still further, the simmering civil war in the Tory party that has been coming to a boil since June’s election miscalculation.
If, as appears likely, the Tory leader indulges Mr Johnson, it re-enforces the impression that Mrs May is at the mercy of her more Eurosceptic ministers and MPs who are in no mood to compromise.
Yet these events do reveal the folly of marginalising Mr Johnson who was the most high-profile advocate of Brexit in the EU referendum. If the Foreign Secretary is not party to talks about Britain’s changing status with Europe, and the rest of the world, what is the purpose of this supposed Great Office of State?
And just who is in charge of Government strategy? Is it Brexit Secretary David Davis; is it Mr Johnson who was described as “a back seat driver” by Home Secretary Amber Rudd – or is it Mrs May who wouldn’t be travelling to Florence on Friday to make her views known if negotiations with the EU were proceeding authoritatively?
If the Prime Minister has any sense, she will present a draft of her planned speech to the whole Cabinet this week and ask for the full support of each and every colleague – including Mr Johnson. It’s called collective responsibility. If there are any dissenters, they will be honour-bound to resign there and then.