Former prime minister Boris Johnson came close to serving in the Cabinet of his successor Liz Truss, a new book claims.
Written by The Financial Times’ Whitehall editor Sebastian Payne, the book claims that Ms Truss met Mr Johnson on two occasions over the course of the leadership contest in the summer, and while he remained in No 10 as caretaker PM.
The two ex-prime ministers also spoke on the phone in the final week of July to discuss whether a potential job swap should Ms Truss, who was serving as foreign secretary at the time, be victorious in the contest.
The book, The Fall of Boris Johnson, also suggests Ms Truss posed the idea that Mr Johnson could return to the foreign office, where he had been in post between 2016 to 2018, to continue his support for the Ukrainian effort against Vladimir Putin’s invading forces.
Ultimately, though, the pair decided an arrangement of this sort would be too complicated.
According to The Telegraph, the book also points to an episode in their dealings which saw the pair share breakfast at Mr Johnson’s Downing Street flat. It was then that Ms Truss, taken aback, discovered that his infamous wallpaper was not, in fact, gold.
Gold wallpaper or otherwise, allies of Mr Johnson claimed he offered his successor plenty of “good advice” during the meeting. A subsequent visit to his grace and favour Chequers residence also saw him bestow Ms Truss with his thoughts on her campaign for No 10.
Invitations of this nature were not afforded to Ms Truss’s rival and current prime minister Rishi Sunak, however. Mr Sunak had been one of the first to resign from Mr Johnson’s Cabinet ahead of the domino-like mass exodus of ministers and MPs, which prompted the demise of his tumultuous premiership.
The book claims he blamed Mr Sunak for costing him his role.
Over the course of the leadership campaign, Mr Sunak and Ms Truss were doggedly asked by journalists and Tory party members alike whether they would offer Mr Johnson a post in their government.
During one hustings, Ms Truss said: “I very much suspect he would not want a future role in government, he needs a well-earned break.
“I’m sure he will have a role, I’m sure he will be vocal, but he won’t be part of the government.”
Mr Sunak said: “The simple answer for me is no. We need to look forward at this point, we need to bring change that people need.”
It comes just one day after Mr Johnson compared Ms Truss’s disastrous mini-Budget to a badly played piano, in a reference to a famous Morecambe and Wise sketch.
Asked on CNN about his successor’s terminal fiscal proposals, the former prime minister first tried to avoid the question, saying he has a rule against discussing British politics abroad.
Eventually, however, he poked fun at Ms Truss’s market-spooking programme of unfunded tax cuts, saying: “It’s kind of like when I play the piano. The notes individually sound OK but they’re not in the right order, or occurring at the right time.”