Boris Johnson will be a “permanent nightmare” for the new Tory leader and “top of the class” among ex-prime ministers in the ability cause trouble after leaving office, Lord William Hague has warned.
Lord Hague claimed it is “already apparent” that Mr Johnson wants “revenge” on Rishi Sunak, whose resignation as chancellor precipitated mass resignations from the ministerial ranks and a fatal cabinet revolt.
But the former leader of the Conservative Party between 1997 and 2001 also suggested Liz Truss, the foreign secretary who remained loyal to Mr Johnson, will face an “identical problem” if she wins the contest.
His remarks come after the first head-to-head debate between Ms Truss and Mr Sunak, which descended into acrimony last night as the pair trashed each other’s economic proposals in front of Tory voters.
Citing previous prime minister’s animosity towards their successor, Lord Hague said: “He is going to be [Edward] Heath with jokes added in, and [Margaret] Thatcher with with consistency taken out, all rolled into a bundle of resentment, denial, attention-seeking and attempted vindication that will be a permanent nightmare for the new prime minister”.
Writing in The Times, the former Tory leader added: “That he wants revenge on Rishi Sunak is already apparent, but if Liz Truss is elected, she will face the identical problem. The chances of her loyalty to him being repaid are close to zero.
“Boris lives his life as a performance, and he will want the next act to fill every seat in the theatre of British political life.”
“Johnson might be near the bottom of the class of PM’s in the reputation with which he leaves office, but he could be top of the class in the trouble he can cause afterwards”.
The Conservative peer said the Tories had “no choice” but to remove Mr Johnson from No, but added: “The downside is that the party will always have the problem of what he will say next”.
Lord Hague’s remarks also came as the outgoing prime minister privately told a Conservative peer during a lunch at his Chequers residence that he “does not want to resign” and “wished he could carry on” in No 10.
Lord Cruddas, who has organised a grassroots campaign to support Mr Johnson, told the Daily Telegraph: “There was no ambiguity in Boris’s views. He definitely does not want to resign. He wants to carry on and he believes that, with the membership behind him, he can”.
But after the comments emerged a No 10 spokesperson made the prime minister will leave the post in September when either Ms Truss or Mr Sunak are elected as Conservative leader.
“The prime minister has resigned as party leader and set out his intention to stand down as PM when the new leader is in place,” they stressed.