Theresa May has insisted the cabinet is united and she will be leader “for the long term” despite fresh moves by Boris Johnson to undermine her authority, setting the stage for a fractious Conservative party conference.
The prime minister claimed on Sunday that Johnson was fully behind her plan for Brexit, but she is under growing pressure to sack the foreign secretary for posing a challenge to her leadership.
In an interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, May was asked whether Johnson had become “unsackable” but she refused to answer, suggesting that she does not feel confident enough to get rid of him without provoking an outright leadership challenge.
Johnson first undermined May by publishing his personal blueprint for Brexit two weeks ago, before deciding to back her flagship speech in Florence. However, the foreign secretary renewed his insubordination before the annual conference by setting out his own four “red lines” for the EU negotiations, while his allies briefed that he is planning one last tilt at the leadership within the next year.
The Sunday Times reported that Johnson may be trying to get May to sack him partly because he is struggling to fund all his personal obligations on a cabinet minister’s salary of more than £140,000 a year.
May insisted she was in control of her cabinet in the Marr interview.
“What I have is a cabinet united in the mission of this government and that is what you will see this week and agreed on the approach we take in Florence,” she said. “Boris is absolutely behind the Florence speech. You’ve seen what he is saying.”
May added that people were more interested in their own jobs than the future of her job as prime minister or Johnson’s cabinet position.
She dodged a question on whether she would resign if she did not manage to get a Brexit deal and earlier told the Sunday Telegraph that she wanted to lead the party into the next election.
“I will fight the next election,” she told the…