The fallout from Boris Johnson’s insults towards women who wear the burqa and niqab might end up putting the kibosh on his leadership ambitions it may also end up being sub-optimal for the prospects of Brandon Lewis.
When Mr Lewis called for the former Foreign Secretary to apologise for the remarks – forcing the Prime Minister to echo his call – he triggered a furious backlash from Mr Johnson’s supporters.
Their anger intensified when the party launched a probe that could lead to him being forced to undergo ‘diversity training’.
One Boris ally accused Mr Lewis of ‘double standards’ for sanctioning an inquiry into Mr Johnson’s behaviour immediately – but ‘stalling’ on more serious allegations against another Tory MP who is a Remain supporter.
Mr Lewis was said to have ‘parked’ the results of an official party inquiry into bullying claims against the MP – whose identity is known to The Mail on Sunday – even though the probe was months ago.
Tory sources rejected the accusation against Mr Lewis, saying the party board had decided no further action was needed.
Mr Johnson’s friends say he has been bombarded with supportive messages from Tory MPs, and is now surging in the leadership stakes.
By earning the enmity of the Leavers who see the Chairman’s actions of someone trying to nobble a potential leadership rival might be at risk for Brandon Lewis, Mrs May might shuffle him out at the earliest opportunity.
That would be a shame for the Tories. As a Tory activist of many years, since Brandon Lewis became Party Chairman there seems to be a bit more professionalism that has been lacking at CCHQ for many years. It was felt that CCHQ couldn’t organise a farting contest in a baked bean factory, something that nearly cost the Tories a majority in 2015 when the Tory computer system crashed on election day.
But with prominent Leavers still in the cabinet we could see others leaving before Brandon Lewis if Mrs May makes certain compromises on Brexit such as Liam Fox who has warned against extending Article 50.
I’m not prepared to stake much on Brandon Lewis on this market, however I am prepared to stake more on laying Brandon Lewis as Theresa May’s successor, that makes more sense to me, especially after the events of this week.
PS – If Mrs May and Brandon Lewis wish to move the subject on perhaps they should instruct Boris Johnson and other Tories not to deal with Steve Bannon.
There is a precedent for this, when Iain Duncan Smith was leader he ended the Tory Party’s links with the Monday Club given, for example, their views on the assisted repatriation of immigrants. Steve Bannon’s views are much more robust than the Monday Club.
With the criticisms they’ve aimed at Jeremy Corbyn and his interesting associations the Tories would be on sound ground.
If associating with Steve Bannon is a hill that Boris Johnson wishes to die on well that will re-confirm his unsuitability to be Prime Minister or Tory leader.