Boris Johnson says speculation over his future is driving British people ‘nuts’

·4 min read

Boris Johnson has claimed questions over his premiership have been “settled” and speculation over his future is driving the British people “nuts”, as pressure piles on his leadership after the Tories’ double byelection defeat.

The prime minister also warned Tory MPs considering further moves to unseat him to focus instead on the needs of the UK who are irritated by rows centred on Westminster.

His comments came amid claims of new attempts from backbench MPs seeking to unseat him after losing the two byelections in Wakefield and in Tiverton and Honiton and the resignation of his party co-chair Oliver Dowden.

Johnson, asked by reporters if questions over his leadership were settled, said: “Yes.” He then added: “What’s driving people nuts is this endless churn of stuff about things that I’m meant to have stuffed up or whatever about my colleagues, their view of me, my character, the leadership, Tory blah blah.”

Reports have claimed some MPs are seeking to change 1922 Committee rules so they can hold another vote of confidence. MPs who want to remove the prime minister are seeking election to the 18 most senior posts on the 1922 Committee, which dictates how to conduct confidence votes in Tory party leaders, the Telegraph claimed.

Asked how he would respond if “the men in grey suits” asked him to step aside, he said: “I love my colleagues and I will always. I would urge them respectfully to – golden rule of politics, Johnson’s rule No 1 – focus. The more we are talking about Westminster politics, the more irritating it is to the voters.”

At present, Johnson is protected from another leadership vote for a year, after winning a poll this month – despite 41% of Tory MPs voting for his removal.

Dowden’s resignation has led to concerns others could follow this weekend. As the scale of the defeats in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton sank in – both with worse than expected swings against the Conservatives – a string of senior Tories added their voices to those calling for Johnson to go.

Johnson said the lesson he had taken from the byelection defeats was not to be distracted by the “endless churn” of news claiming he had “stuffed up”.

“I think that the lesson I take from the byelections in Tiverton and in Wakefield is very simple: I think that actually people were fed up of hearing about things I had stuffed up or allegedly stuffed up or whatever – this endless, completely legitimate, but endless churn of news about one particular type of news about one type of thing. And they wanted me to be getting on with the job,” he said.

Earlier, Johnson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that his role was to look at exactly what happened and “think which criticisms really matter”.

When it was put to him that Dowden had resigned saying business could not continue as usual, Johnson said: “If you’re saying you want me to undergo some sort of psychological transformation, I think that our listeners would know that is not going to happen. What you can do, and what the government should do, and what I want to do, is to get on with changing and reforming and improving our systems and our economy.”

The prime minister is not due to return to the UK until Thursday evening, after attending a G7 summit in Germany and a Nato meeting in Spain.

Johnson declined to comment on reports that he had planned to build a £150,000 treehouse in the grounds of Chequers but was forced to abandon the idea after the police raised security concerns. It was claimed by the Times that the prime minister and his wife, Carrie, wanted to build the treehouse at the country retreat in autumn 2020 for their son, Wilf.

Related: Oliver Dowden’s resignation puts Boris Johnson in dangerous territory | Katy Balls

There were discussions about having David Brownlow, a Tory donor, fund the project and plans for the treehouse were drawn up, it was claimed, but the project was dropped after the prime minister’s close protection officers warned of a security risk because the treehouse would be visible from the road.

The report said the design included bulletproof glass, which increased the cost of the project significantly. The couple decided against pursuing the plans after the advice of the police, it was claimed.

Asked on Saturday if a penny of taxpayers’ or donors’ money was spent on the plan, Johnson said: “I’m not going to comment on nonexistent objects or nonexistent jobs to do with my family.” He did not deny that plans had been drawn up.

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