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26 Apr, 2017 09:52

Theresa May to ‘send Boris Johnson on foreign trips,’ keeping him away from election campaign

Theresa May to ‘send Boris Johnson on foreign trips,’ keeping him away from election campaign

Boris Johnson will play only a minor role in the Tory’s election campaign after MPs urged Theresa May to sideline the gaffe-prone foreign secretary, it has emerged.

At least three senior ministers want Johnson – who was heavily criticized for his performance in the aftermath of US missile strike on Syria – to take a back seat in the tightly-controlled campaign to avoid any slip-ups, according to the Times.

Sources suggest Johnson is not part of the core election team which includes Home Secretary Amber Rudd, Chancellor Philip Hammond, Brexit Secretary David Davis and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon.

One source said Johnson was likely to be tied up in “lots of important meetings in various foreign capitals” between now and the election on June 8.

Another source said some of Vote Leave’s pledges made Johnson a liability at a time when May was trying to reassure Remain voters.

“What are we going to put on the side of his bus?” the insider asked, in reference to the slogan saying £350 million (US$449 million) a week saved in EU payments would be spent on the National Health Service (NHS) – a figure that turned out to be baseless.

Wary of reports that Johnson is being snubbed, however, a Tory campaign source told the newspaper that “The idea that Boris isn’t going to be prominent is about as credible as Jeremy Corbyn’s position on Trident.”

The source insisted that Johnson would be part of the campaign as the party aims to deliver its message. Johnson will be giving a speech later in the week and was set to do a round of broadcast interviews.

Former PM David Cameron faced a similar dilemma in the 2015 election campaign. Johnson was, in the former prime minister’s own words, a “star player,” but he did not want a rival in too prominent a role.

In the end, Johnson was deployed in the ground war, trying to hold or win marginal seats rather than being a big figure in the national campaign.

Sky News says the Tories are building their campaign around simple messages, including the suggestion that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is unfit to lead while portraying May as “stable and strong.”

Another message is to warn the public that their failure to support May could result in a “coalition of chaos” comprised of Labour, the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Liberal Democrats.

Recent YouGov polls have predicted the Conservatives could win as many as 65 seats from Labour in England and Wales, and up to 12 seats in Scotland.