He’s not a member of the government and he’s not speaking on the main stage, but Boris Johnson is a star at Britain’s Conservative Party conference.
The former foreign secretary and — some hope — future prime minister was addressing hundreds of delegates Tuesday at the gathering in Birmingham, central England.
Advance extracts suggest his speech, with its call to “follow our conservative instincts” and cut taxes, sounds remarkably like a leadership pitch.
Johnson has criticized Prime Minister Theresa May since he quit the government in July over her Brexit plan, which would see Britain stick close to EU rules in return for remaining in the bloc’s single market for goods.
Johnson has called May’s proposal “deranged” and wants a clean break with the bloc so the U.K. can strike new trade deals around the world.
The tone for Johnson’s conference disruption was set with a photo in Tuesday’s newspapers of the former foreign secretary going for a jog in a grain field near his rural home. Many took it as mocking May’s assertion that the most mischievous thing she had ever done was run through a field of wheat as a child.
Johnson’s list of gaffes and indiscretions is rather longer.
The tousle-headed politician is a popular but divisive figure known for Latin quips and verbal blunders that have included calling Papua New Guineans cannibals and accusing people in Liverpool of “wallowing” in victimhood.
In August, he was criticized for comparing Muslim women who wear face-covering veils to “letter boxes,” and last month he compared May’s Brexit plan to a “suicide vest.”
Johnson and his wife Marina Wheeler recently announced they were divorcing after 25 years of marriage — a move some saw as an attempt to neutralize potential stories about his private life before a leadership campaign.
Johnson’s relationships have landed him in trouble in the past. In 2004, he was fired as Conservative vice chairman after lying about an extramarital affair.
After Britain’s 2016 EU membership referendum, Johnson pulled out of a race to lead the Conservatives, which was won by May. His increasingly vocal attacks on the prime minister suggest that he wants a second shot at the top job.
May deflected questions about Johnson Tuesday, saying: “I’m sure the event Boris is going to speak at will be a very lively event.”
This article provided by NewsEdge.