Boris Johnson could “end up being toppled” by the coronavirus pandemic, former Conservative leadership candidate Rory Stewart has said.
The former international development secretary told ITV’s Acting Prime Minister podcast said Mr Johnson’s response to the disease was revealing his “inability to manage seriously”.
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Mr Stewart argued the prime minister had shown similar weaknesses to US President Donald Trump, who lost the US election earlier this month.
He said: “What defeated Donald Trump in the end was Covid, what always defeats populists is their inability to manage seriously, to take an interest in the details in a crisis.
“If he ends up in a difficult situation, he ends up being toppled, it will be because of this. It will be because this is exactly the kind of issue that is his greatest weakness.”
‘He will say whatever is convenient’
Mr Stewart added that Mr Johnson usually will do “whatever’s going to help him with votes”, adding that he has “never really got in trouble for it”.
“On the spur of the moment when he’s on a spot, he will say whatever is convenient to that moment,” Mr Stewart added.
“Whatever’s going to help him with votes. Sometimes he just doesn’t tell the truth because he just likes making people happy.
“He doesn’t mind letting people down. In fact, in some ways he’s got through life, more than 50 years, by doing that again and again, and never really getting in trouble for it”.
Mr Stewart left Parliament at the 2019 election after being kicked out of the Conservative Party by Mr Johnson for rebelling on Brexit. He later launched an ill-fated independent run for Mayor of London, but withdrew from the race after the pandemic delayed the election by a year. He now teaches politics and international relations at Yale University.
The intervention comes as Mr Johnson faces a revolt from Tory backbenchers over the latest coronavirus tiers announcement.
MPs are due to vote on the measures next week in the House of Commons, with the prime minister possibly dependent on Labour support to get them approved.
Mr Johnson acknowledged on Friday that people felt “frustrated”, particularly in areas with low infection rates which now face tighter restrictions than before the lockdown.
Tory MP Craig Mackinlay, whose South Thanet constituency has the second highest R-rate in the UK, said on Saturday he is planning to vote against the new tiered restrictions.
He told BBC Breakfast that he would instead favour natural “self-regulation” which he says happens when people see the R-rate in their local area starting to rise.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the backbench Conservative 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady, accused the Government of infringing people’s “fundamental human rights”.
Additional reporting from the Press Association