Boris Johnson has called on his “so-called friends and allies” to stop briefing newspapers against Theresa May, saying he does not know who the people are, and insisting they do not speak on his behalf.
The foreign secretary’s intervention, in a message to a WhatsApp group of Conservative MPs, follows an article in the Telegraph on Monday in which unnamed backers of Johnson said he might refuse to move if May tries to demote him in a reshuffle.
One supposed ally told the paper that moving Johnson would go down “like a bucket of cold sick” with pro-Brexit voters, with one saying there was now a “stench of death” from Downing Street.
In his message, a copy of which was passed to the Guido Fawkes website, Johnson said he did not support such briefings.
“Folks I have seen yet more stuff in the Telegraph and the Sun purporting to come from so-called friends and allies of mine,” the message reportedly read. “I am frankly fed up to the back teeth with all this. I do not know who these people are. I do not know if they are really my friends and allies or if they represent some sinister band of imposters.
“I heartily disagree with the sense, tone and spirit of what they are quoted as saying. Whoever they are they do not speak for me.”
It follows a Conservative party conference in Manchester last week overshadowed partly by tensions sparked by a 4,000-word Brexit manifesto Johnson wrote for the Telegraph.
On the eve of the Tory conference, Johnson intervened again, telling the Sun that any transition period for Brexit should not last “a second more” than two years, and that the UK should not abide by any new EU rules during this period.