Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak clashed ‘very early on’, says ex-spin doctor
Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak clashed “very early on” during their time at Downing Street, according to the former prime minister’s ex-spin doctor.
Guto Harri said there was continual tension between the pair – claiming Mr Sunak forced through the windfall tax on oil and gas giants against Mr Johnson’s will.
The former No 10 communications chief has previously alleged Mr Johnson “squared up to” King Charles over the Rwanda policy and called Sue Gray a “psycho”.
Continuing to promote his new podcast series on his time at No 10, Mr Harri told the Sunday Telegraph “there was tension very, very early on” between Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak over economic policy.
“In a nutshell, basically Boris wanted to give what the party was screaming for, and this explains why Liz Truss walked the leadership election,” said the former comms boss – suggesting Mr Johnson’s were closer to Liz Truss’ than Mr Sunak’s.
“Boris wasn’t going to give the full Liz Truss, all your Christmases in one go. But less regulation, cutting some taxes, not putting up corporation tax,” he said.
“He didn’t want to do the windfall tax. He was ideally keen to see some VAT cuts, not just because it eases the tax burden but because it shows the freedom that you have post-Brexit.”
Asked if Mr Sunak windfall tax forced the windfall tax through, he said: “Yes, pretty much … I think that’s fair,” said Mr Harri – saying several senior figures in No10 were against it.
The close Johnson ally again defended his former boss over Partygate, claiming that the ex-PM had become a “loner” who hardly drinks alcohol.
“I think the most perverse thing about the whole thing is he’s about the last person that I know that I would think of as a party animal,” he said.
“He’s much more of a loner, he barely drinks. And yet that’s not the perception around the world now. A serious journalist asked me a few weeks ago when he was well oiled himself, ‘Is it true that Boris was just on the p*** and drunk all the time?’”
He added: “I think I’ve only been drunk once with Boris and that was a long, long time ago … But not once in No10.”
Mr Harri, who joined Downing Street in February 2022, said he felt that he had “jumped on to a ship that was holed beneath the waterline, with a fire in the galley, a mutinous crew and a discredited captain pretty much nailed to the mast”.
His latest claims come as Mr Sunak faces barrage of criticism from within his own party, as right-wing Tory MPs expressed their anger at the local election results and the decision to scale back post-Brexit plans to scrap EU laws.
Former home secretary Priti Patel was among those who gathered in Bournemouth for the first conference arranged by Johnson allies at the Conservative Democratic Organisation (CDO).
Ms Patel accused Mr Sunak of overseeing the “managed decline” of the Tories, adding: “If the centre of the party spent more time with us, listening, engaging, then I think it’s fair to say we would not have seen over 1,000 of our friends [at local elections].”
Former culture secretary Nadine Dorries told the conference “we are drifting” and “no longer have that inspirational leader and those visionary policies that people can go out and vote for”.
Writing in the Telegraph, Brexiteer Sir William Cash called on the Sunak government to change course on the decision to revoke around 600 retained EU laws – rather than the 4,000 pledged.
But Tobias Ellwood – Tory chairman of the defence committee – warned that a “drag anchor of a right-wing caucus is in our ranks, and it has already written off any prospects of victory in 2024”.