Speaker Hoyle blasts Boris Johnson over mob's Savile slurs
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However, the ex-Tory MP, and latterly Brexit Party MEP, warned the Prime Minister he is currently seen by eurocrats as a “weak” – and said the very integrity of the United Kingdom was at stake if he failed to solve the issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol. The PM is still grappling with the fallout from Partygate, and the ongoing investigation into alleged lockdown-busting events connected to the Government.
Ms Widdecombe was speaking after Mr Johnson unveiled several key appointments, including Steve Barclay, the former Brexit minister, as Chief of Staff, and Guto Harri as his Director of Communications, in an attempt to shore things up.
She said: “I think it’s the beginnings of getting a grip. I think it’s going to take a long time for him to get an actual grip, but I think it’s the beginnings of it.
“He stood up and he said there would be changes made in Downing Street, and he’s made the changes.
“I don’t think you can really say it is going to do much. He’s removing the people who had anything to do with Partygate.
“One of them, for example, was the one who sent round the invitations to 100 people. So I suppose he’s saying he’s getting better advice.”
However, the real problems lay ahead, Ms Widdecombe said.
She explained: “He needs to institute a Tory programme. We’re all waiting for it and all we’re getting is high tax and high spend
“He’s also got to clear up the Northern Ireland mess and if that means invoking Article 16 then so be it, just do it, do something.
“He’s also got Ukraine obviously and that’s a very delicate issue.
“But domestically there are a whole lot of things he could do, which would deliver on the Red Wall pledges that he made or begin to deliver on them. He’s just got to get on with that levelling-up stuff.”
Referring to an issue previously highlighted by Labour MP Stephen Kinnock last year, Ms Widdecombe added: “Also free speech, which actually matters in the Red Wall.
“They want to be able to say what they want to say and not what just pleases the Hampstead liberals.
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You cannot succeed by upsetting your friends and pleasing your enemy
“And I think he’s misunderstood that, I think he’s underestimated the degree to which people do actually care about free speech.
“I think he thinks it’s an academic preoccupation, and it is not.”
Asked whether Mr Johnson was pandering to Remainers, she said: “I don’t think he’s pandered to them as such but he hasn’t been anything like firm enough.
“You cannot succeed by upsetting your friends and pleasing your enemy because in the end, the enemy doesn’t care that you’ve tried to please them, but the friends remain upset.”
With respect to Northern Ireland, Ms Widdcombe said: “The thing he’s got no solution in sight. All they’re doing is prattling.
“They’re not actually coming up with a damn thing because they believe he’s now too weak to invoke Article 16.
“He needs to show that he is determined to deliver the Brexit that he promised us. The EU thinks he’s weak, and therefore, they don’t need to take us seriously.
“What is at stake is the union itself, quite honestly because we’ve effectively turned Northern Ireland into part of the EU.”
With Mrs Johnson’s spokeswoman claiming the PM’s wife was the victim of a “brutal campaign” of hostile briefing by the PM’s enemies, Ms Widdecombe said: “Nobody really knows the extent or otherwise of her influence.”
In reference to Marina Wheeler, Mr Johnson’s former wife and the mother of four of his children, she added: “But I will make this observation – if he was still married to Marina, it would be a very different cup of tea.
“There wouldn’t have been any wallpaper gate for example, there would not have been loud rejoicing to the sounds of Abba when somebody disappears, it would just be a very different atmosphere.
“And she would be a steady and calm influence on him and there wouldn’t have been two young children and a lot of nappy changing.”
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