Oh for the old certainties when we knew where we stood. Labour back the public sector and the workers, whilst the Tories back business, right? Well not any more it seems, with the Foreign Secretary having reportedly – in comments he has not denied – replied “f__k business” when confronted with new examples of their concerns about Brexit.
Boris has always been a free-speaker but even by his standards this is extraordinary. Support for business, and a belief that the private sector is the key source of prosperity and employment, has been one of most consistent tenets of Conservative philosophy. But his comments do tie into a wider concern in the business community that for some in the Government achieving Brexit is such a high priority that they are willing to pay literally any price to achieve it.
For Boris, the damage to his reputation is not helped by the fact that the comments emerged the day before the Parliamentary vote on Heathrow expansion, something trumpeted by Theresa May as a key pro-business measure from her government. On this issue too, the Foreign Secretary is out of step with the rest of the Government, and he flew half the way round the world to Afghanistan to avoid having to support something he has long opposed, but for which he must take collective Cabinet responsibility.
Faced with this open goal Jeremy Corbyn stepped forward. Hard as it may be for an ageing Marxist to wrap himself in a pro-business colours, he certainly gave it a good old go at Prime Ministers Questions. Whilst he may not be exactly credible on the subject, the Tories aren’t either when they warn about the threat to jobs from Corbynomics. If the Foreign Secretary is really happy to “f__k business” then the electorate won’t listen too carefully to apocalyptic warnings about Labour’s threat to the economy.
He has always been a bit of a headache for Theresa May, but the Foreign Secretary is now becoming a severe migraine. Out of step on Brexit, out of step on Heathrow and generally doing more harm than good. With a stronger Prime Minister, Boris Johnson would be toast. And even this one might be having a serious think about his future.