In an extraordinary move this week, allies of the Brexit-backing Foreign Secretary briefed newspapers that he was planning to raise at Cabinet the question of funding for the NHS, following the highly controversial campaign pledge from Vote Leave to spend an extra £350m per week on health services.
This move is almost unheard of – not only does it contravene the manner in which Cabinet is supposed to work, but it also involves a high-ranking member of the Cabinet publicly weighing in on an issue so far out of his portfolio that his opinion on should be irrelevant, were it not for his grasping at higher office.
Johnson was publically slapped down, first by his cabinet colleagues, and then by the Prime Minister he hopes to replace. He will naturally be hoping that the thing remembered by the wider public is that he went out to bat for the NHS, at a time when austerity fatigue is wearing at many. But the reality is that in a series of public blunders, Johnson has once more overstretched himself in pursuit of popularity, and has likely lost credit among some of the people who matter most – his colleagues in Parliament who would be responsible for putting his name on any leadership ballot. With the news that 1922 Committee Chair Graham Brady almost has enough letters of concern to trigger a leadership contest, cultivation of support amongst Tory MPs is more important than ever for the ambitious minister.
The Foreign Secretary fancies himself the next Prime Minister. It would probably be best for his party and own interests to focus on his current Cabinet role, rather than trying to be a part time Chancellor and Health Secretary as well.