Boris Johnson: I’m still the generous and loving man who was mayor of London
Boris Johnson has said the “old generous-hearted, loving mayor of London” has “not gone away” – but that his sole focus is on getting Brexit over the line.
The Prime Minister has come in for criticism for his hardball tactics since taking over at Number 10.
He sacked 21 moderate Tory rebels and was deemed by the Supreme Court to have given the Queen unlawful advice when he asked for Parliament to be suspended for five weeks.
The Conservative Party leader was also verbally attacked by former work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd, who resigned from his Cabinet and the Tory whip in reaction to his leadership, accusing him of stoking divisions which could “incite violence” in the country.
But Mr Johnson defended his record and insisted he was still the same politician he had been during eight years in charge of City Hall.
“I say to all those who wish to see a return of the old generous-hearted, loving mayor of London and all the rest of it – that person has not gone away,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“I am a one-nation Tory. But we are in a position where the only way we can take this country forward and unite our country again is to get Brexit done. That’s what we need to do.”
The PM said he did not recognise “characterisation” of him as a divisive figure.
His short time in office has seen his brother, Jo Johnson, quit his front bench and announce plans to leave politics, while his sister, Rachel Johnson, a former Liberal Democrat, accused him of pushing a strategy to persuade the electorate that their democracy was being “stolen” from them.
Addressing his family’s criticisms of his leadership, Mr Johnson said: “I disagree with some people in my family about the direction we are going in.”
Asked if his girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, had urged him to “tone it down a bit” after the row over his language in the Commons last week, Mr Johnson said: “No … I make no comments on any private conversation.”
There had been outrage from opposition MPs when the PM seemed to suggest that reports of threats against prominent Commons figures in the Brexit debate were “humbug”.
Mr Johnson has since called the comment a “misunderstanding”.
He told LBC on Tuesday: “I’m the Prime Minister, so I’ve got to recognise that people do take offence and we’ve got to be very, very careful in our use of language and I accept that totally.”
The former foreign secretary told BBC Breakfast that he was having a “wonderful time” as Prime Minister.