Boris Johnson, one of the leading lights of the Vote Leave campaign group, has been accused by his own party colleague and minister in the David Cameron government of using the EU referendum campaign to further his ambition to be the next prime minister.
A long-time friend and political ally of Cameron, Johnson, who served two terms as the mayor of London, surprised many when he joined the Vote Leave camp in April. He has since been the most popular leader asking Britons to vote to leave the EU on June 23.
Johnson came under personal attack during a live telecast on ITV on Thursday night from prominent leaders of the Remain camp: Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, senior Labour leader Angela Eagle and energy minister Amber Rudd.
Rudd said: “Immigration is a complex problem, there is no silver bullet – I know that that is what Boris and his team would like to have – you need to look at the numbers but the only number Boris is interested in is the one that says Number 10.”
She accused Johnson of being “only interested” in becoming prime minister, and said he is “the life and soul of the party but not the man you want driving you home at the end of the evening”. She was promptly praised for the attack by Cameron in a tweet after the telecast.
As Labour MPs John Mann and Denis Skinner announced they would vote to leave the EU, former party leader Ed Miliband admitted that not enough of the party’s voters know that the party was supporting the Remain in EU campaign.
Miliband echoed concerns shared by many at the top of Labour that millions of its supporters may still be in the dark about where the party stands on the referendum: “This referendum is in question … Not enough of our voters have heard that we’re in and we’re for remain.”
He said part of the reason was the media’s interest in divisions within the Conservative party, and added that he wanted to get the message across that people should not blame the EU for problems that are the result of a Tory government.
Miliband said: “The Leave campaign are trying to perpetrate a fraud on Labour voters… we’ve got to call that out…This is not a mid-term protest, this is not a super by-election, this is a once-in-a-generation decision.”