Question Time audience member asks ‘is Boris Johnson okay?’
But the ex-Brexit Party MEP has nevertheless sent a pointed message to Tory backbenchers, urging them to back their leader rather than worrying about who to replace him with. Ms Widdecombe was speaking after it was revealed senior Tory backbench MPs have been to see Boris Johnson in Downing Street amid continuing unrest within the party ranks at the Government’s performance.
Mr Johnson raised eyebrows this week with a surprising speech to the Confederation of British Industries in which he lost his place, shuffled papers and repeatedly referred to his trip to Peppa Pig World in The New Forest.
Peppa Pig is a children’s television character marketed all over the world.
In 2019, the brand generated £1billion in retail sales worldwide, and is seen as a massive British success story.
Boris Johnson is “all over the place”, said Ann Widdecombe
Boris and Carrie Johnson and their son Wilfred at Peppa Pig World
Ms Widdecombe told Express.co.uk: “Essentially what he was trying to say was this was a very small idea that grew into a very big business.
“It was a bit of a funny way of illustrating this finding but he made a complete hash of it.
“I mean, he lost his place, started sort of fumbling and saying forgive me and all the rest of it.”
She said: “The point about Peppa Pig is not as stupid as it’s been made to sound.
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Ann Widdecombe is a former Tory minister
He’s all over the place
“I think Peppa Pig is a perfectly respectable illustration of how you can build something into a success.
“When the artist sat down to draw Peppa Pig, I doubt if the sheer scale of the success was envisaged.”
However, Ms Widdecombe added: “He’s all over the place.”
Referring to the Prime Minister’s serious illness last year, which saw him spend three days in ICU, she explained: “He has been knocked off course by Covid, both by the national emergency and by his own experience of it.
“He thinks he has had to do things like high spend, high tax which is completely against his instincts.
Boris Johnson was hospitalised with Covid last year
Liz Truss is often cited as a potential successor to Boris Johnson
“He has had to impose draconian regulations on the nation which is also against his instincts.”
On Thursday Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee, confirmed the executive had met the Prime Minister in No 10, although he declined to comment on their discussions.
Ms Widdecombe said: ”Tory backbenchers are always talking about changing the leader. As if you solve your problems by changing your leader like you change your socks.
“What they need to do is get behind him and put some backbone and resolution into him.
“But getting rid of them sadly has been the Tory way ever since the Blair victory of 1997.
Boris Johnson approval rating
“We’ve imagined we can solve everything by changing our leaders. I mean, how many leaders have we been through now since then?”
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, one of the Conservative Party heavyweights tipped as a potential successor, grabbed headlines earlier this week after telling Russian President Vladimir Putin it would be a “grave mistake” to invade Ukraine.
Consequently, some analysts have suggested the MP for South-West Norfolk was in some way channelling former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher – although Ms Widdecombe dismissed the suggestion.
She said: “It was a very different situation in the Eighties. Reagan and Gorbachev were working towards the end of the Cold War.
“Putin is a very different kettle of fish. He’s not particularly interested in compromise.
Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee
“Of course she was going to say ‘don’t do it’.”
Consequently Ms Widdecombe had little time for discussions about the future of the party, and suggested her former Tory colleagues would do well to adopt a similar attitude.
She said: “You don’t know when the election is going to happen, who will be on the front bench, we don’t know any of these things.
“This is what the Tory Party’s always doing, speculating about who’s going to be the next leader.
“For goodness sake, get on with today.”