In Brief

Can Operation Arse stop Boris Johnson?

Scottish Tory MPs have joined bid to halt former Foreign Secretary’s leadership ambitions

Scottish Tories have launched a secret campaign codenamed “Operation Arse” to stop Boris Johnson becoming party leader.

As well as pressing their MPs to vote against Johnson in any potential leadership contest, the organisers “want to take the message to constituency association members that Johnson would lose them votes in Scotland”, The Daily Record says.

Referring to the less than complimentary codename, one senior party source told the paper: “We called it that so we’d all be clear who we were talking about.”

It follows internal polling which showed Johnson as prime minister would reverse Tory gains made under the charismatic Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, and could endanger a number of Westminster Conservative seats and scupper the party’s bid to capture control of Holyrood at the 2012 Scottish elections.

Separate polling by former Tory peer Lord Ashcroft found that while Theresa May held an 8% head-to-head lead over Jeremy Corbyn, the difference dropped to zero with Johnson as leader.

The big question is whether Johnson’s blatant leadership jostling and constant sniping at the prime minister have irrevocably hurt his standing among the Tory MPs he needs to woo to get on the final ballot.

“Wandering round conference these past couple of days talking to MPs, aides and Tory strategists, it is striking just how many seem infuriated with the ex-foreign secretary” says Politico, while The Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn has revealed plenty of Boris backlash, both on and off the record, doing the rounds at conference.

Yet despite all that, Johnson remains hugely popular among Conservative members and is still favourite to succeed Theresa May.

There are also fears clandestine efforts to keep him off the final shortlist could have longer-term repercussions for the party.

“Some Tories worry about Johnson becoming the focus of a so-called “blue Momentum”, which could see thousands of new members join the party and push it further to the right”, reports The Guardian.

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