On Friday the prime minister’s office declined to comment on Mr. Johnson’s well-publicized criticisms, because they were covertly recorded. In reality, she wants to avoid acknowledging them because she might then be forced to confront Mr. Johnson. That, in turn, could lead to his firing or resignation, which could destabilize her party.
Of course, Mr. Johnson is well-known for colorful, undiplomatic language. Before he became foreign secretary he produced a poem insinuating that Turkey’s president had sexual relations with a goat, likened the European Union to Hitler’s Third Reich, and accused President Trump (before his election) of “stupefying ignorance.”
Nor was it the first time Mr. Johnson had undermined his boss in Downing Street. Last year, ahead of her set-piece speech to their Conservative Party’s annual conference, he published a 4,000-word essay in The Daily Telegraph, a conservative newspaper where he was formerly a columnist, laying out his own agenda designed to appeal to hard-line enthusiasts for a clean break with the European Union in 2019.
One ideological opponent, Andrew Adonis, asked on Twitter whether there had been a more disloyal minister since Bolingbroke, perhaps a reference to Henry Bolingbroke, who seized the crown from King Richard II, or perhaps to Lord Bolingbroke, a government official of the early 18th century who later became involved in a failed attempt to overthrow King George I.