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Stanley Johnson tells Hampstead Tories: Bite the bullet and accept Brexit

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson's father is guest speaker at 'blue rosette' dinner

01 March, 2018 — By Richard Osley

Jungle celebrity Stanley Johnson speaks to Conservative members in Hampstead and Kilburn

STANLEY Johnson urged Conservative members in Hampstead to “bite the bullet” and accept Brexit during a speech at one of the local party’s most important fundraisers.

The I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here contestant had campaigned to remain in the EU ahead of the 2016 referendum but said he now sided with his son, foreign secretary Boris Johnson.

He said members in remain-heavy Hampstead may not agree with the result but there was no point trying to change it. “I know in Hampstead you all voted for Remain – I voted for Remain, but I think we’ve just got to bite the bullet. How do we know it’s going to go so wrong?” he said.

Mr Johnson, a former MEP who now lives in Queen’s Park but within the Hampstead and Kilburn constituency, was the guest speaker last night (Wednesday) at the party’s annual “blue rosette” dinner at the Freemasons Arms in Hampstead. Previous speakers have included Eric Pickles and Jacob Rees-Mogg.

During a question and answer session, Councillor Jonny Bucknell said the party needed to campaign to stay in Europe or face disaster, but Mr Johnson did not agree. The Conservatives have tried to play down the differences in opinion on the issue of Brexit in the run-up to May’s council elections, with local strategists eager for the boroughwide battle to be won and lost on more parochial issues.

Despite the pro-EU trend in Camden as a whole, a clutch of candidates on the slate were Leave voters. Marx de Morais, a former candidate in Gospel Oak, this week announced he was resigning from the party because the local organisation was not talking about the EU during the doorstep campaign.

Mr Johnson said at the dinner: “Let’s be clear on Boris. He rang me and said he was thinking of voting to come out and not just voting for it but that he would take a pretty active line. So I said we’ll just have to agree to disagree for the time being. Now we’ve had the referendum it’s a different story. We have to support the government. I think Theresa May is doing her best, and it’s what the people voted for.”

He added: “We just have to keep making sure the government is up to scratch on this and make sure that whatever happens we don’t throw away the baby with the bath water. I’m going to go on fighting for the environmental measures we fought for but it’s not good saying we are going to stay in for all intents and purposes. We must not end up with the worst of both worlds.”

Last year, Mr Rees-Mogg told the members at the same event that there had not been a better time to be a Conservative due to what he saw as the “Pygmy” opposition that Labour was offering.

A few months later, Theresa May lost the party’s majority in the House of Commons with a snap election which also saw Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq turn a marginal constituency into a Labour lead of more than 15,000 votes. Mr Johnson told the gathering: “You have a mountain to climb but you know it’s an important time because I just can’t see it lasting. I can’t see Labour going on like this with what’s his name, Corbyn. I can’t see him winning.”

For the majority of his speech, however, Mr Johnson veered away from controversial political fault lines and provided anecdotes about his time living near Regent’s Park and his battle with HS2 – he praised the New Journal’s coverage – and his recent experience on the ITV reality jungle show.

He said his popularity, seen in a huge uplift in social media followers, had been down to being himself. But when he returned home, he said, his wife had recorded the show but not watched his appearances. “You turn on the box and for each episode it said ‘not watched’,” he said. “She hadn’t watched any of them. I’m watching them back wondering what the whole thing was all about and I’m currently on about day three.”

He drew further laughs when he said he enquired about standing for parliament in Orpington in 2010 only to find that his other son, Jo Johnson, had already applied. “You have to have some dignity. I couldn’t face the possibility where it went down to the last two candidates and it was Johnson and Johnson.”

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