Boris Johnson tried to get Amber Rudd into the back of his car after her famous TV jibe that she would not trust him to drive her home, she has revealed.
Former home secretary Ms Rudd said she had rejected an invitation to join Mr Johnson in his official chauffeur-driven limousine when they left a cabinet meeting.
She said police who witnessed the incident “howled with laughter” at her rebuff to Mr Johnson, who was foreign secretary at the time.
To add insult to injury, she told him she had meant it the first time she made the comment in 2016. In a wide ranging interview, Ms Rudd, who opposed leaving the EU, also said:
Senior Conservatives who backed Brexit privately admit – “after a drink or two” – that Brexit is a “disaster”
It was “impossible” for her to be an active Tory because you “have to say Brexit is a success”
When she married the late food critic AA Gill, he was broke and the first thing he did was to get her to settle his £120 butcher’s bill.
Ms Rudd sparked uproar in a TV debate before the EU referendum in June 2016, when she told Mr Johnson he was “the life and soul of the party... but he’s not the man you want driving you home at the end of the evening”.
She has now disclosed that she was true to her word when they later served together in Theresa May’s cabinet.
“We had both been to a ministerial meeting and our cars were outside,” Ms Rudd told Sir Craig Oliver, David Cameron’s No 10 director of communications, in his new podcast series Desperately Seeking Wisdom.
“He said, ‘Come on, I’m going to give you a lift home.’ I said, ‘No, I’m sorry, I have not changed my mind, Boris.’”
Ms Rudd suggested Mr Johnson’s offer of a ride in his car was a ploy to avenge her TV snub, and recalled that police protection officers who witnessed the incident “howled with laughter” when it backfired on him.
“He’d obviously told them he was going to say ‘Come on, get into my car,’ hamming it up,” she said.
Ms Rudd said she had no regrets about her dig at Mr Johnson during the debate about the referendum.
She said she had planned the humiliating putdown from the outset: “I don’t think it was a surprising thing to say. I heard a sharp intake of breath from the TV audience – but it landed for a good reason.”
Ms Rudd claimed that it has now dawned on Tory Brexiteers that leaving the EU was a failure. “If you discuss Brexit after they have had a drink or two, they will admit it has been a disaster,” she said. “It was an act of self-harm.”
Ms Rudd said she had been “abandoned” by the Conservatives: “I’m not in politics because I can’t stand up and say Brexit is a success. You have to do that to be a Conservative spokesman,” she said.
She also talked fondly of her ex-husband, the late food writer AA Gill, who died in 2016, saying she had married him without realising he was a penniless recovering alcoholic.
“He didn’t have a bean to his name. After we got married he presented me with his butcher’s bill for £120.
“When I first started seeing him he kept going off to meetings. I had no idea what they were, I thought he was just working hard. Then I realised it was Alcoholics Anonymous. A smarter person might have worked out what the meetings were at six o’clock in the evening.
“I had never met anyone as provocative, interesting and confident – even though he had no bank account or driving licence in his mid-thirties.”
She was determined not to be bitter when Gill left her for ex-model Nicola Formby after she caught them out at Heathrow airport returning from a lovers’ trip.
“A friend told me that her mother had been poisonous about her father, and the problems it caused her. She told me, ‘Don’t let them hate their father.’
“It was painful. And it was difficult letting go of the love I felt for him. But the love I felt for my children was more important.”
Ms Rudd added that she was right to have resigned as home secretary in 2018 over the Windrush immigrants deportation scandal because their maltreatment was “such an egregious sin”.
Sir Craig Oliver’s podcast, ‘Desperately Seeking Wisdom’ , is available from Monday on Globalplayer and other podcast apps