Boris Johnson dismisses ministers’ squabble over grace and favour house

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Liz Truss -  Stefan Rousseau/PA
Liz Truss - Stefan Rousseau/PA

Boris Johnson has fired a warning shot at Liz Truss and Dominic Raab for warring over who gets the grace and favour property Chevening, dismissing the issue as "frippery".

The Prime Minister refused to rule on whether Ms Truss, the new Foreign Secretary, or Mr Raab – removed from that role but named Deputy Prime Minister – should have access.

Since Mr Johnson's reshuffle last week, it remains unclear who will get the keys to the 17th-century country house, which is usually the private residence of the Foreign Secretary.

Speaking to reporters on the plane for his US trip, Mr Johnson was asked which of the two Cabinet ministers would be given the keys to Chevening.

"The people's government does not bother with fripperies and foibles of this kind," he said. "These types of questions, we will address in due course. But as I say, we are focused on people's priorities."

According to multiple government sources, Mr Raab was left furious by his demotion from the Foreign Office last week, when he was made Justice Secretary. However, he was also given the title of Deputy Prime Minister – reportedly after pushing back hard in the private meeting with Mr Johnson at which he was demoted.

During the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition between 2010 and 2015, Nick Clegg, then the deputy prime minister, and William Hague, the foreign secretary, shared access to the property. But that option appears not yet to have been adopted by Ms Truss, the first ever female Tory foreign secretary, and Mr Raab, now out of a great office of state.

Chevening, a Grade II listed building in Kent, is surrounded by gardens and parks. It has 115 rooms and is set in 3,000 acres.

Elsewhere in his discussion with reporters, Mr Johnson did not deny reports that he wanted to serve a decade in Downing Street, saying: "What this government wants to do is get on with delivering the people's priorities, get on with delivering our manifesto commitments.

"We got Brexit done, we have got the fastest vaccine rollout in Europe and we are dealing with some of the big things that have been neglected for decades, not least social care and the cruelty of the current system. We have got a big agenda we are getting on with."

The next election is expected to be May 2024, though it remains possible that Mr Johnson could call an early poll given that his government is removing the Fixed-term Parliaments Act. He said: "We are focused absolutely resolutely and implacably on the task in hand and in delivering on our manifesto commitments."

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