AN exasperated Boris Johnson has moved to distance himself from “sinister” reports, claiming that he would resist any attempt by Theresa May to demote him in a Cabinet reshuffle.

The Foreign Secretary insisted so-called "friends and allies" quoted in media reports were not speaking for him and did not represent his views.

In a WhatsApp message to Conservative MPs, he suggested they were "some sinister band of imposters".

Loading article content

It followed reports claiming he would refuse to go if the Prime Minister tried to move him to a lesser role.

One supporter of Mr Johnson was quoted as saying that there was a "stench of death" emanating from Downing Street.

But in his message, which comes ahead of what is expected to be a fiery meeting of the Conservatives’ backbench 1922 Committee on Wednesday evening, the Secretary of State said: "I am frankly fed up to the back teeth with all this.

"I do not know who these people are. I do not know if they are really my friends and allies or if they represent some sinister band of imposters.

"I heartily disagree with the sense, tone and spirit of what they are quoted as saying. Whoever they are they do not speak for me," he declared.

Following the turmoil of the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Mrs May has faced repeated questions as to whether or not Mr Johnson was "unsackable" due to her weakened position.

Asked what she might do with him, Mrs May replied: "It has never been my style to hide from a challenge and I'm not going to start now."

Yesterday, No 10 insisted the PM had been talking "broadly" about not ducking challenges.

Many Tory MPs are understood to be furious about what they regard as Mr Johnson's disloyalty, setting out his own "red lines" on the Brexit negotiations in defiance of Government policy, and want him removed.

Over the weekend, however, pro-Brexit MPs hit back, urging Mrs May to get rid of Philip Hammond, who has argued for a "softer", pro-business Brexit .

An unnamed Cabinet minister claimed the Chancellor had "completely failed" and was "making Brexit hard".