Is Boris plotting a Tory takeover bid?

Many believe May will leave Johnson in place until after the Tory conference in Manchester, which begins in two weeks, and then dismiss him in a subsequent reshuffle.

Johnson's article also was criticized by Britain's statistics regulator, which accused him of misleadingly claiming that leaving the European Union will give Britain control of an extra 350 million pounds ($475 million) a week.

Johnson spent much of yesterday afternoon engaged in a public battle with the statistics watchdog over the foreign secretary's reputation over the cash claim.

He claimed the statistics boss had privately conceded he was "more concerned by the headline" and the coverage of the controversial article and "accepted that I was not responsible for those".

In a strongly worded letter, Johnson accused the Statistics chief of "wilful distortion of the text of my article" and demanded it be withdrawn.

Asked if he viewed himself as "Theresa May's Willie", a reference to Margaret Thatcher's remarks about her reliance on deputy Willie Whitelaw, he replied: "I was a huge admirer of Willie Whitelaw in my youth and absolutely I would be very content to have him as a role model".

"My friends, I must report that there are at least some people who are woefully underestimating this country", Johnson wrote in the Daily Telegraph.

"They are in grievous error, all those who write off this country, who think we don't have it in us, who think that we lack the nerve and the confidence to tackle the task ahead", said the politician.

Johnson fired back, accusing Norgrove of "a complete misrepresentation of what I said" in his 4,000 Telegraph essay at the weekend.

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In the article Johnson said: "Once we have settled our accounts we will take back control of roughly £350m per week".

Pressed on Mr Johnson's suggestion of more cash for the NHS, she said: "By definition we are now paying money into the European Union, and there will be a point in the future when we've left the European Union [when] we won't be paying that money into the EU".

"The only number that matters to me is the difference between 48 and the 52".

The UK's foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, has launched a thinly veiled leadership challenge against prime minister Theresa May, while she prepares to set out her Brexit strategy this Friday (22 September) in the Italian city of Florence.

However political opponents from inside and outside the Conservative party have rubbished these claims and Norgrove also openly rebuked the foreign secretary.

Mr Johnson also insisted that Brexit will allow the United Kingdom to "be the greatest country on earth" and "our destiny will be in our own hands".

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, whose opposition party fared well in the general election, said through a spokesman that Johnson's Brexit views exposed the deep rifts within May's Conservative government.

Johnson sought to quiet speculation later Saturday by tweeting: "All behind Theresa for a glorious Brexit".

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