David Cameron has accused Boris Johnson of having “illusions” about returning to power in his maiden speech in the House of Lords.
The Foreign Secretary, now Lord Cameron, insisted he has not been waiting for a call to return to office – which came as a major surprise in Rishi Sunak’s Cabinet reshuffle last week.
He contrasted his retreat from political life with Mr Johnson, who fuelled speculation that he harboured ambitions of a return to Downing Street even during his resignation speech outside No 10 by comparing himself to Cincinnatus, the Roman dictator who left office for life on his farm before later returning to serve a second term.
Reflecting on last week’s reshuffle, Lord Cameron quipped to peers: “It was a surprise to be asked.
“I have not been sitting like some latter day de Gaulle at Colombey-les-Deux-Églises, waiting to be asked, how should I put it, to ‘take back control’.
“Nor am I Cincinnatus, hovering over my plough.
“I leave all classical allusions, and indeed illusions for that matter, to another former prime minister with whom I shared a number of educational experiences.”
Schoolfriends Lord Cameron and Mr Johnson have long been rivals, sometimes friendly and sometimes not.
Recounting their school days at Eton, Mr Johnson said he knew his predecessor as PM as “Cameron minor” – a “tiny chap” who was two years below him.
They both attended Oxford University, infamously appearing together in a photo of the Bullingdon Club, an all-male dining club known for its posh members and bad behaviour, including reportedly vandalising restaurants before sending cash to cover the cost of repairs the next day.
While both were elected in 2001, Lord Cameron was first to Downing Street while Mr Johnson was London mayor.
The pair largely worked alongside each other well despite having rival power bases before the relationship soured somewhat when Mr Johnson decided to back the victorious Leave campaign in the 2016 referendum, effectively forcing Lord Cameron to resign.
Later, when he was in No 10, Mr Johnson was criticised for sexism after Cabinet documents emerged in court showing the then-prime minister referring to Lord Cameron as a “girly swot” as he considered highly controversial moves to prorogue Parliament.
Visiting Ukraine in his first foreign trip since returning to the Government, Lord Cameron praised Mr Johnson last week, telling President Volodymyr Zelensky: “I had some disagreements with Boris Johnson, he was my friend for forty years, but his support for you was the finest thing that he introduced.”
Mr Johnson meanwhile added that it was “great to see our new Foreign Secretary in Kyiv”, although he did not refer to Lord Cameron by name.
This story has been updated.