BORIS Johnson dodged a question on whether or not he is in control of the Conservative campaign yesterday after a former cabinet secretary called for a Tory loss.

Speaking at an electric car plant in the West Midlands, Johnson was asked about comments made by David Gauke, who had the Tory whip withdrawn after rebelling over Brexit and has now said a Tory win would be “a bad outcome for the country”.

Gauke, who was justice secretary until July, has quit the party and will stand as an independent in South West Hertfordshire.

He said: “I don’t think the Conservative Party is being straight with the British people as to the choices that we face and the implications of those choices.

“I think it is reckless and irresponsible. A Conservative majority will pursue policies that are going to be detrimental to large numbers of people’s jobs and livelihoods.”

Gauke’s comments came days after Tory MP Nick Boles said the electorate should vote LibDem.

When asked whether or not he is in control of the Tories’ General Election push last night, Johnson said he was speaking primarily about Brexit because “we need to get Brexit done and I make no apology for mentioning it because it has been paralysing politics for three and a half years”.

Earlier in the day, Michael Gove – twice Johnson’s rival for the Tory leadership job – appeared on the Today programme, where he rebutted Gauke’s words.

Gove said: “I’ve got a lot of respect and affection for David but I think in this one particular area he’s wrong. What we have is a Brexit deal that’s been negotiated, a withdrawal agreement that will make sure we safeguard the rights of UK citizens abroad and EU citizens in the UK and also a political declaration that spells out a future relationship based on free trade and friendly cooperation.”

Gove suggested that Johnson’s critics had “oeuf on their faces” and insisted his party will not miss yet more targets on EU withdrawal.

The senior Tory said: “We can secure a free trade agreement by the end of 2020, we can do so because we start in a position where we have a political declaration that spells out in some significant detail what the nature of that relationship would be.”

The Tory trouble is the latest in a line of defections and other rows to hit UK-wide parties.

LibDem Tim Walker has defended his decision to stand down from the race in Canterbury in a bid to stop the Tories taking the seat from Labour’s Rosie Duffield because “she’s a good woman”.

Jo Swinson’s team will now find a replacement for that area.

And Labour has now endorsed their candidate Ian Byrne after a row over “sexist” statements about Tory minister Esther McVey and Scottish Tory peer Michelle Mone.

He has apologised for “unacceptable” social media posts made four years ago and will stand for Liverpool West Derby after a hearing by the party’s National Executive Committee.

In a statement issued over the weekend, the parliamentary hopeful insisted that he was “deeply sorry” for what he called “inappropriate and offensive language from the shop floor” that he “would not use today”.