• Former deputy prime minister says Hitler comment ‘obscene’
  • Says strain of Brexit campaign is telling on ex-London mayor

Michael Heseltine, who was U.K. deputy prime minister from 1995 to 1997, said he’d be “very surprised” if former London Mayor Boris Johnson could lead the country after suggesting that the European Union shares Adolf Hitler’s goal of uniting the continent.

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Johnson’s comments in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph newspaper were attacked as “absurd” on Tuesday by EU President Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister. Heseltine told BBC Television later the same day he thinks they show Johnson is feeling the “strain” of leading the campaign for a so-called Brexit in next month’s referendum. The mention of Hitler was “preposterous, obscene,” he said.

“He is behaving now irresponsibly, recklessly and I fear that his judgment is going,” Heseltine said. Asked if Johnson could be prime minister, he expressed doubt. “I think that every time he makes one of these extraordinary utterances, people in the Conservative Party will question whether he now has the judgment for that role.”

Johnson is one of the favorites to succeed David Cameron as Conservative leader and prime minister, with Cameron saying he won’t lead the party into the 2020 election. However, the debate ahead of the June 23 referendum is becoming increasingly bitter, with Tories taking the leading roles on both sides. Johnson succeeded Heseltine as member of Parliament for Henley, west of London, in 2001.

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