Johnson’s Number 10 rivals begin Tory leadership campaigns

2 weeks ago

The two senior Conservatives most likely to beat Boris Johnson into Downing Street will formally launch their party leadership campaigns today.

Referring to the continuing Brexit uncertainty, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt will suggest the UK is facing a “constitutional crisis”, and Environment Secretary Michael Gove will say the stakes for Britain have “never been higher”.

Both men will talk about the need for a “serious leader”, in what may be seen as a swipe at Mr Johnson’s suitability to be prime minister.

But vision and policies are being overshadowed by drugs and abortion.

Mr Gove is facing calls to withdraw from the race after admitting taking cocaine.

Former Tory chairwoman Baroness Warsi said his continued presence as a candidate for the party leadership was “completely inappropriate”.

“This case isn’t just about drug taking, it is about trust,” she told Channel 4 News.

More from Conservative Leadership Election 2019

Mr Gove said he was “fortunate” not to go to prison after admitting taking cocaine on “several” occasions.

During his launch event, he will say he can both deliver Brexit and “stop Jeremy Corbyn ever getting the keys to Downing Street”.

Mr Hunt, meanwhile, has been accused of “attacking women’s rights” after reiterating his personal view that the legal limit for abortion should be reduced from 24 weeks to 12 weeks.

The former health secretary told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday that his own “view hasn’t changed”, but stressed he would not push to halve the legal limit should he become prime minister.

At his launch event, he will say Britain needs the “art of tough negotiation, not the art of empty rhetoric”.

He has gained the support of Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, who said he is a “winner with a track record of success in business and in government”.

Two other senior Tories will also formally throw their hats into the ring.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock will promise the country a “fresh start”, and former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab will criticise the “paralysing uncertainty” on Brexit.

With Brexit likely to dominate discussions, Mr Johnson – the bookmakers’ favourite – has indicated he will play hardball with the EU.

The former foreign secretary told The Sunday Times he would “retain” Britain’s £39bn divorce bill “until such time as we have greater clarity about the way forward”.

But Mr Hunt said an “ultra hard-line approach” would be met by “an ultra hard-line response”, describing Mr Johnson as “quite a Marmite character”.

Tory leadership contest figures
Image: There are 11 hopefuls: Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Rory Stewart, Andrea Leadsom, Penny Mordaunt, Sajid Javid, Matt Hancock, Mark Harper and Sam Gyimah

Nominations for the Conservative Party leadership will be received by the backbench 1922 Committee between 10am and 5pm.

Candidates will require a proposer, a seconder, and six other MPs to get to the first ballot, which will be on Thursday.

Further ballots will be held on 18, 19 and 20 June.

Once the field has been reduced to two candidates, party members will vote for the winner.

Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt

In what may be seen as a dig at Mr Johnson, Mr Hunt will say the country needs an “experienced, serious leader” at a time when Brexit remains undelivered.

At a launch event for MPs and campaigners in London, he will say: “We are facing a constitutional crisis. Our new prime minister will preside over a hung parliament.

“This extremely serious moment calls for an experienced, serious leader. We need the art of tough negotiation, not the art of empty rhetoric.”

He will add that his background as an entrepreneur means “I know there is no success without risk” and “as a patriot, I know there is absolutely nothing our great country cannot achieve”.

Michael Gove

Michael Gove has said the new zones are a 'big step in the right direction'

Mr Gove will also use the phrase “serious leader”, as he too tries to move the spotlight away from Mr Johnson.

He will say: “This moment right here right now is a serious time in the life of our nation. And it requires a serious leader.

“The stakes have never been higher, the consequences have rarely been greater.

“We need a leader who is ready to lead from day one. A leader ready to be prime minister from day one.

“A leader ready to face the scrutiny of the studio lights.”

Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock

Currently a 100/1 outsider to take over from Theresa May as Conservative Party leader, Mr Hancock will say the UK needs “a leader not just for the next six weeks or six months, but the next six years and more”.

He will say he wants his campaign “to be about the future of Britain”.

His mantra will be “move fast and make things happen” – a twist on the Silicon Valley motto of “move fast and break things”.

Dominic Raab

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab leaves BBC Broadcasting House in London after appearing on the Andrew Marr show

As well as discussing Brexit, Mr Raab will talk about the environment.

His plans include a National Energy Research Centre to search for new ways to produce cheap clean energy, and a dedicated £500m International Wildlife Fund to boost biodiversity, species preservation, and nature conservation.

He will say: “We’ve got to look to the future. We’ve got to leave the environment in a better state than we found it.”

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