Tory tribes go to war to replace Boris Johnson

Tory tribes go to war to replace Boris Johnson: Fault lines are laid bare as Michael Gove backs ‘no bull****’ Kemi Badenoch and Kwasi Kwarteng comes out for Liz Truss – while centrists line up behind Rishi Sunakand Tom Tugendhat

  • At least a dozen contenders are expected to battle it out to become new leader 
  • And the fight is likely to get very very dirty, with such a huge prize on offer
  • The one thing that unites the candidates so far is pledges to cut taxes 
  • Beyond that divided into several camps that contradict and occasionally overlap

The race to replace Boris Johnson has exploded into life and threatens to drive deepening fault lines into the Conservative Party amid an orgy of backstabbing.

At least a dozen contenders are expected to battle it out to become the new leader and Prime Minister in the autumn, from all wings of the party.

And the fight is likely to get very very dirty, with such a huge prize on offer.

The one thing that unites the candidates so far is pledges to cut taxes – for businesses and for individual Britons.

But that is a core part of the Conservative ethos and comes after months of Tory backbench fury at Mr Johnson and Rishi Sunak increasing taxes in the shape of National Insurance, to pay for the NHS and social care. 

Beyond that they are divided into several camps that contradict and occasionally overlap each other. 

The rules of the contest are due to be hammered out by the backbench 1922 Committee today, with some suggestion that the field could be whittled down before it even starts. 

Reports suggest would-be candidates may need the support of 20 MPs to enter, which could force some to bow out early. 

There will also be furious behind the scenes lobbying to secure key backing from senior Tories. The support of Ben Wallace is likely to be foremost among them.

The Defence Secretary was tipped as a potential successor to Mr Johnson before ruling himself out of the contest. He could now act as a kingmaker, pulling in support for whoever he backs, and possibly earning himself a new more senior post, like foreign secretary.

At least a dozen contenders are expected to battle it out to become the new leader and Prime Minister in the autumn, from all wings of the party.

There are hardline Brexiteers like Mr Sunak, Attorney General Suella Braverman and Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt. Ex-foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt and the current incumbent Liz Truss are Remain voters who have, in the past six years, undergone conversion to Leave, while Tom Tugendhat is also a Remain supporter.

With Brexit not appearing to be anywhere near ‘done’, especially in Northern Ireland, all the candidates can be expected to talk tough over diplomatic and legislative efforts to square the circle that is the Northern Ireland Protocol, which could yet drag the UK into a trade war.

At the weekend Mr Tugendhat tried to undercut this problem by vowing to use Brexit as a springboard for success in Britain.

Speaking to GB News, he also said he would tackle immigration by going further than the Government’s controversial Rwanda policy.

And the former soldier said he was channeling his inner Reagan – a nod to his respect for the former US President and his views on taxation.

While they may pick up votes among the initial parliamentary rounds of voting, this could count against them when the final two are put up for the votes of party members, who are generally more Eurosceptic.

The ‘war on woke’ is also likely to provide a fertile battleground. Several of the candidates including Kemi Badenoch, the former equalities minister, and Ms Braverman, pledged to tackle ‘woke’ politics in when then announced they would stand.

Ms Braverman did not even wait until Boris Johnson finally agreed to quit to announce she was running and would make a ‘war on wokeness’ part of her pitch. 

Ms Badenoch, who has been vocal over culture wars, hit out at ‘identity politics’, saying: he wrote: ‘Exemplified by coercive control, the imposition of views, the shutting down of debate, the end of due process, identity politics is not about tolerance or individual rights but the very opposite of our crucial and enduring British values.’

On the other side of the fence is Ms Mordaunt. When she was equalities minister in 2018 she said ‘trans women are women and trans men are men’ and pledged to do more so that ‘LGBT people can thrive in the UK’.

But on Saturday, as she faced criticism over the unearthed remarks, she tweeted: ‘Some people born male and who have been through the gender recognition process are also legally female. That DOES NOT mean they are biological women, like me.’ 

Other candidates are likely to steer clear of issues like trans rights as much as possible. Sunak, Hunt and Tugendhat are likely to focus on what are generally seen as weightier issues – economics, foreign policy, defence.

Rishi Sunak

  • Super-rich father of two 
  • Married to Indian heiress
  • Chancellor throughout the Covid pandemic
  • Oversaw huge public spending
  • Has pledged to cut taxes only when inflation and the economy are under control 

In a slick campaign video launched on Friday, Mr Sunak announced his leadership bid with the message: ‘Let’s restore trust, rebuild the economy and reunite the country.’

One of the main front-runners the former chancellor’s rise from relative obscurity to household name came as he turned on the spending taps to protect jobs through the furlough scheme when the coronavirus pandemic struck.

His calm and measured delivery during televised Covid briefings, and his viral declaration of love for a popular soft drink, will have endeared him to those perhaps not always plugged in to the political goings-on, as well as his resignation on matters of principle on Tuesday.

A Brexit supporter from the off, he has attracted more than 30 declared supporters so far from within the Tory ranks, including from serving and ex-ministers Mark Spencer, Oliver Dowden and Robert Jenrick.

However his stock has taken a tumble recently following disclosures that his wife had non-dom status for tax purposes, while she lived in Downing Street, and he held on to his US green card while serving in Government.

He has become the man to beat in the leadership race, and has already been the focus of concerted mud-slinging. 

There have been claims that allies of Mr Johnson are aiming to stop Mr Sunak winning the Tory leadership contest over his ‘treachery’ in resigning from Government on Tuesday night – a move that precipitated the PM’s downfall.

According to the Telegraph, a 424-word criticism of Mr Sunak is being widely shared across Tory WhatsApp groups.

As well as claiming ‘there is nothing Conservative about the ‘Big Tax and Big Spend’ agenda of Rishi Sunak’, Mr Sunak is also branded a ‘liar’ and accused of ‘schoolboy errors’.

The ex-chancellor has also witnessed a TV clip of himself, from 20 years ago, talking about his circle of friends being ‘err… not working class’ go viral on social media.

Rishi Sunak was forced to deny links to ‘toxic’ former No10 adviser Dominic Cummings last night.

Mr Cummings has posted ‘poisonous’ claims online about Mr Sunak’s rivals for the Tory leadership, but the former Chancellor’s team insisted he had not spoken to the controversial adviser since he left No 10 in late 2020.

A rival Tory leadership campaign source said Mr Sunak should ‘come clean’ about whether his team had any links to Mr Cummings – or if they had been in contact with him.

Penny Mordaunt

  • Former defence secretary
  • Appeared on reality TV show Splash!
  • Current trade minister
  • Divorced Royal Naval Reservist 

Ms Mordaunt’s campaign got off to an awkward start on Sunday with her launch video hastily edited to remove several identifiable figures including athlete Jonnie Peacock and jailed Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius.

Announcing her bid, the international trade minister said the UK’s leadership ‘needs to become a little less about the leader and a lot more about the ship’.

Ms Mordaunt was Ben Wallace’s predecessor as defence secretary, and the first woman to hold the post before being sacked by Mr Johnson shortly after he became Prime Minister in 2019.

The trade minister has many strings to her bow as a Royal Navy reservist and former reality TV contestant, having appeared on the Tom Daley-fronted diving show Splash.

She played a prominent role in the Leave campaign in the 2016 Brexit referendum, and enjoys the backing of Dame Andrea Leadsom and Michael Fabricant.

Mordaunt’s bid was promoted on her Twitter page, where she has hit back against critics trying to depict her as ‘woke’ amid a row over her stance on transgender rights, insisting she has ‘fought for women’s rights all my life’ as she hit back at opponents

Ms Mordaunt’s bid was promoted on her Twitter page, where she has hit back against critics trying to depict her as ‘woke’ amid a row over her stance on transgender rights, insisting she has ‘fought for women’s rights all my life’ as she hit back at opponents.

Her position as one of the bookies’ favourites to become the next Tory leader has led to a furious row over her stance on trans issues, including her past claim that ‘trans women are women’.

She has been accused of being ‘a committed warrior for the trans lobby’ and of risking ‘enormous harm to women’s rights and children’.

But Ms Mordaunt, a Royal Navy reservist, used a series of Twitter posts in the early hours of this morning to push back at opponents.

As well as highlighting her past work in Government, including when she was women and equalities minister under Theresa May, Ms Mordaunt also stressed there was a difference between ‘biological women’ and those who are ‘legally female’.

Liz Truss

  • Foreign Secretary
  • Remainer turned Brexit hardliner
  • Negotiating with EU over NI
  • Loves posing for pictures on Instagram 

The Foreign Secretary kept her powder dry as the Tory top brass turned on the mortally wounded Prime Minister, despite being a Johnson loyalist, though she did cut short a foreign trip to Indonesia to head back to Westminster as he announced his resignation.

But she confirmed long-standing expectations that she would throw her hat into the already crowded ring on Sunday, pledging to reverse the national insurance hike.

Ina video released today she vowed to return to ‘proper Conservative policy’ with tax cuts ‘from day one’ and business rates reforms. She suggested that the £2trillion debt mountain should be put on a ‘longer-term’ footing in order to give immediate wriggle-room.

In her video, she played up her experience at the top levels of government and said the party needs to ‘deliver, deliver, deliver’ to win the next general election.

Writing in The Telegraph on Sunday, Ms Truss, who has been cultivating support among Tory MPs and enjoys the backing of Julian Knight, Jackie-Doyle Price and Chloe Smith, said she could be ‘trusted to deliver’. 

Social media aficionado Ms Truss has made little secret of her leadership ambitions, with a series of high-profile interventions and photo opportunities in which she appeared to be channelling late PM Margaret Thatcher.

She has the experience of working across many Whitehall departments, while her hard line on Ukraine, insisting Russian forces must be driven from the country, and threats to tear up the Northern Ireland Protocol with the EU play well with sections of the party.

Sajid Javid

  • Rochdale-born son of a Pakistani bus driver
  • Twice resigned from Boris Johnson’s Cabinet
  • Quit as education secretary to spark Johnson’s downfall last week
  • Former top banker and father of four 

Mr Javid formally declared his bid in The Sunday Telegraph after his and Mr Sunak’s double-resignation effectively kickstarted the slew of departures from government, hastening Mr Johnson’s demise.

State school-educated Mr Javid, known as ‘The Saj’ in some circles, is the son of a bus driver who arrived in England from Pakistan in the 1960s, and held ministerial roles in housing, business and culture before becoming chancellor, and then health secretary in the middle of the pandemic.

Mr Javid, who supported Remain in 2016, made it to the final four in the contest to replace Theresa May as Tory leader in 2019, but dropped out and subsequently endorsed Mr Johnson.

He has said he would not only scrap the former chancellor’s plans to raise corporation tax from 19 per cent to 25 per cent in April, but reduce the rate to 15 per cent.

The Bromsgrove MP also pledged to scrap the Government’s controversial national insurance hike, bring forward the planned 1p income tax cut to next year, and introduce a further ‘significant’ temporary reduction on fuel duty.

The former health secretary pledged to ‘unite the country’ as he moved to position himself among the favourites to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister.

The video, first published as part of his failed leadership bid in 2019, gave a glimpse into life at home with his wife, four children and his dog Bailey.

Mr Javid, who was brought up in Bristol, also spoke about the influence of his ‘workaholic’ parents who owned a clothing shop. 

Speaking of the ‘value of hard work’, he said they encouraged him to work in international business before entering politics.

In a swipe at Rishi Sunak, who released a high-quality campaign video last week, Mr Javid tweeted: ‘I don’t have a fancy new video. So here’s one I made earlier’.

Grant Shapps

Transport Secretary and Boris loyalist

Father-of-three was surprise candidate

State-educated businessman who admitted using aliases 

The Transport Secretary, a Johnson loyalist, set up his stall by vowing to end ‘tactical government by an often-distracted centre’.

Without personally criticising the Prime Minister, he suggested his own leadership would bring a return to a more traditionally Conservative approach to state, pledging to curb taxes.

With his local grammar school education and rock-star relative who played guitar for The Clash, Mr Shapps has a slightly different background to some of his Tory contemporaries.

He told the Mail on Sunday he had a simple pitch – ‘I can win you the election.’

His confidence stems from his experience as party chairman in 2015 – ‘I helped David Cameron win’, he says – his ‘grit’ as a campaigner and his love of spreadsheets.

He promises an agenda of being ‘instinctively’ in favour of lowering taxes and cutting red tape, adding: ‘The level of taxes is totally unsustainable. We need to leave money in people’s pockets.’ 

The Cabinet Minister criticised the way so many taxpayers have been dragged into paying higher rates as tax thresholds have not moved in line with inflation, saying  ‘People aren’t stupid,’ Mr Shapps says.

Last week, he used his number-crunching skills to urge Boris Johnson to quit while the Prime Minister was in his Downing Street bunker vowing to stay, telling him he would lose a second confidence vote.

The 53-year-old, who has three children and is Welwyn Hatfield MP, said tackling the cost-of-living crisis and strengthening the economy to become the biggest in Europe are top of his agenda.

Nadhim Zahawi

  • Made Chancellor after Sunak quit last week
  • Urged Boris to quit within a day of appointment
  • Born in Iraq to Kurdish parents and came to Uk as a child
  • Made millions by founded the YouGov polling company 
  • Questions over his tax affairs 

Mr Zahawi’s bid, also announced in The Sunday Times, is rooted in lower taxes and a ‘great education’ for all, promising to ‘steady the ship’ and ‘stabilise the economy’.

He also appeared to suggest a hard-line stance on so-called culture war issues, claiming he would protect children from what he claimed was ‘damaging and inappropriate nonsense from radical activists’.

The newly appointed Chancellor argued Britons must be trusted ‘to do what is best for themselves’, as he warned the country had lost a sense of ‘boundless optimism and opportunity’ that he traced back to Margaret Thatcher’s tenure.

An outside bet among the bookies, the Iraqi-born former education secretary was a successful businessman and came to wider prominence as vaccines minister during the pandemic.

But he is facing questions over his tax affairs that could serious hinder his campaign.

There have been claims that HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is probing Mr Zahawi after civil servants raised a red ‘flag’.

But Mr Zahawi, who founded polling firm YouGov and is believed to be worth around £100million, dismissed the suggestion and said he will ‘not apologise for being a successful businessman’.

Today he lashed out at ‘smears’ as he insisted he is ‘not aware’ of any investigation into his financial affairs.

The new Chancellor also attempted to turn the tables by vowing to publish his tax return annually if his Tory leadership bid is successful.

He also refused to give any estimate for his personal wealth saying he would ‘probably get it wrong’ and ‘these things move around’ with changes to investment values. 

Tom Tugendhat

  • Former soldier who served in Iraq and Afghanistan
  • Married father of two 
  • Chairman of Foreign Affairs Committee
  • Russia and China hawk 
  • Remain-voting long-term Boris critic 
  • Has never held a ministerial post 

 Not a household name, but among the early contenders.

The multi-lingual chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee became the first to announce his intention to stand for leader should Mr Johnson be turfed out, with his declaration made in January, a position he repeated in Friday’s Daily Telegraph, saying he was putting together a ‘broad coalition’ offering a ‘clean start’.

His odds shortened almost immediately as a result.

The former soldier wrote in the paper: ‘I have served before, in the military, and now in Parliament. Now I hope to answer the call once again as prime minister.’

A Remainer in 2016, he has been a trenchant critic of Mr Johnson, a stance that would appear to have cost him any chance of ministerial preferment under the current leadership.

Yesterday he provided a punchy response today when – asked about the ‘naughtiest thing’ he’d ever done – the Tory leadership candidate replied: ‘Well, I invaded a country once.’

The former British Army officer looked to draw on his experience in the military – during which he served in both Iraq and Afghanistan – as he pushed forward his case to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister.

Although considered an outsider in the race for Number 10, as he has not previously been a Government minister, the 49-year-old insisted he had a wealth of experience as a ‘leader’.

Mr Tugendhat, the chairman of the House of Commons’ Foreign Affairs Committee, vowed to be tough on Russia and China.

He also promised to reverse a hike in National Insurance and to take action on ‘crippling’ fuel duties.

Suella Braverman

  • Attorney General and hardline Brexiteer 
  • British daughter of Indian parents from Goa
  • Has vowed to rewrite Brexit deal on Northern Ireland
  • Also pledged to tackle ‘woke’ social issues

The Attorney General launched an unlikely leadership bid as support for Mr Johnson crumbled around him on Wednesday night.

But a surprise endorsement from prominent Brexiteer Steve Baker, who had earlier said he was considering running, has lent weight to her standing.

Ms Braverman, who was first elected as an MP in 2015, is regarded as something of an outlier for the top job.

A Suella Braverman for PM Twitter account has nonetheless sprung up, with Tory MP Sir Desmond Swayne being the first to tweet his support for her bid.

Jeremy Hunt

  • Former foreign, health and defence secretary
  • Lost to Johnson in 2019 leadership election
  • Remainer turned Brexit supporter
  • Long seen as the moderate, anti-Boris candidate 
  • Father of two whose wife is Chinese 

Mr Hunt confirmed his widely anticipated leadership bid in The Sunday Telegraph, making similar tax-cutting pledges to fellow ex-health secretary Mr Javid.

The foreign secretary, whose Remainer background may have been part of what ruled him out of the running in 2019, has been a persistent critic of Mr Johnson.

Seen by some as a bit of a Thatcher reboot, Mr Hunt might appeal to those who want a sensible choice of leader after months of instability.

As chairman of the Commons Health Committee, he has used his position to make a number of critical interventions on the Government’s handling of the pandemic, although his strong support for lockdown measures will not have pleased all Tory MPs.

Kemi Badenoch

  • Former equalities minister who fought against ‘woke’
  • A 42-year-old banker with Nigerian heritage
  • Has received the shock backing of Michael Gove  

Former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch threw her hat into the ring with a plan for a smaller state and a government ‘focused on the essentials’.

The MP for Saffron Walden said she supported lower taxes ‘to boost growth and productivity, and accompanied by tight spending discipline’.

Writing in The Times, the 42-year-old former banker, who grew up in the UK, US and Nigeria, also hit out at ‘identity politics’ and said Boris Johnson was ‘a symptom of the problems we face, not the cause of them’.

Ms Badenoch may be considered an outsider for the leadership given the Tory grandees already in the running, but her profile was boosted by an endorsement from Michael Gove on Sunday.

Writing in the Sun the former minister said: ‘As I reflect on what it takes to deliver in government – on the mistakes I’ve made, the lessons I’ve learned, the progress I helped secure – I know one thing is true above all. If you want to drive change, empower the right people. Kemi Badenoch has the Right Stuff.’

He went on to say the party needed a leader with ‘Kemi’s focus, intellect and no-bulls*** drive’.

Rehman Chishti

  • Surprise candidate stepped up on Sunday
  • Has never held a ministerial office
  • Was a Labour candidate at the 2005 election
  • Remainer who criticised Boris Johnson over Brexit lawbreaking 

The newly appointed Foreign Office minister made an even unlikelier bid for the Tory leadership on Sunday evening in a video posted on Facebook.

Mr Chishti said the right candidate would have ‘a proven track record of coming to the table with ideas and creativity to help improve people’s lives’.

The MP for Gillingham and Rainham has an unusual political background, having previously stood as a Labour candidate in the 2005 general election before defecting to the Conservatives in 2007.

In 2020 he resigned as Mr Johnson’s special envoy for freedom of religion over the Government’s stance on the Northern Ireland protocol.

The former barrister said at the time clauses in the UK Internal Markets Bill ‘unilaterally break (the) UK’s legal commitments’.

Priti Patel?

  • Hardline Home Secretary
  • Overseeing Rwanda migrant deportations
  • Was sacked by Theresa May when junior minister
  • Was embroiled in bullying row over senior civil servant

Priti Patel has amassed a solid core of supporters, despite not yet committing to a leadership bid.

She already has more supporters from within Tory ranks than Suella Braverman and Sajid Javid.

Supporters point to her hardline time as Home Secretary, a role she has held throughout Boris Johnson’s leadership. 

She is the architect of the £120million scheme to send illegal migrants to Rwanda, though none have yet to be sent to the African country. 

But her tenure has also be rocked by scandals. She had been criticised over the car crash that is the Metropolitan Police and barely survived a bullying scandal that resulted in a payout for the Home Office’s senior civil servant. 

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