Tory leadership: Johnson and Hunt make pitch to be PM

Boris JohnsonImage copyright PA
Image caption Boris Johnson insisted the UK could leave the European Union by 31 October

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have made their pitch to be the next prime minister at the first of 16 Conservative Party hustings.

The two contenders for Number 10 laid out their vision for the country at a conference in Birmingham.

Mr Johnson said these were “dark days” for his party, but insisted he could turn things around.

But his rival warned members not to elect the “wrong person” and risk “catastrophe”.

Mr Johnson warned the most important thing was to “get Brexit done”.

He said: “My ambition is to unite this country and our society… let’s take Britain forward.

“We need to discover a new confidence in our country.”

‘Slamming and banging’

The former Mayor of London featured on most of Saturday’s newspaper front pages following reports by the Guardian that police were called to his London home after neighbours reported “slamming and banging” in the early hours of Friday morning.

The Metropolitan Police have said they will not be taking any further action following the episode.

Asked by host, LBC presenter Iain Dale, whether character mattered when choosing a prime minister, Mr Johnson said: “I don’t think people want to hear about that.”

Accused of ducking questions, Mr Johnson said: “People are entitled to ask me what I want to do for the country.”

His rival, Mr Hunt, said the UK was in a “very serious situation”.

He continued:”Get things wrong, and and there will be no Conservative government and maybe even no Conservative Party.

“Get things right, and we can deliver Brexit, unite the party and send [Labour leader Jeremy] Corbyn packing.”

But he warned that if Tory party members elected the “wrong person” as leader, then “catastrophe awaits”.

Mr Johnson said he would prepare for a no-deal Brexit if he became PM.

He said: “We must be able to come out on WTO terms, so that for the first time in these negotiations we carry conviction.

“And it is precisely because we will be preparing between now and 31 October for a no-deal Brexit that we will get the deal we need.”

He repeated his previous claim that it was “eminently feasible” for the UK to leave the EU by 31 October, saying he intended to make it happen.

A questioner wanted to know whether Mr Johnson’s approach to British business in the context of Brexit was as “cavalier and careless” as previously, when he used an expletive.

He replied: “I believe passionately in UK businesses, and as Foreign Secretary I spent a lot of my time promoting UK businesses at home abroad.”

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Jeremy Hunt insisted he would leave the EU with no deal if necessary

Jeremy Hunt insisted he would leave the EU with no deal if necessary.

He said: “I would do so with a heavy heart. But if we have to in the end I would do that.”

Of a mooted renegotiation with Brussels, he said: “If we send the wrong person there’s going to be no negotiation, no trust, no deal, and if Parliament stops that, maybe no Brexit.

“Send the right person and there’s a deal to be done.”

‘Our own Jeremy’

In another jibe at his rival, Mr Hunt warned members not to elect a Conservative populist to oppose “hard-left populist” Jeremy Corbyn.

Referring to himself he said: “Or we could do better and choose our own Jeremy.”

He continued: “If Corbyn gets into Downing Street there will never be Brexit.

“That’s why it’s so important that we hold together our Conservative and DUP family and deliver Brexit.”

Mr Hunt said he will increase defence spending and called for Conservatives to have a “social mission”, focusing on social care for older people.

He vowed to get more young people voting Tory.

And he promised: “I will never provoke a general election before we have left the EU.

Members will receive their ballots between 6-8 July, with the new leader expected to be announced in the week beginning 22 July.

Compare the candidates’ policies and careers

Select a topic and a candidate to find out more


– Would leave the EU with no deal, but it’s not his preferred option. – Wants changes to the Irish backstop and proposes sending a new negotiating team to Brussels. – Wants to make changes to the Withdrawal Agreement and thinks it’s possible to get them done by 31 October, but has not ruled out an extension.

– Wants to leave on 31 October, the deadline for Brexit set by the EU, with or without a deal. He admits a no-deal exit will cause “some disruption” but says the “way to get a good deal is to prepare for no deal”. – Wants to remove the backstop from any deal and replace it with “alternative arrangements”. – Says he would withhold the £39bn “divorce” payment the UK is due to give the EU as part of the negotiated deal. He says the money will be retained until there is “greater clarity about the way forward”.


– As an entrepreneur, he wants to turn Britain into the next Silicon Valley, a “hub of innovation”. – Pledged to slash business taxes to the lowest in Europe to attract firms to Britain after Brexit and reduce corporation tax.

– Pledges to cut income tax for people earning more than £50,000 by raising the 40% tax threshold to £80,000. – Says it will benefit three million people and would cost £9.6bn a year. – Plans to pay for the cut partly from a pot set aside by the Treasury for a possible no-deal Brexit, and partly by increasing employee National Insurance payments.


– Mental health support in every school and a crackdown on social media companies that fail to regulate their content. – A cut in interest rate paid on tuition fees. – Long term plan to provide more funding for the teaching profession in return for a guarantee that no one leaves the education system without a “rigorous qualification” sufficient to work up to at least the average salary.

– Promises to raise spending on secondary school pupils to £5,000 each. – Called the funding gap between some schools in cities compared to those in rural areas a “disturbing reality”. – Has previously said money spent on the EU could be put into the NHS.


– The foreign secretary campaigned to remain in the EU during the 2016 referendum, but has since been reborn as a Brexiteer. – He even suggested, to widespread criticism, that the EU was like the Soviet Union. However, he has said his party would be committing “political suicide” if it tried to push through a no-deal Brexit. – An MP for South West Surrey since 2005, Mr Hunt was made culture secretary under the coalition government in 2010 and oversaw the 2012 London Olympics before becoming health secretary. – In 2018, he became the longest-serving health minister, and arguably one of the most controversial, since the NHS was created, completing six years in the role. During his tenure, he clashed with unions over contracts for junior doctors, who took part in a series of walkouts in 2015.

– The 55-year Eton and Oxford-educated former political journalist has coveted the top job for many years, but was beaten to No 10 by his contemporary David Cameron. – After eight years as mayor of London, he returned to Parliament as MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip in 2016. – A leading Brexiteer, Mr Johnson had been at odds with Theresa May’s Brexit vision for some time before he eventually quit as foreign secretary in protest last year. – Polls suggest he is a popular figure with members of the wider Conservative party.

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