Tory leadership contest 2019

Boris Johnson’s planning for government

Boris Johnson had been refusing to engage with the question of Cabinet appointments and the like until he was through his Andrew Neil interview. But with that done, his focus is now shifting from the campaign to the transition as I say in The Sun this morning. One source explains the move by saying that ‘from next week, decisions have to be taken for the success of a Johnson administration’. I understand that Johnson will settle on who he wants as Chief Whip, Chancellor and Party Chairman before moving on to the other appointments. One long time Johnson confidant tells me that Boris has learnt lessons from what happened to

Six of the biggest gaffes from the Tory leadership contest

The Tory leadership contest reaches its high point tonight as Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt sit down for one-on-one interviews with Andrew Neil. But even if the pair manage to avoid any slip-ups, the race for No.10 has so far produced plenty of gaffes. As this year’s contest reaches its final stages, Mr S. lists his favourites blunders so far: Rory Stewart’s phone gaffe: Rory Stewart made waves with his unorthodox campaign, a back-to-basics pitch that showed up his slicker but less authentic rivals. This facade came crashing down when Stewart tweeted a video of him in Kew Gardens. Eagle-eyed followers noticed something bizarre: while Stewart’s arm was moving around, the camera

James Forsyth

Boris Johnson struggles through interview with Andrew Neil

Boris Johnson just faced by far his toughest interview of the campaign. He was pressed hard on Brexit, Kim Darroch’s resignation, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and his economic policy by Andrew Neil. At the end of the interview, Boris Johnson looked at his watch—I suspect it seemed to him much longer than the half an hour it was. On Brexit, Boris Johnson made his usual case. But his attempt to sound like a details man by citing Gatt 24 Article 5B came rather a cropper when Andrew Neil asked him what was in Article 5C. Boris Johnson had no answer. When Andrew Neil pressed him on whether he would really walk away

A feisty debate, but no game changing moment

Tonight’s debate between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt was a feisty affair. The pair clashed repeatedly over the October 31st Brexit deadline, tax policy and Donald Trump. The mood of the debate was summed up when Boris Johnson was asked what he most admired about Jeremy Hunt and replied, ‘his ability to change his mind’. Hunt shot back that he most admired Boris Johnson’s ability to avoid answering the question. The Brexit section of the debate was dominated by the question of whether the UK would leave on October 31st or not. Jeremy Hunt pushed Boris Johnson on whether he would resign if that didn’t happen, Boris Johnson dodged before

Boris Johnson must remember: In victory, magnanimity

With the ballot papers out, the next few days will be crucial in the Tory leadership election. As I say in The Sun this morning, it is reckoned that 60 percent of party members will have voted by Thursday. The Boris campaign are bullish. One very senior figure in the campaign is privately predicting that they will win by a more than twenty-point margin. The Hunt campaign is adamant that this isn’t right and that the contest is tightening every day. But interestingly, even several of his Cabinet supporters aren’t trying to claim that the race is close. One tells me, ‘Let’s face it, there isn’t must doubt about what

Jeremy Hunt’s foolish no-deal promise

As Jeremy Hunt has repeatedly claimed during the Conservative leadership campaign, to set a deadline of 31 October for leaving the EU is foolish. Why tie yourself to that date if a deal with EU negotiators seemed close to being sealed? But if you have fallen for that argument, it seems no less puzzling why you would want to set a deadline of 30 September instead – as Hunt has done this morning. That is the date, he has announced, that he will decide whether a deal is achievable or not. If it is, he is prepared to carry on negotiating with the EU indefinitely. If it isn’t, then he

Boris Johnson will make us long for Theresa May’s return

He just will not do. Sexual incontinence alone should not disqualify Boris from the premiership, though it is hardly an asset. But the latest incident dramatises the flaws in his character. Indeed, one could say that he is all flaw and no character. There are three major flaws. The first is serial dishonesty. He simply has no concept of truth. As Philip Stephens of the FT once put it, Boris has lied his way through life and politics. He will say whatever is necessary to get himself out of a hole of his own digging. But if anyone quotes Boris back to himself, even a couple of days later, his

Boris’s campaign is a triumph

Forget what you’ve been told about the Conservative leadership campaign. The Boris campaign’s weekend meltdown has not lost him the election. And Jeremy Hunt has not suddenly leapt into the lead. This is still Boris’s election to lose and the odds are that he will almost certainly triumph. The reason is simple. Boris is following the tried-and-tested playbook of successful campaigns the world over. He is speaking plainly and to the right people. And he has a simple message that he repeats often, reassuring party members that he is the man to trust on the issue that they care about: Brexit. In recent weeks, Boris’s campaign has changed dramatically. But this was a

The flaw in Jeremy Hunt’s Brexit plan

Jeremy Hunt’s case to be Conservative leader is that he is the sensible, low-risk option. While Boris is now committed – thanks to his interview on Talkradio yesterday to leave the EU on 31st October, come what may, ‘do or die’, Hunt is holding out the prospect of some flexibility. The last day of October, he said this morning, is a ‘fake deadline’. Trying to force Brexit on that date, he said, could lead to a general election, a Corbyn government, followed by no Brexit at all. If the government were close to cutting a deal, he has said, then we should extend the deadline. If there were no deal

Ian Acheson

What Rory Stewart did next

Rory Stewart’s pitch for prime minister seems strangely distant now, lost in the enveloping chaos of Boris Johnston’s shamble to glory. All is not lost, however. The divergent metrics of parliamentary and public sentiment – and the character deficits of the frontrunner, who claims to be able to square that circle – make it abundantly possible that Stewart will have another chance to shine before the year is out. So what should he be doing in the meantime? I was peripherally involved in Stewart’s leadership campaign, helping to organise some of his Northern Ireland visit, including a trip to my home county (and Britain’s true Lake District) Fermanagh. Here Stewart

Robert Peston

Why neither Boris nor Hunt can stop a no-deal Brexit

There is a lot of confusion about Boris Johnson’s approach to Brexit. And that is deliberate because the candidate has yet to make a big call about the nature of the modifications he is seeking to the Brexit plan negotiated by Theresa May. The ultra Brexiters among his supporters, the hard core of the European Research Group led by Steve Baker and Jacob Rees-Mogg, want him to ditch her Withdrawal Agreement completely – and replace that with a “GATT 24” temporary free trade arrangement for the years that would be necessary for the negotiation of a permanent new trade deal with the EU. This they regard as true liberation from the EU.

Why Tories are hooked on Boris Johnson

Modern politicians are like drug dealers intent on keeping their clients’ hooked. They sell fixes to their core voters: upping the strength and deepening the addiction. The punters know at some level they are being played. But a temporary high is better than no high, and infinitely preferable to the sweats and shakes the cold turkey of reality brings. Boris Johnson is the British right’s pusher. He feeds its addiction, taking Conservatives from drug to drug. Higher and higher they go. Further and further from the straight world of the normies with their tedious facts and nagging doubts.  Thomas De Quincey said in his Confessions of an English Opium Eater:

Hunt preys on Boris’s wobble

Jeremy Hunt is proving to be a more aggressive rival than many in the Boris Johnson campaign expected. Shortly before the last round of parliamentary voting, Hunt talked about putting ‘Boris through his paces’ which made him sound more like a personal trainer than a political opponent. But since making the final two, Hunt has been far punchier. His attacks on Boris Johnson this morning for ducking various TV debates are properly aggressive. Hunt’s attacks are garnering more attention because, after a relatively smooth parliamentary stage, Boris Johnson is having a wobble. The fallout from the Thursday night incident at his partner’s flat isn’t helping and his Brexit answer is

Dear Mary: what do you do if you spill red wine on a sofa?

No matter how much you loved Boris you would find it maddening if he spilled red wine on your sofa.  And more so if he didn’t even make a gestural effort to clear it up. But, like us all, Boris would have known from experience of the futility of trying to get red wine stains out of ‘soft furnishings ‘ We’ve all seen fellow party guests being humiliated after such spillages as bossy people set to with theatrical paper towel mopping or the pantomime of pouring white wine or whole packets of sea salt onto the stains. And then we’ve seen that nothing seems to work. Boris may have felt

Boris Derangement Syndrome

I switched on the radio last week and caught the tail end of a discussion about the Conservative leadership election. The presenter, who seemed to be in a highly agitated state, was talking about one of the contenders: ‘A man who’s lied to both of his wives, all of his mistresses, every constituent, every employer, every party leader, every colleague, every interviewer, every journalist he’s ever encountered, he’s not just lied to them, he’s actively agitated to deceive them…’ On it went. Even by left-wing shock jock standards, it was unhinged. He could only have been talking about Boris Johnson. In the US, Trump Derangement Syndrome, or TDS, is a

James Forsyth

Boris in No. 10

Quietly and discreetly, the planning for Boris Johnson’s premiership has begun. No one wants to be seen measuring the curtains, but his team are confident he’ll be the choice of Tory party members. It would be the most spectacular upset if he is not. Boris has fixed a Brexit deadline — 31 October — and time is short so his aides are concentrating on what to do when — if — he makes it to No. 10. The first few weeks in No. 10 are crucial for any prime minister, but particularly one who takes over in mid-term, without their own personal electoral mandate. Boris will have only 99 days

James Forsyth

How Boris Johnson intends to approach the next stage of the Tory leadership contest

There was a huge cheer in Boris Johnson’s office when it was announced that Jeremy Hunt had 77 votes, sending him into the final two and eliminating Michael Gove. The Johnson campaign were dreading a run- off against Michael Gove, which would have been far more testing for their candidate. The Johnson campaign are keen to say that there’s no complacency, but there is an understandable confidence that they will beat Hunt. Indeed, their planning for government, which I wrote about in this week’s magazine, is about to be significantly stepped up. Boris Johnson will have no time to waste once he enters Downing Street: there’ll only be 99 days

James Forsyth

Javid knocked out as Gove moves into second place

Sajid Javid has been eliminated from the Tory leadership race. He came bottom of the fourth ballot with 34 votes, four down from what he got yesterday. Michael Gove moved into second place, on 61 votes to Jeremy Hunt’s 59. While Boris Johnson received 14 more votes, giving him 157—and the support of an absolute majority of Tory MPs. The increase in Johnson’s vote suggests that there was tactical voting going on yesterday. It is hard to believe that many, if any, of Stewart’s voters would have switched to him. So, where did those 14 votes come from? I would hazard that they are Brexiteers who voted tactically to eliminate

Who will face Boris in the final stage of the Tory leadership contest?

This is my scenario for how the last two days of the MPs’ stage of the Tory leadership ballot will play out – which of course by definition means none of it will happen (and the clever money probably bets against me). Most of the 30 votes won by the defeated Brexiteer Dominic Raab will transfer to Johnson – with perhaps just a few going to Sajid Javid, following his loud commitment to take the UK out of the EU by 31 October, no ifs or buts. So it will be touch and go who is knocked out today, Javid or Rory Stewart – because Stewart’s decision to cast himself in

A cacophony of a leadership debate

Boris Johnson’s warning that the televised Tory leadership hustings would be a ‘cacophony’ was proved correct this evening when the five candidates spent an hour talking over one another. Any private fears the former Foreign Secretary may have had about his own performance were largely unjustified, though, as he stayed reasonable and quiet throughout the debate. His worst performance came when he answered a question on Islamophobia. Johnson appeared not to have prepared an answer for this, even though his column on the burqa and his handling of the Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe have come up repeatedly throughout this contest. He initially argued that others had lifted and exaggerated his words ‘as