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Rehman Chishti Worries He Was Too Late To Have A Shot At Tory Leadership

The Gillingham MP Rehman Chishti spoke to PoliticsHome this week about his short-lived bid to become the next Prime Minister (Alamy)

4 min read

Eliminated Tory leadership candidate Rehman Chishti has said he does not regret his bid to be the next Prime Minister, but suspects he could have got more MPs to support his campaign if he had launched it sooner.

The Gillingham MP formally joined the list of 11 heavyweight contenders, including a number of former and current Cabinet ministers, on Sunday evening, without a team in place. He acted as his own campaign manager to garner nominations from MPs and get his message out on the media.

But without the backing of a single colleague, he withdrew his nomination on Tuesday as the deadline to get 20 supporters drew near.

Chishti told PoliticsHome he has no regrets about his bid, and was not worried that he may be remembered for this failure to launch in the future.

“Hopefully what I would be remembered by is somebody who has self-belief, and somebody who has the courage to stick by their conviction and put themselves forward,” he said, speaking to PoliticsHome podcast The Rundown on Thursday.

"If you think you have what it takes, and you have something to offer, then you have to put yourself forward, and you have to have a vision and let others judge if that is that the right vision.”

Chishti, who was appointed foreign office minister in the wake of mass government resignations to force Boris Johnson from office last week, believed his fortunes would “most certainly” have been different if he had got going with his campaign earlier.

“Being completely frank and honest, after my leadership I've had lots and lots of MPs coming up to me in saying, ‘look, I really respect what you did and what you put forward’,” he explained. 

“I think on that basis, if I had more time to be able to put that vision forward with the resources, I think we may be in a different position now.”

He said he put forward a vision “based on the brightest and the best, looking at creative ideas, and making a fresh start” to his fellow MPs, asking if it was something they could relate to.

“A lot of them said it most certainly is, but the challenge I had is a lot of my colleagues had already been approached by others as well,” Chisti explained.

“I'm an honest politician, I didn't want them to them to look at changing that if they've already committed, they should stick by who they've committed to.

“So I think within the two days I had, I gave it my all.”

He also did not rule out another go at the top job despite next time around, but said his focus was now on “serving whoever the next leader of our party is to take our country forward”.

After PoliticsHome revealed last Friday that he was mulling a bid, Chishti said he spent the weekend talking to his constituents about whether it was the right thing to do.

“I did a street surgery on Sunday in Hempstead and I asked my constituents and said, look, the country's going through a transition, would you like your Member of Parliament to put himself forward?

"And they said to me: 'yes'.”

Chishti was undeterred by the number of experienced candidates already in the race compared to his own low public profile. 

The former lawyer felt that when Johnson announced he was standing down, every Tory MP had a responsibility "to ask themselves the question: 'what direction of the party do we want to see, as we move forward? What skills do we have that we can put forward to serve our great country?'

“So I thought, you know, why not?,” he added. 

Now that Chishti has been knocked out of the race he is backing the Foreign Affairs Committee chairman and fellow Kent MP Tom Tugendhat, one of the six remianing candidates in the contest.

"I think when it comes to courage, when it comes to having a vision, and when it comes to being resilient in the work that he did in the armed forces, Tom is somebody who I think will be amazing, leading our great country as we move forward into the next stage, for a fresh start,” Chishti added.

He also offered a word of advice to any MPs thinking about running for leader in the future: “I would say if you believe in yourself, then go for it.

“If you feel you have skills to offer, then go for it because at the end of the day you can’t look back and think if only I had.”

  • For the full interview listen to this week's episode of The Rundown, out Thursday


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