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Tom Tugendhat Warns Leadership Rivals Against Doing Deals "Behind Tory Members’ Backs"

Tom Tugendhat launched his campaign to be the next Tory leader and Prime Minister saying the country needs a "return to service" (Alamy)

4 min read

Launching his bid to become Prime Minister, Tom Tugendhat has called on his leadership rivals not to do a deal “behind the back of Conservative Party members” that could prevent them from having a say on who takes over the party.

The former Army intelligence officer dismissed suggestions he was only entering the race in order to shore up an appointment as Foreign Secretary in the winning candidate’s Cabinet, and insisted he would not withdraw if he got to the final two, urging others to do the same.

“I did not enter this race for any other purpose than to champion the values I stand on,” he said.

After several rounds of voting by MPs the field of potential Prime Ministers will be trimmed down to just two, at which point almost 200,000 Tory members will be balloted on who they want to lead their party.

In 2016 the membership vote was abandoned when Andrea Leadsom withdrew her candidacy after getting to the final run-off, and Theresa May was elected unopposed.

The 1922 Committee of backbench Conservatives, which sets the rules for the primary, wants to prevent that from happening again by making it a “condition of entry” that no candidate can withdraw if down to the last two, something which Tugendhat endorsed.

"The Conservative Party is going to need an election after this to hold our party together,” the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee said, referring to the member vote, after a speech outlining his policy plans.

"There is no way that anyone who makes it to the last two should either offer or accept a compromise that goes behind the back of Conservative Party members," he added. 

So far only Grant Shapps has pulled out of the race to replace Boris Johnson, abandoning his candidacy and endorsing the former Chancellor Rishi Sunak instead.

WIth the deadline for reaching 20 nominations by MPs fast approaching, and the threshold for staying in the contest raised to 30 votes, several others are expected to stand aside this week.

Tugendhat also dismissed criticism of his lack of ministerial experience. At Sunak's concurrent launch event, Dominic Raab appeared to take aim at leadership candidates who have not held cabinet positions, including Tugendhat, insisting that there was "no time to learn on the job".

"The reality is that the job of prime minister is unlike every other job in government,” Tugendhat said.

“It's not a management job, it's not a departmental job. It's a job that demands vision and leadership, it demands a willingness to serve and to throw everything in the duty of serving the British people.

"This is no time to learn. What this is, is a time to look at a record of service and a record of delivery in some of the most difficult and trying conditions around the world, and to see that this isn't learning on the job, this is putting all that experience to work on the job.”

In his speech he said households are facing “a moment of crisis”, but that the government had "retreated" when “our service is most needed”.

He did not name Johnson directly, but seemed to evoke scandal attached to current PM when he accused the party of having “retreated into the pettiness of a politics that is more about personality than principle”.

“When our nation needed our party to function, we retreated into faction," he continued. 

“When the moment demanded service, we delivered scandal.”

Unveiling a 10-year-plan for growth his first two pledges are to cut fuel duty by 10p a litre and reverse the national insurance rise which kicked in this year.

But after each candidate has jostled to be the most pro-tax cuts, Tugendhat struck a more cautious tone. “This isn’t an auction. I’m not here to bid for the highest or the lowest on every tax policy,” he said. 

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