Boris Johnson rejects Tory plot to install him as leader without a 'proper' contest

Posted On: 
16th June 2019

Boris Johnson has insisted the Conservatives must have a "proper" leadership contest amid claims that party grandees want to hand him the job without giving members a vote.

Mr Johnson has the backing of 114 Tory MPs.
Credit: 
Boris Johnson

Senior figures in the party had suggested that Mr Johnson's name alone be put forward to members for a "confirmatory" vote because of fears that weeks of "blue-on-blue" attacks could hand a gift to Labour's Jeremy Corbyn.

But the Sunday Telegraph reports that Mr Johnson - who won the backing of 114 MPs in the first round of voting this week - flatly rejected that idea at a leadership hustings on Saturday.

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Asked whether he wanted to "stop the competition", Mr Johnson said: "No, no, no. I think that would be totally wrong. We must have a proper vote, we must have a proper contest.

"I think it is very important that whoever is leader has a mandate both from the MPs and from the party and the country."

Under Conservative Party rules, MPs take part in a series of votes to whittle the list of leadership candidates down to the final two.

Those two names are then put to the party's 160,000-strong membership which has the ultimate say on who takes on the top job.

But Conservative members were denied a vote in the previous leadership battles as all candidates bar Theresa May dropped out before the race reached that stage.

Fellow leadership contender Sajid Javid pointed to the example of Mrs May's premiership to make the case for a full contest this time around.

He told the hustings: "We can’t have a coronation. Look what happened last time.

"Just imagine if we’d actually gone to the members and put forward whoever wanted to lead the party through the scrutiny … we could be sitting here having left the EU, no Brexit party, soaring ahead in the polls.

"But it has not happened and we must not allow it to happen again."

The rejection of the plan for a confirmatory vote of Conservative members came as the Johnson campaign was buoyed by a series of polls.

A YouGov study for The Sunday Times found that 47% of voters believe Mr Johnson can win the next election, while only 22% disagreed. More than a fifth (22%) of those asked said they would be more likely to back the Tories if the ex-foreign secretary was in charge - with no rival scoring more than eight percent on the same question.

Those findings were echoed by a separate Sun on Sunday/OnePoll study which saw 24% of voters pick Mr Johnson as the candidate who would make them "more likely to vote Tory if they became leader".

Just eight percent of those surveyed said the same about Mr Johnson's nearest rival, Jeremy Hunt - the same score racked up by Rory Stewart and Sajid Javid.

And 30% of those surveyed said Mr Johnson was "best suited to delivering Brexit and winning the next election" - well clear of Mr Hunt on seven percent.