Boost for Boris Johnson as former Tory rival Matt Hancock backs his leadership campaign

Posted On: 
17th June 2019

Boris Johnson's seemingly unstoppable march to becoming Prime Minister has received another boost after former Tory leadership rival Matt Hancock backed him for the top job.

Mr Hancock said the Conservative frontunner could "bring the party together and then bring the country together".
Credit: 
PA

The Health Secretary - who withdrew from the contest last week - said Mr Johnson had "the unique personality to bring the party together behind a Brexit deal".

And he insisted Mr Johnson would govern as "a one nation Prime Minister" with a pro-business agenda - despite previously blasting the frontrunner over his stance on enterprise.

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Mr Hancock pulled out of the race last week after scooping up the support of 20 MPs - placing him sixth in the field.

His endorsement increases the likelihood of those MPs now swinging behind Mr Johnson's campaign, which was also backed over the weekend by another former leadership contender, Esther McVey.

Writing in The Times, Mr Hancock said he had considered "all the options" after withdrawing from the contest, and was now backing Mr Johnson "as the best candidate to unite the Conservative Party".

"Boris has run a disciplined campaign and is almost certainly going to be our next Prime Minister," he wrote.

"We need to unite behind him with a strong team that can bring the party together and then bring the country together."

The Cabinet minister said Mr Johnson had been "emphatic in public and in private that he wants to be a one nation Prime Minister and bring the country together around an optimistic vision for the future".

And he vowed: "I will hold him to that."

The move comes in spite of Mr Hancock attacking Mr Johnson during the campaign over claims the frontrunner dismissed warnings about the economic impact of Brexit by saying "f**k business".

Mr Hancock had told the Financial Times that the Conservatives should be "backing business not bashing business" as he said: "To the people who say ‘f**k business’, I say ‘f**k, f**k business’."

However, in his piece endorsing Mr Johnson, the Health Secretary said: "Boris and I have both used language our mothers might disapprove of in this debate.

"But I have been reassured, again emphatically, that a Boris administration will be pro-business, pro-enterprise, supportive of the aspirational and the international. That matters to me, and I’ll hold him to that too."

TRUSS: WE'RE NOT COMPLACENT

Fellow Cabinet minister Liz Truss, who is also supporting Mr Johnson for the leadership, said the Tory hopeful's campaign was still "working to win over members of Parliament to the cause", as she rejected suggestions Mr Johnson should be appointed as leader without a full contest.

"I don’t think we should take things for granted," the Chief Secretary to the Treasury told the BBC's Westminster Hour.

"There does have to be a proper process of scrutiny. We know what happened the last time when we didn’t have that full process of scrutiny. It’s really important that everybody is put through their paces."

And she added: "We’re not complacent. This is not going to be a coronation. Nor should it be."

However, digital minister Margot James threw her weight behind rival Rory Stewart on Sunday night in the wake of the first televised Conservative leadership debate - which was snubbed by Mr Johnson.

Ms James said Mr Stewart had given an "energetic, determined" performance and was "embracing the centre ground" as she endorsed him for the leadership.