Former Tory leadership hopeful James Cleverly backs Boris Johnson to be next PM
Former Tory leadership hopeful James Cleverly has given his backing to Boris Johnson's campaign to become the next Prime Minister.
The party’s ex-deputy chairman became the first candidate to drop out of the race to replace Theresa May after he said it was “highly unlikely” he would win enough support from Conservative MPs.
But speaking to Sky’s Sophie Ridge, Mr Cleverly said he had decided to throw his weight behind the former London mayor’s campaign, saying he would "move heaven and earth" to deliver Brexit.
“I’ve worked with him in London, I have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with him on two election campaigns, both in 2008 and 2012,” he said.
“I have seen him reach out to audiences and voters that the Conservative Party would not normally expect to be onside and I know he can run a successful executive operation because I was part of the team who did that in London for eight years, so that is why I am going to support him for leader.”
Brexit minister Mr Cleverly said in a statement last week that his Conservative colleagues had been unwilling to take a “leap of faith” and vote for him as a “relatively new MP”.
“The first hurdle you have to get over is getting the support of members of parliament, and I spend a lot of time in TV studios speaking to the wider electorate, and maybe in hindsight I should have spent more of that time talking to MPs,” he told Sky.
But the Braintree MP said he would back the ex-Foreign Secretary because they had a “similar kind of agenda”.
“The really important thing is we deliver Brexit, the things I said when I was running, we deliver Brexit and then very quickly set about talking to the country about the issue that really matter, which is about schools, and it's about how we look after our elderly members of our society, as a party how we reach out, not only to our traditional voter base but beyond that as well.
“That is the kind of thing I think is important, and I’ve spoken to Boris and I think he is very much looking at a similar kind of agenda as I was putting forward.”
The endorsement comes after fellow leadership candidate Sam Gyimah slammed Mr Johnson’s latest pledge to withhold the agreed £39bn Brexit divorce bill unless the UK gets better terms as “self defeating”.
“[It] leads to a general election, and no deal, which is no solution. It’s a disruptive route to heading back to the negotiating table as people wake up to the reality of the situation,” he said.
“The £39bn is not a single payment that one can ‘retain’. It is a commitment to pay over up to 60 years for things like pensions. The exact amount won’t be known until the end - so £39bn is a best estimate based on the existing Withdrawal Agreement and guarantees the transition which business needs.”