Six senior Tories set to launch leadership bids as 'Stop Boris' campaign gathers pace
Senior Conservatives have begun to lay the ground for leadership bids, amid reports of a sustained effort to stop Boris Johnson getting the top job.
Mr Johnson is the favourite to succeed David Cameron as Prime Minister after playing a key role in the Leave campaign.
According to the Sunday Times, he has the support of fellow top Brexiteer Michael Gove, who is also trying to persuade George Osborne to get behind the former Mayor of London.
A ministerial ally of the Chancellor told the newspaper it “might not be a good idea to attack” Mr Johnson and Mr Gove.
Another added: “George and Boris worked together extremely closely in London. A lot of Boris’s success there was paid for by George.”
Two senior Tories – Business minister Anna Soubry and former minister Sir Alan Duncan – publicly hit out at Mr Johnson yesterday.
And an unnamed ally of Mr Cameron told The Sun on Sunday there would be a concerted effort to block Mr Johnson’s bid.
“If you think the referendum got a bit nasty, wait until the leadership campaign gets started,” the source said. “Many of us never fancied him as our leader to begin with, but now we’re hell-bent on making sure he never gets the job.”
Home Secretary Theresa May has long been considered a potential contender for the top job, and is expected to declare her intentions later in the week.
Today’s newspapers carry a series of articles from other top Tories setting out their platforms.
George Freeman, the life sciences minister, is the first to have formally thrown his hat in the ring and said younger MPs wanted to stop the “inchoate insurgency that is storming Westminster”.
Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb used an article in the Sunday Telegraph to pitch himself as the inheritor of ‘One Nation’ Conservatism, and urged the party to focus on working class voters.
“The referendum campaign highlighted deeply entrenched divisions in parts of Britain’s society which demands a One Nation response focused on improving social mobility and breaking down barriers to opportunity,” he wrote.
“For too long One Nation was almost code for a wetter, weaker kind of Conservative politics. For this generation of Conservative politicians it should be the watchword for a muscular defence of British values and a fierce commitment to break down barriers to opportunity.
“British values have always been created and rooted in the working class: the importance of your family, a deep connection with your community, and a genuine and unselfconscious love for your country.”
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, who spoken openly about her own desire to stand as leader one day, said the Conservatives needed to hold the centre ground.
She wrote in the Sunday Times: “There will be those in the Conservative party who see the temptation in times of crisis to retreat to our ideological comfort zone... I know all too well the wilderness to which that path inevitably leads.”
Meanwhile, pro-Brexit MPs Liam Fox and Andrea Leadsom are also being linked with leadership bids.
And according to the Sunday Times, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is mulling his own challenge.