June 21, 2019
Jeremy Hunt, left, and Boris Johnson, right, are the final two contenders for leadership of the Conservative Party. AP: Matt Dunham, Frank Augstein
By Samantha Hawley | ABC – Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Boris Johnson has propelled further towards becoming the next British Prime Minister, securing 160 votes out of 313 in the fifth leadership ballot of Conservative Party MPs.
But he still has a battle ahead against Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who secured 77 votes — two more than Environment Minister Michael Gove — to move forward as Mr Johnson’s final rival in the contest.
The two men will now hit the hustings to convince the 160,000 members of the Conservative Party that they are the best person to lead the party, and by default the nation.
The party members will cast postal votes next month, with the final result to be revealed during the week of July 22.
The former London mayor said he was “deeply honoured” to secure more than half of the vote in the final ballot.
“Thank you to everyone for your support!” he tweeted shortly after the result.
“I look forward to getting out across the UK and to set out my plan to deliver Brexit, unite our country, and create a brighter future for all of us.”
Mr Hunt claimed the underdog tag but said surprises happen in politics “as they did today”.
“I do not doubt the responsibility on my shoulders — to show my party how we deliver Brexit and not an election, but also a turbo-charged economy and a country that walks tall in the world,” he tweeted.
Mr Johnson’s team had favoured facing Mr Hunt, who is seen as a weaker political opponent to Mr Gove.
Mr Hunt has said he would prefer the UK leave the European Union with a Brexit deal in place but may be willing to extend the October 31 deadline.
Mr Johnson is a staunch supporter of Brexit and has pledged to stick to the October 31 deadline with or without a deal in place.
But his critics are sceptical.
Boris compared to Trump
International Development Secretary Rory Stewart, who failed to make it through to the third round in the leadership battle, has condemned Mr Johnson’s refusal to face media scrutiny.
“I would like some clear answers and I think the biggest risk is that he is raising expectations that he can’t deliver against,” he told the ABC.
“He is certainly a celebrity,” Mr Stewart said when asked if Mr Johnson is the UK’s version of Donald Trump.
Comparisons have been drawn between Mr Trump and Mr Johnson’s style when it comes to dealing with the press, their political incorrectness and their past personal indiscretions.
Last year, Mr Johnson compared Muslim women wearing veils to letter boxes in his weekly newspaper column, and when he was Foreign Secretary in 2017 he incorrectly told MPs that a British Iranian charity worker jailed in Iran was a journalist, jeopardising her chance of release.
Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of the imprisoned woman, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, is concerned by what damage Mr Johnson could do in high office.
He spoke to the ABC from outside the Iranian embassy in London, where he is well into the first week of a hunger strike to draw attention to his imprisoned wife’s plight.
“Politics can sometime seem like it’s a personality show and often it’s all about the Punch and Judy of entertainment,” Mr Ratcliffe said.
“Actually, government is about looking after things and protecting ordinary people.”