UK leadership race narrows to five as Johnson cements lead

2019-06-18 20:29
Former London mayor Boris Johnson is front-runner to succeed Theresa May as UK prime minister.

Former London mayor Boris Johnson is front-runner to succeed Theresa May as UK prime minister. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

The UK leadership race narrowed to five on Tuesday as Brexit figurehead Boris Johnson prepared to defend his runaway favourite status in his first television debate.

Johnson expanded his lead over his remaining rivals in a second secret ballot held by 313 lawmakers from the ruling Conservative party in the lower House of Commons.

The former foreign minister and London mayor picked up 126 votes while former Brexit minister Dominic Raab got knocked out after falling three short of the 33-vote threshold.

Moderate international development minister Rory Stewart continued his against-the-odds challenge by expanding his support base from last week's 19 to 37.

Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt picked up 46 votes and environment minister Michael Gove 41. Interior minister Sajid Javid scraped through with exactly 33.

Britain is frantically searching for a leader after Prime Minister Theresa May stepped down last month as Conservative party chief over her repeated failure to deliver Brexit.

The island nation is now due to split away from the other 27 European Union member states on October 31.

But how and when the chaos paralysing UK politics - and frightening business leaders - ultimately resolves itself may only be decided by who becomes the next prime minister.

Further rounds of voting scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday will whittle the list of contenders down to just two.

The finalists will face the ruling party's 160 000 grassroots members in a vote next month to decide the winner.

Johnson's lead is so substantial that some UK media say the others are simply fighting for a good spot in his future government.

Their attacks on him have been measured and the race itself has been distinguished most by revelations about various contenders' past drug use.

Johnson has partially managed to achieve his success to date by stage-managing his media appearances and skipping Sunday's first TV debate.

He will try to avoid making any big blunders that could put the breaks on his momentum when he makes his debate debut on BBC television Tuesday evening.

Johnson is often a flamboyant speaker who has extensive background as a journalist.

But he has been known to make remarks that outrage many - including by comparing veiled Muslim women to "letter boxes" last year.

He also came under attack this week for reportedly making contradictory promises to various parliamentary factions in private meetings aimed at rallying his support.

UK politicians are split between ardent Euro-skeptics who would prefer to see Britain leave without any strings attached to the bloc.

Moderate Brexit backers want some sort of deal that preserves established economic links between the ancient trading partners.

Johnson has warned that he is prepared to get Britain out of the European Union without an agreement - as long as it is is done by October 31.

But he has also called this tough talk a negotiating tactic designed to scare Brussels and force it to compromise on the nagging issue of status of Irish border.

EU leaders have long ruled out re-opening the binding part of the agreement they all signed with May last year.

French President Emmanuel Macron has been particularly critical of Britain's political stalemate and questioned the wisdom of extending Brexit for a third time.

Only Stewart is openly trying to salvage May's pact in the hope of pushing it through Britain's splintered parliament on the fourth attempt.

The other candidates have all said they would agree to a no-deal divorce if this was the only remaining option for leaving the EU.

Read more on:    theresa may  |  boris john­son  |  uk  |  london  |  brexit
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

 
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.