Tories have ‘big mountain to climb’ if they want to win next election, Jeremy Hunt warns Boris Johnson

Former foreign secretary says now is not right time for change of leadership

Tom Batchelor
Thursday 12 May 2022 23:54
Comments
Key moments from the 2022 local elections

Boris Johnson has been warned by former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt that the Tories have a “big mountain to climb” if they are to win a majority at the next general election.

Mr Hunt said that asking the public to choose between tax cuts and a well-funded NHS would cost the Conservatives votes, and insisted the party’s drubbing at the local elections should not be dismissed merely as “mid-term blues”.

But he also said that now was not the right time for a change of leadership, while suggesting he still had ambitions to lead the party in the future.

Speaking to Times Radio and the station’s sister paper, Mr Hunt said: “To win an election, the Conservative Party has to promise a well-funded NHS and the prospect of tax cuts. If we make people choose between one or the other, we’re not going to win the election.

“I do think that we would be wrong to say that the setbacks the Conservative Party have are just mid-term blues, and there’s a big mountain to climb to win the next election.”

The former health secretary – who came second to Mr Johnson in the 2019 leadership contest – did not rule out another bid before 2024.

He said: “When you’ve done a few big jobs in the cabinet, and the prime minister goes through a rocky patch then you’re always gonna have that speculation. I personally don’t believe that it’d be right to have a leadership contest right now, because we’re in the middle of a terrible war in Ukraine.”

Mr Hunt added: “I don’t think it’s the right time, but I would be very open with you that I don’t rule out a return in the future.

“I’d have done some things better than Boris Johnson and I’d have made some mistakes that he didn’t make. I think my approach to the pandemic would have been different but on the other hand I wouldn’t have gotten the majority that he got in the 2019 general election.”

‘I do think that we would be wrong to say that the setbacks the Conservative Party have are just mid-term blues,’ says Jeremy Hunt

Mr Hunt said that while lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street had “horrified” some, they were not the only reason that the Tories lost nearly 500 seats last week.

“Underneath it, I think the reason that we got such a kicking was economic concerns that many families had,” he said.

“We are faced with a situation now where we have very, very low underlying growth in the economy.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in