Tom Tugendhat says he will ‘go for it’ if Boris Johnson is toppled as Tory leader

Foreign affairs committee chair, and Iraq and Afghan war veteran, is first Conservative to declare

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Saturday 29 January 2022 17:33
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Tom Tugendhat has revealed he will run for the Conservative leadership if Boris Johnson is forced out of No 10, the first MP to put his name forward.

The chair of the Commons foreign affairs committee – and veteran of the Iraq and Afghan wars – said he will “go for it”, if fellow Tories give him their backing to join the race.

No other candidate has stepped forward, with the favourites Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss bound by cabinet collective responsibility – while Jeremy Hunt said it would “take a lot” to persuade him to challenge again.

But Mr Tugendhat, a Tory centrist and fierce critic of Mr Johnson, said: “It’s one of those questions that I know some of my colleagues are coy about and I don’t understand why.

“I don’t think you should be embarrassed to want to serve your country, I was very proud to serve my country. Of course I want to have an influence that helps to shape the country for the best.”

Speaking to Times Radio, the MP for Tonbridge and Malling since 2015, said: “I think that it’s up to all of us to put ourselves forward.

“And it’s up to the electorate – in the first case, parliamentary colleagues, and in the second case, the party – to choose.

“Of course you should offer yourself if you think you can do it. You should talk to colleagues and see if you can get a group together. And if you can get a group together, you should go for it.”

The comments come as the prime minister’s fate remains in the balance, although he has been given breathing space by the Met’s controversial decision to demand redactions of the Partygate report.

Mr Tugendhat made clear “there isn’t a vacancy at the moment”, adding: “I haven’t been canvassing support. I don’t know if I’d ever be able to get it. But, if you could, of course, you should have a go.”

The MP is little-known outside Westminster, and has no ministerial experience, but is likely to present himself as a clean slate candidate, with cabinet ministers tainted by the Johnson scandals.

He has frequently clashed with Mr Johnson in committee hearings, with neither doing much to conceal their mutual dislike.

“I’ve had ding dongs with Boris Johnson. Yeah, that’s true. The point about parliament is we’re here to challenge. Challenge is central to a good government,” Mr Tugendhat added.

However, he has refused to join moderate Tories publicly calling for the prime minister to resign, arguing instead that “the fair thing to do is to wait and listen” to Sue Gray’s report.

Asked if he is among MPs who have written letters demanding a no-confidence vote in Mr Johnson’s leadership, he declined to give a direct answer, saying: “Some people have decided to do that.”

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