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Tom Tugendhat launches bid to replace Boris Johnson as Tory leader

Backbencher pitches himself as ‘fresh start’

Liam James
Thursday 07 July 2022 23:19 BST
Tugendhat is chair of the foreign affairs committee
Tugendhat is chair of the foreign affairs committee (PA)

Tory backbencher Tom Tugendhat has become the first candidate in the race to succeed Boris Johnson.

The chair of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC), a Tory centrist who has never served in government, said he would offer the party a “fresh start”.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, the former soldier said: “I am putting together a broad coalition of colleagues that will bring new energy and ideas to government and, finally, to bridge the Brexit divide that has dominated our recent history.

“I have served before – in the military, and now in parliament. Now I hope to answer the call once again as prime minister. It’s time for a clean start. It’s time for renewal.”

At least four Tory MPs had endorsed Mr Tugendhat before he went public with his bid. Damian Green, a former minister, said: “I’m supporting Tom Tugendhat.

“We need a clean start, a fresh start, we need to get on with resetting the Conservative Party and resetting government more widely in this country so that it gets back to being properly run, observing the conventions, supporting the institutions that we have in this country.”

Mr Tugendhat was openly critical of the man he hopes to replace in the months before Mr Johnson resigned. He clashed with the outgoing prime minister in FAC hearings and condemned Britain’s hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan last year.

The Tonbridge and Malling MP hinted he would run back in January when the future of Mr Johnson’s leadership was thrown into doubt by revelations of parties in Downing Street.

Mr Tugendhat said he would “go for it” if the opportunity arose and questioned the reticence of colleagues to admit their ambitions. “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,” he said.

Though he may be little known outside Westminster, Mr Tugendhat has made himself known among colleagues for his hawkish views on China. He co-founded and remains co-chair of the China Research Goup of MPs which calls for greater caution in Britain’s dealings with the rising eastern superpower.

His competitors in the Tory leadership race were uncertain: Suella Braverman said she would run but had not formally announced a bid by Thursday evening.

Tory heavyweight Michael Gove ruled out a third run at the leadership after his previous failures. Dominic Raab, Mr Johnson’s deputy, also said he would not stand.

Rishi Sunak, Jeremy Hunt, Penny Mordaunt and Liz Truss were all thought to be considering bids, with Ms Mordaunt the bookies’ favourite among them.

The PA news agency reported that former health secretary Sajid Javid and transport secretary Grant Shapps were also considering standing. Brexit hardliner Steve Baker said he was “seriously considering” throwing his hat into the ring.

Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, was also likely to announce a leadership bid after coming top of a poll of Conservative members, the small electorate who will ultimately decide the next leader.

Mr Tugendhat and Mr Junt were the favourites in a poll of readers of The Independent, respectively taking 24 per cent and 22 per cent of the vote.

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