Wed. Sep 28th, 2022

Ben Wallace will not join race to become leader

The defence secretary, who had been an early frontrunner, now says he does not wish to run as leader. Instead, he says his focus should remain on “keeping this great country safe”.

After careful consideration and discussing with colleagues and family, I have taken the decision not to enter the contest for leadership of the Conservative Party. I am very grateful to all my parliamentary colleagues and wider members who have pledged support. 1/2

— Rt. Hon Ben Wallace MP (@BWallaceMP) July 9, 2022

It has not been an easy choice to make, but my focus is on my current job and keeping this great country safe. I wish the very best of luck to all candidates and hope we swiftly return to focusing on the issues that we are all elected to address. 2/2

— Rt. Hon Ben Wallace MP (@BWallaceMP) July 9, 2022

Key events:

Summary

Here’s a quick-roundup of today’s developments as the Conservative party leadership contest continues to take shape.

  • Ben Wallace has announced that he won’t stand to be the next leader. The defence secretary had been seen as a promising outsider in the race, but said he wanted to focus on his current job and keeping the country safe.
  • The early favourite in the contest, Rishi Sunak, has been criticised as “treacherous” for his resignation on Tuesday.
  • Morley and Outwood MP Andrea Jenkyns has said she was “standing up for herself” and not apologised after shouting and sticking her middle finger up to protesters outside Downing Street on Thursday. She has been criticised by MPs in both parties, but in a statement said she had received death threats.
  • A new prime minister could be named in the next two weeks, according to Andrew Bridgen. The backbencher said that if the 1922 committee, which presides over the parliamentary Conservative party, changed the rules and the final two candidates made a deal, Boris Johnson’s successor could be named within a fortnight.
  • Kemi Badenoch has thrown her hat into the ring to be the next Conservative leader, saying the party needs a “nimble centre-right vision” needed to take on “cultural establishment”.
  • Jake Berry, head of the Northern Research Group pressure group said he won’t be standing to become leader, despite suggestions by some of his parliamentary colleagues.
  • Leadership candidate Tom Tugendhat has made his first pitch to Scottish Tory members, stressing the need for “serious and tested leadership” for the party to be successful in Scotland.
  • Away from the annual trade union jamboree the annual Durham Miners’ Gala takes place today.

I’ll be handing over to my colleague Tom Ambrose, who will keep you updated for the next few hours. Thanks for following.

Conflicting reports are emerging about the scene outside Downing Street on Thursday, when Andrea Jenkyns shouted at protesters and later stuck her middle finger up at them. In a statement earlier today explaining her actions, Jenkyns called them a “baying mob”.

The Guardian’s chief political correspondent Jessica Elgot was among those who were there.

I saw this too and the vast majority seemed to me to be people who had turned up out of curiosity, a few people bereaved from Covid who had pictures and a small number of protesters including Steve Bray etc https://t.co/8dpXy84t8K

— Jessica Elgot (@jessicaelgot) July 9, 2022

More declarations of support. Chris Philp, who resigned earlier this week, has said he would back Sajid Javid if he runs, saying he has “the competence, values and wide electoral and pan-UK appeal”.

Meanwhile Ben Bradley, once called the “first blue brick in the red wall” as Mansfield MP, will be supporting Kemi Badenoch, perhaps unsurprisingly as the two have shared similar thoughts on identity politics before.

Bradley told LBC: “I think she’s a really fresh face, actually, she’s not tainted by the kind of current frustrations and the chaos that we’ve had in recent weeks.”

For Suella Braverman, Richard Drax and Philip Hollobone have joined her team according to the Sunday Times’ chief political commentator Tim Shipman.

Rishi Sunak has thanked his supporters as the number of MPs saying they want him to be the next party leader continues to grow.

My colleague Peter Walker has this profile of Kemi Badenoch and how she is bringing culture war rhetoric to the leadership contest.

Kemi Badenoch, the latest entrant to an increasingly crowded race to succeed Boris Johnson, has marked her brief time in parliament by the relative speed of her ascent and a willingness to embrace controversy and conflict over culture war issues.

Elected to the safe Essex seat of Saffron Walden in 2017, Badenoch took just two years to join the frontbenches and was, until her resignation this week, a joint minister for levelling up and equalities.

Last year Badenoch, a former junior education minister, was even briefly tipped to succeed Gavin Williamson as education secretary, although in the end she was reshuffled to another second-tier role.

Badenoch’s pitch to Tory MPs places her very much on the right of the party, where she risks seeking support from a similar ideological pool to Suella Braverman, the attorney general, who entered the race on Wednesday.

‘I stood up for myself’ says MP after gesturing at Downing Street protesters

The minister who was seen shouting and sticking her middle finger up to crowds outside Downing Street earlier this week has said she was “standing up for herself” after receiving death threats.

Footage of Andrea Jenkyns showed her sticking her middle finger up to protesters as she entered Downing Street, and then shouting at them as she left after watching Boris Johnson’s resignation speech on Thursday.

There have been complaints about the newly appointed education minister’s behaviour from both Labour and Conservative MPs. The chief executive of the Chartered College of Teaching, Dame Alison Peacock, has also written to the Department for Education’s permanent secretary, Susan Acland-Hood, to say she has fallen short of “high standards of behaviour” expected from ministers.

Jenkyns’ statement, published on Twitter, said: “On Thursday afternoon I went to Downing Street to watch the prime minister’s resignation speech. A baying mob outside the gates were insulting MPs on their way in as is sadly all too common.

“After receiving huge amounts of abuse from some of the people who were there over the years, and I have also had seven death threats in the last 4 years. Two of which have been in recent weeks and are currently being investigated by police, I had reached the end of my tether.

“I responded and stood up for myself. Just why should anyone have to put up with this sort of treatment.

“I should have shown more composure but am only human.”

Here is Ben Wallace’s full statement. He was the bookmakers’ second favourite, behind Sunak, before pulling out of the race.

After careful consideration and discussing with colleagues and family, I have taken the decision not to enter the contest for leadership of the Conservative party.

I am very grateful to all my parliamentary colleagues and wider members who have pledged support.

It has not been an easy choice to make, but my focus is on my current job and keeping this great country safe.

I wish the very best of luck to all candidates and hope we swiftly return to focusing on the issues that we are all elected to address.

Ben Wallace will not join race to become leader

The defence secretary, who had been an early frontrunner, now says he does not wish to run as leader. Instead, he says his focus should remain on “keeping this great country safe”.

After careful consideration and discussing with colleagues and family, I have taken the decision not to enter the contest for leadership of the Conservative Party. I am very grateful to all my parliamentary colleagues and wider members who have pledged support. 1/2

— Rt. Hon Ben Wallace MP (@BWallaceMP) July 9, 2022

It has not been an easy choice to make, but my focus is on my current job and keeping this great country safe. I wish the very best of luck to all candidates and hope we swiftly return to focusing on the issues that we are all elected to address. 2/2

— Rt. Hon Ben Wallace MP (@BWallaceMP) July 9, 2022

Andrew Bridgen, who was one of the MPs to become a prominent early critic of Boris Johnson as his premiership entered its final months, has said that he believes a deal could be struck to choose a new prime minister within the next fortnight.

It would mimic the short timeframe between David Cameron’s resignation, expecting him to be a caretaker prime minister, before Theresa May won the Conservative party leadership – meaning that Tory members would not get a vote. It would mean a new leader before the upcoming summer recess.

Bridgen told LBC’s Matt Frei: “The 1922 Committee will truncate the leadership rules so we will be down to two candidates before summer recess, they will go out to the membership, probably three weeks or four weeks and we’ll have a new prime minister and a new government before the end of August.

“I think it’s even possible Matt, that in just over two weeks time we’ll get down to two candidates, who may even come to an accommodation given the pressures to form a government and move on both domestically and internationally.”

He said there would be a candidate from the right of the party who would win, and it was possible that there would be a deal with the other candidate to speed up the process.

“I think the 1922 will make that threshold at least 20 … they will move it up to 20 or 25 nominations to reduce the field to four or five and we can easily whittle that down in a fortnight to two candidates.”

Endorsements are starting to trickle in. Caroline Dineage, the Gosport MP, has told Penny Mordaunt that she has her support.

Mordaunt has not formally declared her candidacy yet but is thought to be popular among MPs and members.

Elsewhere Bim Afolami, who resigned as vice-chair of the Conservative party during a live TalkTV interview on Wednesday, has said he will back Rishi Sunak.

RMT head Mick Lynch is appearing on Sky News, live from the Durham Miners’ Gala (see 10:10).

Disputes still continue between the union and railway companies, as Lynch calls for the government to intervene and says firms want to “strip thousands of jobs out of our industry, dilute or rip up our terms and conditions and they won’t give us a payrise”.

Lynch says more strike action is likely. “They are proposing to make our people poorer. Now railworkers won’t accept that and I’ve got a feeling … that workers want to fight back.”

Tony MPs hit back at ‘treacherous’ Sunak

Peter Walker

Peter Walker

My colleague Peter Walker has written this piece on the rows inside the Conservative party as the leadership contest gets under way.

The race to succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister was already slipping into acrimony on Saturday as Conservative factions briefed against Rishi Sunak, the early favourite, while one senior MP called for “no hope” candidates to drop out.

With four candidates confirmed, but predictions that up to 15 could put themselves forward as the next Conservative leader, Tory MPs expressed concern at the potential timetable for the race, and the prospect of bitter in-fighting.

Sunak, the former chancellor, who entered the race on Friday evening with a slickly edited video campaign message posted on Twitter under the slogan “Ready for Rishi”, is viewed as one of the likely frontrunners.

But he has already faced criticism among fellow MPs for indicating he will focus more on fiscal prudence than immediate tax cuts, with his video taking aim at other candidates who might offer “comforting fairytales” rather than economic truths.

George Freeman, who was once regarded as one of the policy brains behind Theresa May’s government and resigned as a minister on Thursday, has criticised Andrea Jenkyns for her gesture to protesters outside Downing Street earlier this week (see 10:00).

Ministers should set the highest standards in office.

I’m sorry but this is appalling conduct for a Minister of the Crown.

This is exactly why we need a new Prime Minister: to restore the Ministerial code & respect for the responsibilities of service in public office. https://t.co/zV1DPUZwL4

— George Freeman MP (@GeorgeFreemanMP) July 9, 2022

Treasurer of the 1922 Committee Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown has criticised Nadine Dorries’ comments about the leadership race after she said it had “unleashed the hounds of hell”.

The senior Tory told Times Radio: “I think it’s not helpful … However we do this process we do want to unite the Conservative party behind a candidate.

“And that is why I think it needs to be a proper, open, democratic process so that everybody can see what’s going on.

“Hopefully, we will do it without any hitches and I think that is the way that we will end up with a candidate that everybody will ultimately support as a leader of the party and the next prime minister.”





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