More big names enter race for Number 10 as sparks begin to fly

A flurry of Tory big hitters have entered the race to be next Prime Minister as the battle for Downing Street showed signs of turning bitter.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab and ex-Commons leader Andrea Leadsom are the latest heavyweights to announce bids for the Tory crown.

Mr Hunt claimed his business background will help resolve Brexit as the race fired up with International Development Secretary Rory Stewart launching a strongly-worded attack on front-runner Boris Johnson.

Both Mr Raab and Mrs Leadsom said they would be prepared to order a no-deal Brexit in October if necessary.

Mr Hunt told the Sunday Times: "If I was prime minister, I'd be the first prime minister in living memory who has been an entrepreneur by background.

"Doing deals is my bread and butter as someone who has set up their own business."

Mr Hunt's emphasis on his entrepreneurial past is being seen as swipe at Mr Johnson who reportedly once said "f*** business" in relation to Brexit.

In a reference to mythical sea monsters, Mr Hunt said. "The real question is: who has got the experience to avoid the Scylla and Charybdis of no-deal or no Brexit. I've got very important experience in that respect.

"We can never take no-deal off the table but the best way of avoiding it is to make sure you have someone who is capable of negotiating a deal."

The comments come after Mr Johnson insisted he would take the UK out of the EU on October 31 with or without a deal.

24 PHOTOS
Theresa May: Her rise and fall
See Gallery
Theresa May: Her rise and fall
Theresa May
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May announces her resignation outside 10 Downing street in central London on May 24, 2019. - Beleaguered British Prime Minister Theresa May announced on Friday that she will resign on June 7, 2019 following a Conservative Party mutiny over her remaining in power. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP) (Photo credit should read TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images)
The Prime Minister had faced calls to resign after a backlash against her new Brexit deal.
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May reacts as she announces her resignation outside 10 Downing street in central London on May 24, 2019. - Beleaguered British Prime Minister Theresa May announced on Friday that she will resign on June 7, 2019 following a Conservative Party mutiny over her remaining in power. (Photo by Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves the back of Downing Street, in London, Britain, May 24, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 24: Prime Minister, Theresa May makes a statement outside 10 Downing Street on May 24, 2019 in London, England. The prime minister has announced that she will resign on Friday, June 7, 2019 (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)
File photo dated 30/09/2007 of the then Shadow Leader of House of Commons Theresa May addressing the Conservative Party conference in Blackpool wearing wellington boots. The Prime Minister is expected to announce details later today of her timetable for leaving Downing Street.
File photo dated 07/10/2009 of the then Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Shadow Minister for Women Theresa May addresses delegates at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester. The Prime Minister is expected to announce details later today of her timetable for leaving Downing Street.
File photo dated 19/05/2011 of the then Home Secretary Theresa May arriving at the Asian Women of Achievement Awards in Central London. The Prime Minister is expected to announce details later today of her timetable for leaving Downing Street.
File photo dated 22/11/2011 of the then Home Secretary Theresa May walking towards Downing Street after a Ceremonial Welcome for Turkey's President Abdullah Gul on Horse Guards Parade, in central London. The Prime Minister is expected to announce details later today of her timetable for leaving Downing Street.
File photo dated 02/05/17 of Prime Minister Theresa May having some chips while on a walkabout during a election campaign stop in Mevagissey, Cornwall. The Prime Minister is expected to announce details later today of her timetable for leaving Downing Street.
File photo dated 13/07/16 of Prime Minister Theresa May and her husband Philip John outside 10 Downing Street, London, after meeting Queen Elizabeth II and accepting her invitation to become Prime Minister and form a new government. The Prime Minister is expected to announce details later today of her timetable for leaving Downing Street.
File photo dated 07/07/17 of Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attending the G20 summit in Hamburg. The Prime Minister is expected to announce details later today of her timetable for leaving Downing Street.
La Première ministre britannique Theresa May, le 21 mai 2019 à Londres
File photo dated 03/10/18 of Prime Minister Theresa May dancing as she arrives on stage to make her keynote speech at the Conservative Party annual conference. The Prime Minister is expected to announce details later today of her timetable for leaving Downing Street.
File photo dated 15/06/1999 of Conservative MP Theresa May leaving Conservative Central Office in London, after being appointed shadow Education and Employment secretary in a Shadow Cabinet reshuffle announced by Tory leader William Hague. The Prime Minister is expected to announce details later today of her timetable for leaving Downing Street. (PA)
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May is seen outside Downing Street, as uncertainty over Brexit continues, in London, Britain May 22, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves after giving a speech on Brexit in Westminster in London, Britain, May 21, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah Mckay
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a speech on Brexit in London, Britain May 21, 2019. Kirsty Wigglesworth/Pool via REUTERS
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May arrives to give a speech on Brexit in Westminster in London, Britain, May 21, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah Mckay
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May and her husband Philip May leave church near High Wycombe, Britain May 19, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May arrives to give a speech on Brexit in Westminster in London, Britain, May 21, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah Mckay
Britain's Prime Minster Theresa May looks on during a EU election campaign event in Bristol, Britain May 17, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville/Pool
Prime Minister Theresa May dancing with students and staff at I.D. Mkize Secondary School in Cape Town, which is twinned with Whitby High School in Yorkshire. The two schools are part of a British Council funded teacher exchange scheme called 'Connected Classrooms'. The prime minister is on day one of her trip to South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya on a trade mission designed to bolster the UK's post-Brexit fortunes.
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Mr Raab has told the Mail on Sunday he would prefer to leave the EU with a deal, but said the UK must "calmly demonstrate unflinching resolve to leave in October – at the latest".

The MP for Esher and Walton, who resigned over Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement, said: "The country now feels stuck in the mud, humiliated by Brussels and incapable of finding a way forward.

"The Prime Minister has announced her resignation. It's time for a new direction."

Mrs Leadsom, whose resignation helped trigger Mrs May's dramatic resignation statement, told the Sunday Times that if elected PM, the UK would quit the EU in October with or without a deal.

She said: "To succeed in a negotiation you have to be prepared to walk away."

Mrs Leadsom added that she would introduce a citizens' rights bill to resolve uncertainty facing EU nationals, then seek agreement in other areas where consensus already exists, such as on reciprocal healthcare and Gibraltar.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove is also preparing to launch a leadership bid as a self-styled 'unity candidate', according to the Sunday Telegraph.

Sparks began to fly in the contest with Mr Stewart saying he would refuse to serve in a government lead by Mr Johnson as he appeared to compare the ex-foreign secretary to Pinocchio.

Mr Stewart was scathing about Mr Johnson's no deal stance, insisting that such a position was "damaging and dishonest".

In what is likely to be seen by many as a dig at Mr Johnson, the International Development Secretary tweeted: "The star name will not always be the best choice.

"There may be times when Jiminy Cricket would make a better leader than Pinocchio."

Treasurer of the highly influential 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown expressed surprise at Mr Stewart's stance on not serving under Mr Johnson.

Sir Geoffrey told the Press Association: "I think for somebody to rule that out at this stage is slightly odd."

Asked if he thought the contest was Mr Johnson's to lose, the Tory grandee said: "No. I don't think it's now Boris's to lose. It is for others to come up and show that they are better."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he was running for leader because the party needed to look to the future and attract younger voters.

He said he would take a different approach to try and get Commons support for a Brexit deal than the one Theresa May used.

He said: "She didn't start by levelling with people about the trade-offs.

"I think it is much, much easier to bring people together behind a proposal if you are straightforward in advance."

Asked if Labour would force a Commons no confidence vote in the new prime minister when they take office, shadow chancellor John McDonnell told the Today programme: "Yes.

"Because we believe any incoming prime minister in these circumstance should go to the country anyway and seek a mandate."

Mr McDonnell said that Labour needed to have a new "conversation" about the way forward on Brexit.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has refused to rule himself out as a Tory leadership candidate.

Asked if he would stand, Dr Fox told the BBC: "Well, I don't think it's likely to happen, but, as you say, it's an unusual contest."

POLITICS Brexit
(PA Graphics)

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, who has said she will not stand for the top job, told the BBC: "I would be very concerned about somebody who is too enthusiastic about no deal.

"It is very important that whoever takes this on looks for a solution and tries to work to find where the majority of the House (of Commons) is."

The new Tory leader looks set to take over as prime minister at the end of July after Mrs May finally laid out a timetable for her exit from Downing Street.

The timetable for the contest will see nominations close in the week of June 10, with MPs involved in a series of votes to whittle down what is set to be a crowded field to a final two contenders.

Tory party members will then decide who wins the run-off.

Read Full Story

FROM OUR PARTNERS