Boris Johnson remains clear favourite to take the Tory crown
Boris Johnson has extended his commanding lead over his rivals, which shows little sign of diminishing.
The former foreign secretary has been tipped as the favourite in the Tory leadership race right from the start, and ended the third round of voting with 143 votes – the same number as all three of his remaining rivals combined.
His success has been credited to his high profile, in part as an experienced television performer with an existing fan base for his frequent appearances on the BBC’s satirical current affairs show Have I Got News For You.
But his sense of humour and off-the-cuff style has also drawn substantial criticism – most notably when he labelled Burka-wearing Muslim women “letterboxes”, gay men “bum boys”, Scots “tartan-wearing dwarves” and referred to black people as “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles”.
The use of illegal drugs by some candidates, notably Michael Gove, has been an issue, but Mr Johnson’s 2007 confession of trying cocaine and smoking cannabis as a teenager at Oxford seems unlikely to harm his prospects.
Reports of his disorganisation and lack of preparation emerged from his stint as London Mayor from 2008 to 2016, which also included backing the white elephant of the Garden Bridge – a project which collapsed despite £43 million of public investment.
Mr Johnson was a key figure in the Vote Leave campaign during the 2016 referendum, and has committed to keeping the October 31 deadline, even if that means leaving without a deal – and has said he will step up no-deal preparations.
He also said he would refuse to pay the promised £39 billion to the European Union unless better Brexit terms are on offer.
However, his gaffe-strewn tenure as foreign secretary from 2016 to 2018 has come under fire, particularly around the continuing incarceration of British-Iranian citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
Mr Johnson was forced to apologise after he wrongly claimed the mother-of-one had visited Iran to “teach journalism”, a statement used by the authorities to justify her imprisonment.
The Uxbridge and South Ruislip MP is known for his colourful personal life, and the announcement of his divorce due to infidelity in autumn last year was widely seen as clearing the decks in preparation for his leadership bid.
However, his assiduous avoidance of media scrutiny during the leadership campaign – including refusing to appear on a Channel 4 debate and at a Westminster lobby journalists’ hustings – has drawn flak, despite appearing to leave his support base undiminished.