Raab backs Johnson in new boost to Tory front-runner

Tory leadership front-runner Boris Johnson's bid to become prime minister received a fresh boost as former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab backed his campaign.

The endorsement of Mr Johnson by the hardline Brexiteer came as fellow leadership contender Rory Stewart said he was in talks with Michael Gove on "combining forces" in the contest.

Such a move would be seen at Westminster as a "Stop Boris" bid in the battle for the Tory crown.

Mr Raab, who was eliminated from the contest in the second round after receiving support from only 30 MPs, said Mr Johnson was the sole contender who would ensure Brexit happened by October 31.

He told the London Evening Standard: "The only candidate who will now do this is Boris Johnson – and so I'll be supporting him to become our next prime minister.

"Boris will make sure we leave the EU on time and move on to uniting the country behind a positive programme where everyone can benefit from the UK's success."

International Development Secretary Mr Stewart said discussions with Mr Gove centred on who would be best placed to challenge the former foreign secretary in the run-off between the last two candidates left standing.

Mr Stewart told the BBC: "We are talking about combining forces because it's clear that Boris is going into the last round.

"And the question is 'Who is best placed to sit on stage with Boris Johnson, and who is best placed to ask the testing questions that need to be asked?'"

18 PHOTOS
Tory leadership race
See Gallery
Tory leadership race
Conservative party leadership contender Rory Stewart arrives at Here East studios in Stratford, east London, ahead of the live television debate for the candidates for leadership of the Conservative party, hosted by Channel 4.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson leaving his home in south London.
Michael Gove leaves Here East studios in Stratford, east London, following the live television debate for the candidates for leadership of the Conservative party, hosted by Channel 4.
Conservative party leadership contender Rory Stewart and wife Shoshana arrive at Here East studios in Stratford, east London, ahead of the live television debate for the candidates for leadership of the Conservative party, hosted by Channel 4.
Boris Johnson's father Stanley Johnson speaking outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London.
Sajid Javid launches his campaign to become leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party and Prime Minister in central London.
Boris Johnson during the launch of his campaign to become leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party and Prime Minister at the Royal Academy of Engineering in central London.
Conservative party leadership contender Rory Stewart speaking to a member of the public at a vote rally at the Underbelly Festival Garden on the Southbank in London. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images)
Anti Brexit protesters in Westminster as inside Parliament the Tory leadership race continues on 17th June 2019 in London, England, United Kingdom. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)
Pro Brexit protester with a Brexit map of the UK strapped to his back in Westminster as inside Parliament the Tory leadership race continues on 17th June 2019 in London, England, United Kingdom. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)
Anti Brexit protester, a grandma against Brixit in Westminster as inside Parliament the Tory leadership race continues on 17th June 2019 in London, England, United Kingdom. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)
Anti Brexit protester Steve Bray shouts a comment against Boris Johnson in Westminster as inside Parliament the Tory leadership race continues on 17th June 2019 in London, England, United Kingdom. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)
Anti Brexit protester in Westminster dressed up as a clown Boris Johnson, tells passers by his policies which are all about 'Me', as inside Parliament the Tory leadership race continues on 17th June 2019 in London, England, United Kingdom. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Conservative Party leadership contender Sajid Javid leaves his London home on June 17, 2019 in London, England. Javid took part in a televised debate yesterday, which saw him join Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt, Dominic Raab and Rory Stewart as they were questioned on how they would handle Brexit negotiations and their plans for the future if they were to win the race to become the leader of the Conservative Party and next Prime Minister. Current favourite Boris Johnson chose not to take part in the debate, with this place marked by an empty podium. (Photo by Luke Dray/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Foreign Secretary and Conservative Party leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt returns to his home following a morning run, on June 17, 2019 in London, England. Hunt took part in a televised debate yesterday, which saw him join Michael Gove, Sajid Javid, Dominic Raab and Rory Stewart as they were questioned on how they would handle Brexit negotiations and their plans for the future if they were to win the race to become the leader of the Conservative Party and next Prime Minister. Current favourite Boris Johnson chose not to take part in the debate, with this place marked by an empty podium. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Conservative party leadership contender Rory Stewart at a vote rally at the Underbelly Festival Garden on the Southbank in London.
Anti Brexit protesters in Westminster as inside Parliament the Tory leadership race continues on 17th June 2019 in London, England, United Kingdom. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)
Anti Brexit protesters waving European Union flags in Westminster as inside Parliament the Tory leadership race continues on 17th June 2019 in London, England, United Kingdom. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

However, the two candidates' camps clashed over who would remain in the race if Mr Stewart and the Environment Secretary joined forces.

A Stewart campaign spokeswoman said: "Clearly at some point people will need to combine teams.

"But any team that gets combined, Rory wants to lead it. Rory's in this to win."

And a source in the Gove camp insisted the Environment Secretary had no intention of quitting.

The source said: "We are in it to win it and we would obviously welcome the support of any candidate that wanted to drop out and support us."

Mr Stewart nearly doubled his backing to 37 votes in Tuesday's second ballot of Tory MPs, leaving him just four votes behind Mr Gove.

The move came as fellow leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt took a swipe at Mr Johnson's Brexit stance, insisting his rival has an unclear policy and suggesting he is not trusted in Brussels.

The Foreign Secretary said he was "not entirely sure" what the front-runner believes when it comes to when Britain will leave the EU.

In a televised debate on Tuesday evening, Mr Johnson said the October 31 deadline for Brexit must be met, warning that otherwise there would be a "catastrophic loss of confidence in politics".

But Mr Hunt accused the former foreign secretary of lacking clarity on whether he guaranteed delivering Brexit by the end of October.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Well, I am not entirely sure what he believes on this, having listened to him last night.

"You have to think these things through because prime ministers have to make these judgments."

Mr Hunt, who came second in Tuesday's ballot, also said he was best placed to cut a deal with Brussels on Brexit, saying: "We need a negotiator."

He said a negotiator has three qualities: "The first is it has to be someone the other side trust, because you don't do a deal with somebody you don't trust.

"Secondly, it has got to be someone who doesn't blink. And thirdly, it has got to be somebody who is prepared to walk away.

"Now, the danger is that if we choose the wrong person now, we will have no trust, no negotiation, no deal, and possibly, if we have an election, no Brexit."

POLITICS Tories
(PA Graphics)

Another candidate will face the axe on Wednesday afternoon – with Mr Johnson, Mr Hunt, Mr Gove, Mr Stewart and Home Secretary Sajid Javid battling it out for the top job.

The first debate on Tuesday night is unlikely to have swayed many MPs' minds, ending with no clear winner after a fractious debate taking in Brexit, Islamophobia and climate change.

However, Mr Gove claimed on BBC Newsnight that he "won the debate", "because I had the most detailed answers and I have a clear plan to how we can deliver Brexit and make sure we get all the benefits of life outside the European Union".

As the candidate who currently has the fewest backers, there are rumours that Mr Javid could drop out, but supporter Stephen Crabb told the BBC his favoured candidate had performed well in the debates and was not about to quit.

Read Full Story

FROM OUR PARTNERS