The key moments in Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt’s battle for Number 10

It was no surprise that the campaign for 10 Downing Street was teeming with talk of Brexit, but no one anticipated the rows to come of both international and domestic nature.

Here PA looks at the key moments in the extraordinary battle between Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson.

– The final two emerge

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt
Mr Hunt made it into the final two alongside frontrunner Boris Johnson (Louis Wood/The Sun)

The race peaked at 10 contenders but they were whittled down by a series of secret ballots between Conservative MPs.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove was the last to be ejected after a scandal over his past use of cocaine.

That left Foreign Secretary Mr Hunt and Mr Johnson, who held that post before his rival.

The difference in support between the pair was stark: 160 MPs voted for Mr Johnson, while 77 voted for his opponent.

Then the choice was out of MPs’ hands and thrown to the 165,000 grassroots members of the Tory party who are eligible to vote.

– Campaign rocked by row

Mr Johnson was always considered the clear frontrunner. The keys to No 10 were his to lose.

But if his campaign was ever in jeopardy it was with the emergence of police being called to the south London home he shared with partner Carrie Symonds.

After calling police, a “frightened and concerned” neighbour shared an audio recording of the domestic incident with The Guardian newspaper.

Shouting, banging and “a loud scream” could reportedly be heard as well as Ms Symonds telling Mr Johnson to “get off me” and “get out of my flat”.

Scotland Yard said officers found the occupants “safe and well” in the early hours of June 21 and that “there was no cause for police action”.

But the incident sparked questions over Mr Johnson’s personal life and dominated the front pages for days.

Further scrutiny came when an image of the couple together was circulated in the Press.

While it apparently showed them looking happy together, critics said it was clearly an old image and Mr Johnson would not answer whether his campaign had distributed it.

– The hustings commence

Jeremy Hunt during a Tory leadership hustings in London
Jeremy Hunt during a Tory leadership hustings in London (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

With the fate of the country in their hands, the Tory members began the process of scrutinising the two finalists.

The candidates travelled the nation, at times by helicopter, to charm the voters during 17 hustings arranged by Conservative Campaign Headquarters.

The first was held in Birmingham on June 22, and Mr Johnson’s refusal to discuss the row stole the headlines.

But boos at the moderator’s questioning of Mr Johnson’s private life signalled it was perhaps not a priority for the membership.

Mr Hunt and Mr Johnson spent the next month delivering speeches and being questioned over their stances on Brexit, taxes and spending.

Mr Johnson’s refusal to rule out taking the highly-controversial move of suspending Parliament to force home no-deal against the wishes of MPs also garnered a lot of attention.

– Till death do us part as Boris emerges from bunker

He may have appeared at the hustings, but Mr Johnson had been accused of employing a “submarine strategy” by refusing the scrutiny of journalists.

Those allegations largely ceased when he launched a media blitz with a surge of TV and radio appearances beginning on June 24.

In the following days came perhaps the most enduring quote of the contest.

In an interview with TalkRadio, Mr Johnson declared that he would deliver Brexit by October 31 “do or die”.

It signalled his determination to secure the EU departure by the current deadline regardless of the cost.

– Major intervention

Sir John Major
Sir John Major said he would seek a judicial review if Mr Johnson tried to prorogue Parliament (Yui Mok/PA)

While Mr Johnson was intensely popular among the members, he had earned enemies from within the Tory party.

Sir John Major staged an intervention by saying he would seek a judicial review if Mr Johnson took the “utterly and totally unacceptable” move of suspending Parliament to force through a no-deal.

The former prime minister warned that proroguing Parliament would drag the Queen into a constitutional crisis.

But Mr Johnson dismissed Sir John’s threat as “very odd”, insisting that Parliament should accept its responsibility to deliver Brexit.

– TV debate

Julie Etchingham, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt
Julie Etchingham hosted a TV debate between the candidates (Matt Frost/ITV)

Mr Hunt had repeatedly challenged Mr Johnson to appear with him head-to-head on camera to test his rival’s commitments and claims.

That moment finally came on July 9 when the pair took to ITV’s stage together

It was a noisy affair with the candidates arguing and talking over each other as journalist Julie Etchingham had to berate them with a “gentlemen please!”.

Mr Johnson was forced to defend his plans to cut taxes for high earners, as Mr Hunt accused him of signalling that the Tories were a “party of the rich”.

Mr Hunt also took him to task over whether he would resign if he failed to deliver Brexit by October 31.

“It’s not do or die, is it? It’s Boris in Number 10 that matters,” Mr Hunt shot at him.

The debate also saw the two candidates dragged into an unprecedented row centring on US-UK relations.

– Trans-Atlantic turbulence

The events that followed the leaking of comments made by Britain’s ambassador to the US were unprecedented.

Sensitive diplomatic messages written by Sir Kim Darroch were leaked to the Mail on Sunday.

He had described Donald Trump’s White House as “inept” and “dysfunctional”, but won the continued support from outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May.

But the ever-sensitive US president used Twitter to accuse “wacky” Sir Kim of being a “very stupid guy” and a “pompous fool”.

Mr Hunt happily gave his backing to Sir Kim when asked during the ITV debate and said he would “certainly” keep him in his post.

However, Mr Johnson refused to say whether he would keep Sir Kim stationed in Washington.

The next morning Sir Kim handed in his resignation.

Mr Johnson was accused of having thrown the diplomat “under a bus” to further his own ambitions and to foster ties with Mr Trump.

– MPs send a warning to Mr Johnson

BREAKING: I announced the vote where MPs resoundingly voted to effectively stop the next Prime Minister suspending parliament to crash us out of the EU without a deal. Proud to be part of the @LabourWhips team defending our sovereign parliamentary democracy! pic.twitter.com/kfpDTyv13M

— Thangam Debbonaire (@ThangamMP) July 18, 2019

Still days away from his anticipated coronation, Mr Johnson suffered what was widely interpreted as his first loss as leader.

Seventeen Tories rebelled in order to vote for an amendment that could make a no-deal Brexit more challenging for Mr Johnson to secure.

Crucially, those who did not vote included Chancellor Philip Hammond, Justice Secretary David Gauke, Business Secretary Greg Clark and International Development Secretary Rory Stewart.

That quartet was expected to be a thorn in Mr Johnson’s side if he did win the race.

If successful, Mr Johnson would take to Number 10 on July 24.

There he would struggle to find support in a Parliament hostile to his Brexit proposals while commanding a government narrowly propped up by the DUP.

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