Bob Blackman: the anti-gay marriage hardliner holding sway over Tory leadership contest

Bob Blackman pulled off the rare feat of increasing his majority at last week's general election
Bob Blackman pulled off the rare feat of increasing his majority at last week's general election - VISHAL BHATNAGAR/NURPHOTO VIA GETTY IMAGES

The race to replace Rishi Sunak as Conservative leader will be shaped in large part by the anti-gay marriage hardliner and ardent Brexiteer now in charge of the 1922 Committee.

Bob Blackman was elected by a clear majority of the remaining Tory MPs to lead the influential backbench group.

As chairman of the committee, Mr Blackman and his team will dictate the rules and time frame of the forthcoming leadership contest.

Mr Blackman said that Tory MPs owed it to Rishi Sunak to "give him the opportunity to [resign] in an appropriate way"
Mr Blackman said that Tory MPs owed it to Rishi Sunak to "give him the opportunity to [resign] in an appropriate way" - EDWARD MASSEY/CCHQ

They will also be responsible for collecting no-confidence letters from restive backbenchers who wish to see a change of leader.

The MP for Harrow East since 2010, Mr Blackman was among the few MPs to increase their majority at last week’s general election, the most marginal in recent political history.

More than a quarter of his constituents are Hindu and during the last Parliament he chaired the All-Party Parliamentary Group for British Hindus.

In 2012, Mr Blackman was among the most vocal critics of then prime minister Lord Cameron’s introduction of gay marriage.

The ardent Brexiteer has been the MP for Harrow East since 2012
The ardent Brexiteer has been the MP for Harrow East since 2012 - ELLIOT FRANKS

He said at the time that he believed the principle of same-sex marriage was “wrong in the first place” and insisted Section 28 legislation was “the right rules to have in school”.

The clause, which was introduced under Margaret Thatcher and repealed in 2003, banned the “promotion” of homosexuality in schools.

A staunch supporter of Brexit, Mr Blackman joined the European Research Group of Eurosceptic MPs to hold Theresa May’s feet to the fire after Britain voted to leave the EU.

His elevation to chairman of the 1922 Committee comes after he served as the executive of the group during the turmoil of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss’s respective downfalls.

‘Fighting into the next general election’

Speaking to The Telegraph last week, he made no attempts to downplay a “disastrous” election campaign, reflecting it went “off the rails from the word go”.

But in his acceptance speech on Tuesday, Mr Blackman made clear his focus is now firmly on the future.

“I am delighted that we can start rebuilding our parliamentary party so we can go fighting into the next general election as a party of government.”

His unenviable task is to play a role in helping to unite a Tory party not just nursing the wounds of a historic loss, but uncertain about its future direction.

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