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Johnson prepares for power after landslide Tory leadership win

UK News | Published:

Boris Johnson will become prime minister on Wednesday and has promised to deliver Brexit on the October 31 deadline.

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson is putting together his Cabinet and preparing for government after a landslide victory in the Tory leadership contest.

The new Conservative Party leader used his victory speech to promise he will “energise the country” and meet the October 31 Brexit deadline with a “new spirit of can-do”.

Mr Johnson secured more than two-thirds of the votes in the contest, comfortably defeating Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

In an apparent acknowledgement of his divisive style, Mr Johnson said: “I know that there will be people around the place who will question the wisdom of your decision.

“And there may even be some people here who still wonder quite what they have done.

“I would just point out to you of course nobody, no one party, no one person has a monopoly of wisdom. But if you look at the history of the last 200 years of this party’s existence you will see that it is we Conservatives who have had the best insights, I think, into human nature.”

Conservative leadership election
(PA Graphics)

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Mr Johnson secured 92,153 votes – 66.4% – to defeat Mr Hunt, who was backed by 46,656 Tory members – 33.6%.

Despite the resounding victory, Mr Johnson’s share of the vote was slightly lower than that achieved by David Cameron in the 2005 Conservative leadership election, when he took 67.6%.

Mr Johnson will take over from Theresa May as prime minister on Wednesday and has begun appointing allies to his top team.

Mark Spencer will become his chief whip – a key position as Mr Johnson attempts to govern with a working Tory-DUP majority of just two.

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Sky News reported that Sky’s chief financial officer Andrew Griffith – who owns the £9.5 million Westminster townhouse used by Mr Johnson as a campaign base – will be a corporate adviser to the new PM.

Despite the challenges facing him, the incoming prime minister was characteristically upbeat after his victory was announced in central London.

“We are once again going to believe in ourselves and what we can achieve,” he said.

“And like some slumbering giant, we are going to rise and ping off the guy ropes of self-doubt and negativity, with better education, better infrastructure, more police, fantastic full-fibre broadband sprouting in every household – we are going to unite this amazing country and we are going to take it forward.”

Tory leadership race
Jeremy Hunt congratulates Boris Johnson on his victory (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Mr Hunt said the new Tory leader would be “a great PM for our country at this critical moment”.

DUP leader Arlene Foster, whose 10 MPs prop up the Tories at Westminster, said she had spoken to Mr Johnson and confirmed the deal remains in place – although its terms would be reviewed, a possible sign that the party could demand more cash for Northern Ireland.

“We discussed our shared objectives of strengthening every part of the union, ensuring the 2016 referendum result is implemented and seeing devolution restored in Northern Ireland,” she said.

Mrs May, who will resign on Wednesday after a final session of Prime Minister’s Questions, offered her congratulations but stressed that Mr Johnson should work “to deliver a Brexit that works for the whole UK”, a clear warning against a no-deal departure.

She promised Mr Johnson “my full support from the back benches”.

US President Donald Trump said Mr Johnson would be a “great” prime minister.

Brussels promised to work with Mr Johnson on Brexit but gave no ground on his desire to rewrite the deal on offer.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said Brussels looked forward to “working constructively” on ratifying the Withdrawal Agreement – the deal which Mr Johnson has already declared dead.

European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans warned that a no-deal Brexit would be a “tragedy” for both sides.

Mr Johnson will be appointed as prime minister on Wednesday by the Queen.

Tory leadership race
Boris Johnson’s father Stanley and sister Rachel at the leadership announcement (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

He faces a daunting in-tray at Number 10, not only the tight Brexit deadline but also the diplomatic crisis in the Gulf, where tensions have been heightened following Iran’s seizure of the British-registered Stena Impero tanker.

Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif used a congratulatory message to Mr Johnson to say Tehran did not seek confrontation but would protect its waters around the Strait of Hormuz.

The challenge facing Mr Johnson is made even more difficult by the wafer-thin Tory-DUP majority, which could be reduced to just one if the Conservatives fail to win the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election on August 1.

And the incoming premier has been left in no doubt about the opposition he will face from his own benches if he attempts to force through a no-deal Brexit.

Sir Alan Duncan quit as a Foreign Office minister on Monday and Anne Milton as education minister on Tuesday, rather than serve under Mr Johnson.

Cabinet ministers Philip Hammond, David Gauke and Rory Stewart will join them on the back benches after the leadership change.

Mr Hammond said the incoming prime minister had his “wholehearted support” in seeking a deal with Brussels.

On the opposite side of the Commons, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn urged Mr Johnson to call a general election and promised to table a motion of no confidence in the new prime minister “when it is appropriate to do so” and “at a time of our choosing”.

“He’s been elected by less than 100,000 people, and he’s been elected on a programme which appears to be tax write-offs for the very richest and a no-deal exit from the European Union,” Mr Corbyn said.

“I think he needs to think a bit more carefully about where we’re going.”

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