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UK News Desk

Rory Stewart surges to SECOND favourite as he says he ‘100 per cent’ won’t work for Boris Johnson

Rory Stewart surges to SECOND favourite in Tory leader race as he lays into Boris for having ‘no plan’ – while ‘submarine’ Johnson refuses to face questions AGAIN at hustings event

  • Rory Stewart overtook Jeremy Hunt in the betting after strong TV appearances 
  • Boris Johnson remains the runaway odds-on favourite to become the new PM
  • The final two candidates will go head-to-head in a vote by the Tory membership
  • Mr Johnson continued ‘submarine’ strategy today by dodging hustings event 

Rory Stewart lashed out at Boris Johnson for not having a ‘plan’ on Brexit today after making a shock surge into second place in the Tory leadership betting.

The International Development Secretary launched a withering attack on the front runner after bookmakers had him leapfrogging Jeremy Hunt as the closest challenger.

The criticism came at a hustings event with journalists in Westminster – which Mr Johnson has opted to snub as his ‘submarine’ strategy continues.

Mr Hunt also taunted the favourite this morning, saying he needed to find some ‘Churchillian courage’. 

Mr Stewart has won more backers overnight after putting in a strong performance in the Channel 4 TV debate, with minister Margot James and Scottish Tory Paul Masterson declaring their support. 

But he again flip-flopped today over whether he would serve in a Mr Johnson Cabinet, telling Good Morning Britain he ‘100 per cent’ would not.

Only last Friday he had said he would be ‘honoured to serve if, as expected, Mr Johnson is voted Tory leader and prime minister by Tory members next month. 

Mr Stewart told GMB today (pictured) that if he worked for Boris Johnson he would have to ‘advocate for a no deal Brexit that I think can’t be delivered’

Mr Johnson (pictured leaving his London home today) is the runaway favourite to replace Theresa May and Conservative leader and prime minister

Mr Johnson (pictured leaving his London home today) is the runaway favourite to replace Theresa May and Conservative leader and prime minister

Mr Stewart has been installed as second favourite in the Tory leadership race - albeit a long way behind Mr Johnson

Mr Stewart has been installed as second favourite in the Tory leadership race – albeit a long way behind Mr Johnson 

As the Conservative leadership struggle careered towards its denoument today:

  • Allies of Mr Johnson dismissed talk of an electoral pact with Nigel Farage, saying he did not ‘need’ a deal despite the rising threat from the new Brexit Party;
  • Michael Gove heaped praise on Mr Johnson saying he ‘has what it takes’ to be PM as manoeuvring ratchets up for jobs in the new regime; 
  • Jeremy Hunt took aim at Speaker John Bercow for failing to be ‘impartial’ in Brexit debates in the House of Commons; 
  • Sajid Javid attacked Donald Trump for criticising knife crime in London, saying he should stop interfering and levels were ’10 times higher’ in the US; 

At the hustings in Parliament today, Mr Stewart was asked about Mr Johnson and said: ‘he doesn’t, as far as I can see, have a plan.’

Mr Stewart highlighted that Mr Johnson had been wooing moderates like Matt Hancock – who today backed him for the leadership – as well as hardliners like Mark Francois. 

‘He seems to be having different relationships in different rooms with people who are not talking to each other,’ Mr Stewart said. 

The Cabinet minister said he hoped he could win more Tories over to support Theresa May’s divorce deal from the EU. But he admitted Labour MPs for Brexit-backing areas, such as Lisa Nandy, would also be needed.

‘I have to reach out to Lisa Nandy from Wigan,’ he said.

But Mr Stewart also admitted he still ‘does not know’ if he can secure the 33 votes from MPs needed to make it through the next ballot tomorrow. He only had 19 backers in the first round last Tuesday. 

Sajid Javid tells Trump to stop interfering over UK knife crime  

Sajid  Javid delivered an extraordinary rebuke to Donald Trump today for meddling over UK crime rates.

The US president has condemned London mayor Sadiq Khan for failing to deal with knife crime.

But speaking at Tory leader hustings today, the Home Secretary said: ‘President Trump should stick to domestic politics. 

‘It’s unbecoming of the leader of a great state to interfere in other countries’ politics.’

He added: ‘The president of the United States is right to be concerned about serious violence but he should be concerned about serious violence in the United States which is ten times higher than it is here.’

Mr Javid has voiced unhappiness at being snubbed from Mr Trump’s state banquet during his visit to the UK earlier this month – although Downing Street is adamant the US president had no role in the decision to leave him off the invite list.  

Earlier, Mr Stewart said his principles over No Deal Brexit – which he has ruled out backing if he becomes prime minister – would stop him from working for a leader who advocated it.

‘In order to be Boris’s foreign secretary or international development secretary, I would have to sit on your programme and advocate for a no deal Brexit that I think can’t be delivered, is going to lead to delay…’ he told GMB. 

He was later challenged by Susanna Reid over the fact that he backed Remain in 2016 and then agreed to respect the referendum result to deliver Brexit, with the presenter asking whether a Boris Johnson win would give him a mandate for a No Deal Brexit.

Mr Stewart replied: ‘There are two votes that I really deeply respect. I respect the result of a referendum, I respect the result of a general election.

‘I’m a loyal Conservative, so I’m not going to bring down a Boris Johnson Government, but I cannot serve in a cabinet and advocate for something I don’t believe in.’ 

Mr Stewart is now 12/1 with Betfair and 10/1 with Ladbrokes.

While he is in second he is a long way behind Mr Johnson, who is the odds-on favourite.

The former foreign secretary is also miles ahead in polling of Conservative members who will ultimately decide the new party leader.

Tory MPs while whittle the candidates down to a final two who will then face a vote of the wider party. Three have been knocked out already and Mr Hancock stepped down before the second round ballot.

The battle for the keys to No10 is turning nasty as contenders desperately struggle to overhaul Mr Johnson’s commanding lead. 

They are scrambling to pick up votes from those already eliminated – with Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who had 20 supporters, making a surprise decision to back Mr Johnson.

During the hustings today, Sajid Javid (pictured leaving his London home today) delivered an extraordinary rebuke to Donald Trump for criticising the UK over a spate of knife crime

During the hustings today, Sajid Javid (pictured leaving his London home today) delivered an extraordinary rebuke to Donald Trump for criticising the UK over a spate of knife crime

Last night all remaining candidates except Mr Johnson took part in a Channel 4 leadership debate.

The rivals crossed swords early on, with Mr Stewart accusing his Brexiteer colleagues of ‘macho’ posturing and demanding to know how they planned to take the UK out of the EU by the end of October without approval from parliament.

Johnson’s allies dismiss talk of election pact with Nigel Farage 

Boris Johnson’s allies dismissed talk of a Brexit pact with Nigel Farage today – as he won the backing of former rival Matt Hancock. 

Supporters of the Tory front runner insisted he did not ‘need’ to do a deal with Mr Farage, despite the rising threat from his new party. 

The rebuke came amid claims Conservative donors are plotting a tie-up with Mr Farage that could prevent the Eurosceptic vote from splitting at an election.

The arrangement could mean the Brexit Party does not field candidates against Tories they see as sound on making a clean break from the EU. 

Mr Johnson’s procession towards Downing Street gathered pace today as the Health Secretary backed him – amid claims he has already started promising Cabinet jobs.  

Mr Hancock dropped out on Friday after a disappointing result in the first round ballot, but has now put himself in the running to be the next Chancellor by endorsing the favourite. 

Dominic Raab shot back that he had resigned from the Cabinet ‘on principle’ and politicians had to keep their word. ‘I’m the only one who can be trusted to get us out by the end of October,’ he said, repeating his vow to suspend the Commons if necessary to stop it blocking No Deal. 

Meanwhile, a new poll gave Mr Johnson a major boost and dashed the hopes of Mr Stewart.

It found more than three quarters of Tory members believe the former foreign secretary would make a good leader but fewer than one in three thought the same about the Aid Secretary.

The YouGov survey reinforces the view that if Mr Johnson makes it onto the final ballot paper when two candidates are put to grassroots activists to choose from he will be almost impossible to stop.

Some 77 per cent of Conservative Party members believe Mr Johnson would make a good Tory leader while just 19 per cent believe he would do a poor job.

Mr Johnson is also viewed by the general public as the candidate most likely to make a good leader as he was backed by 31 per cent of voters.

Mr Stewart was the only remaining Tory leadership contender who failed to be viewed positively by a majority of Tory members.

Just 31 per cent said Mr Stewart would be a good leader compared to 50 per cent who said he would be a poor choice.

The poll will be welcomed by Dominic Raab who had the second highest rating among the Tory grassroots.

Some 68 per cent said the former Brexit secretary would make a good leader and 21 per cent said he would be a bad choice.

Channel 4 faces backlash over ‘dodgy’ Tory leader debate 

An empty podium was left by Channel 4 to embarrass Boris Johnson after he snubbed the Tory leadership debate last night

An empty podium was left by Channel 4 to embarrass Boris Johnson after he snubbed the Tory leadership debate last night

Channel 4 was today accused of holding a ‘dodgy’ Tory leadership debate where candidates were encouraged to ‘knock chunks out of each other’ – while hard Brexiteer Dominic Raab was ‘sidelined’. 

Viewers who attacked the broadcaster after last night’s TV battle also declared that Boris Johnson had ‘won’ because he had refused to take part, calling it a pro-EU ‘kangaroo court’ and a ‘trap’.

Host Krishnan Guru-Murthy, who attended Oxford University, was also blasted as ‘snide’ for introducing each candidate by the school and university they went to.

Channel 4 today insisted that the audience was made up of ‘floating voters’ who were ‘open’ to voting Tory and picked by an independent polling company.

But those watching at home said those in the studio appeared ‘biased’ towards the EU because there was so little clapping for anyone advocating Brexit, calling it a ‘remainer fest’.

Mr Johnson’s allies dismissed talk of a Brexit pact with Nigel Farage today – as he won the backing of former rival Matt Hancock. 

Supporters of the Tory front runner insisted he did not ‘need’ to do a deal with Mr Farage, despite the rising threat from his new party. 

The rebuke came amid claims Conservative donors are plotting a tie-up with Mr Farage that could prevent the Eurosceptic vote from splitting at an election.

The arrangement could mean the Brexit Party does not field candidates against Tories they see as sound on making a clean break from the EU. 

Mr Johnson’s procession towards Downing Street gathered pace today as the Health Secretary backed him – amid claims he has already started promising Cabinet jobs.  

Mr Hancock dropped out on Friday after a disappointing result in the first round ballot, but has now put himself in the running to be the next Chancellor by endorsing the favourite.

The support of a former Remainer and Cabinet heavyweight further reinforces Mr Johnson’s status as PM-in-waiting. Michael Gove also appeared to be trying to smooth relations this morning, rejecting the idea that Mr Johnson should be ruled out on grounds of ‘moral probity’ and praising his pro-business record.

During the hustings today, Mr Javid delivered an extraordinary rebuke to Donald Trump, who has condemned London mayor Sadiq Khan for failing to deal with knife crime.

‘President Trump should stick to domestic politics. It’s unbecoming of the leader of a great state to interfere in other countries’ politics,’ he said.

‘The president of the United States is right to be concerned about serious violence but he should be concerned about serious violence in the United States which is ten times higher than it is here.’

Mr Javid has voiced unhappiness at being snubbed from Mr Trump’s state banquet during his visit to the UK earlier this month – although Downing Street is adamant the US president had no role in the decision to leave him off the invite list.  

What happens next? ‘Stop Boris’ Tory leadership hopefuls now locked in a battle for second place to make it onto the final ballot paper

The field of Tory leadership challengers has been whittled down to six after three candidates were ousted at the first ballot of MPs on Thursday and Matt Hancock opted to withdraw on Friday.

Those still standing now have one day in which to persuade more of their Conservative colleagues to back their bids before the second round of voting takes place tomorrow.

At this point the race is entirely about momentum. Boris Johnson has cemented his status as the favourite after he secured 114 votes – enough to effectively guarantee he is one of the final two candidates.

But for the remaining five candidates, it is all still to play for.

Four Tory leadership challengers are now out of the race for Number 10. Esther McVey, Andrea Leadsom and Mark Harper were eliminated in the first round of voting while Matt Hancock has chosen to withdraw from the race

Four Tory leadership challengers are now out of the race for Number 10. Esther McVey, Andrea Leadsom and Mark Harper were eliminated in the first round of voting while Matt Hancock has chosen to withdraw from the race

What is happening today?

Five of the six remaining leadership candidates will face a grilling by political journalists at an event in Parliament. 

The candidates will take it in turns to face 20 minutes of questions but Mr Johnson is not taking part. 

There will also be another hustings event, this one in front of Tory MPs, featuring all of the candidates as they seek to win further support. 

What happens on Tuesday?

Tory MPs will vote for the second time in what is likely to be a make or break moment in the race to succeed Theresa May.

There will be six candidates to choose from but only Mr Johnson will have any certainty about making it to the next stage.

Anyone not named Mr Johnson will now have the same goal: To finish in second place and make it onto the final ballot paper alongside Mr Johnson.

Jeremy Hunt came second in Thursday’s vote with the support of 43 of his colleagues.

But none of the other remaining candidates are too far behind and all of them will be hopeful of hoovering up at least some of the MPs who backed the four candidates who are no longer in the race.

They will need at least 33 votes to progress to the third vote but if all of the six candidates manage to get past that threshold, whoever has the fewest votes will be eliminated. 

The Foreign Secretary came second in the first round of voting and will now be hoping to persuade Tory MPs that he is the candidate capable of challenging Boris Johnson

The Foreign Secretary came second in the first round of voting and will now be hoping to persuade Tory MPs that he is the candidate capable of challenging Boris Johnson

Rory Stewart faces the biggest challenge after he only secured the support of 19 MPs in the first round. 

Mr Johnson’s grip on the contest is expected to grow still further after he picked up the support of former rivals Mr Hancock and Esther McVey.

Once the second ballot has finished and at least one candidate has been eliminated there will then be a televised leadership debate on BBC One at 8pm hosted by Emily Maitlis. 

Mr Johnson has said he will take part after snubbing one held by Channel 4 on Sunday.

What happens after the second round of voting on Tuesday? 

It is the job of Tory MPs to cut the list of candidates to two and after Tuesday’s vote there will then follow further ballots on Wednesday and, if necessary, on Thursday, until the chosen pair remain.

The number of further ballots needed will be determined by whether trailing candidates opt to withdraw from the contest but the third ballot is scheduled for Wednesday while the fourth and fifth would take place on Thursday.

What happens once there are two candidates left? 

The Conservative Party’s estimated 160,000 members will be asked to choose who they want to be their next leader. 

The final two will have to face 16 leadership hustings events across the nation with the first due to be held in Birmingham on June 22 and the last one taking place in London in the week starting July 15.

Ballot papers are expected to sent out to members between July 6-8. 

The overall winner of the contest is due to be announced in the week of July 22. 

Mrs May will then go to see the Queen to formally resign and the newly elected leader of the Conservative Party will be invited to Buckingham Palace to form a new government. 

Who could the MPs who supported the four eliminated candidates now back?

Mr Johnson has racked up endorsements from both Esther McVey and Matt Hancock over the weekend – increasing his already impressive tally.

The support will be hugely disappointing to Mr Raab – who needs votes from Brexiteers like Ms McVey – and Mr Gove, who had been hoping to woo Mr Hancock’s centrist acolytes.

The 10 MPs who backed Mark Harper, a candidate with a softer approach to Brexit, have been targeted by the likes of Mr Hunt and Sajid Javid.  

Boris Johnson is now the prohibitive favourite to succeed Theresa May after securing the support of 114 Tory MPs in the first round of voting

Boris Johnson is now the prohibitive favourite to succeed Theresa May after securing the support of 114 Tory MPs in the first round of voting

So does Boris have it sewn up?

Previous Tory leadership contests have shown that the person who leads the race at the start of the process does not always finish in first.

Leadership campaigns are also volatile and it is distinctly possible that an unforeseen event in the coming weeks could radically shake up the battle for Number 10.

Mr Johnson is in pole position but there is still plenty of time for that to change. 

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