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Has Jeremy Hunt been left in the lurch?

8 July 2022

8:19 PM

8 July 2022

8:19 PM

Boris’s decision to quit yesterday fired the starting gun on the greatest game of them all: the Tory leadership race. Suella Braverman was first out the blocks on Thursday night before, er, Johnson had even gone. But it’s the launch of the second official candidate, Tom Tugendhat, which has attracted more interest. In traditional Tory style he began his campaign with an article in the Telegraph, emphasising his own personal values and the need to tackle Britain’s economic problems – a conscious effort to broaden his appeal beyond being pigeonholed as solely interested in matters of defence and foreign policy.

If Tugendhat is to reach the later stages of a leadership contest, he will need to win over as much support as possible from various blocs within the party. One fruitful constituency could be the One Nation caucus of the party, which represents about 50 MPs who are –  rightly or wrongly –  viewed as being on the centre or centre left of the party. Both Jeremy Hunt and Penny Mordaunt will also be seeking to woo this wing of the party. So it’s a potentially significant indicator therefore that Tugendhat has managed to bag five backers thus far, including One Nation stalwarts Damian Green and Stephen Hammond, who is chairing the campaign.


Tugendhat’s promising start will be bad news for Hunt, whose campaign is being overseen by Steve Brine. Colleagues of the former Foreign Secretary fear he did not emerge well from last month’s no-confidence vote. One Tory MP confided to Mr S that they thought Hunt was too much of a reminder of the past, given his involvement in the Brexit and Covid debates. Both Tugendhat and Hunt supported Britain staying in the European Union in 2016 but the latter featured much more prominently in the subsequent squabbles over Theresa May’s deal. One source within the One Nation camp says that ‘unlike Jeremy, Tom never got involved in all the Remain nonsense.’ Will that cut through with the members?

Tugendhat’s supporters are (naturally) desperate to portray him as both ‘sound’ on Brexit and the definitive change candidate. Some even view his total sum of ministerial experience (i.e none) as a positive, after the bitter disputes of the past six years. One MP who was a staunch Brexiteer and does not hail from Tugendhat’s wing of the party confided that ‘he’s the only one completely untainted by this government or the last’. An interesting way to spin a lack of office, perhaps?

As for Mordaunt, her decision to not resign from the Johnson government has perplexed some of those colleagues who did. She is expected to announce her own leadership bid in the coming days, run by fellow Brexiteer and former minister Andrea Leadsom. Like Tugendhat, she will emphasise her involvement in the Armed Forces – in her case, the Royal Naval Reserves. Will she be able to sink Tom’s chances? Or has the Afghanistan veteran outmanoeuvred his Tory colleague?

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