Boris stuns Tories by pulling out of leadership contest
Boris Johnson will not stand for the leadership of the Conservative party.
In a morning of extraordinary political theatre, even by recent standards, Mr Johnson addressed a gathering of supporters and journalists in London where he was expected to say he would run for leader, only to say that he would not be doing so.
Instead, Mr Johnson said he had consulted colleagues “and in view of the circumstances in Parliament, I have concluded that person cannot be me”.
Earlier in the day Justice Secretary Michael Gove stunned Tories by withdrawing his support for Mr Johnson and declaring that he would be a leadership contender.
It seems likely now that Mr Gove will face Home Secretary Theresa May in the final run off.
Mrs May launched her Conservative leadership bid today as a poll of party members suggested she was on course to beat Mr Johnson in the race to Downing Street.
In a thinly veiled attack on the Eton educated Mr Johnson, Mrs May promised to deliver a country that “works not for a privileged few but for everyone regardless of who they are and regardless of where they come from”.
Launching her bid to replace David Cameron, Mrs May made a direct pitch to blue collar Tories:
If you are from an ordinary working class family, life is just much harder than many people in politics realise.
You have a job but you don’t always have job security. You have your own home but you worry about mortgage rates going up. You can just about manage but you worry about the cost of living and the quality of the local school, because there’s no other choice for you.
Frankly, not everybody in Westminster understands what it is like to live like this.
And some need to be told that what the Government does isn’t a game, it’s a serious business that has real consequences for people’s lives.
A YouGov poll of Conservative members in The Times, the first since the European referendum result, puts support for Mrs May at 55 per cent with Mr Johnson on 38 per cent – a 17-point lead for the Home Secretary, suggesting she is on course to become Britain’s second woman prime minister.
And in another setback for Mr Johnson, it was confirmed this morning that Justice Secretary Michael Gove will run for the Tory leadership.
Mr Gove worked closely with Mr Johnson for the Leave campaign in the EU referendum and it had been expected he would back Mr Johnson’e leadership bid, possibly in return for becoming Chancellor or Home Secretary.
In a crushing put-down, Mr Gove said: “I wanted to help build a team behind Boris Johnson so that a politician who argued for leaving the European Union could lead us to a better future. But I have come, reluctantly, to the conclusion that Boris cannot provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead.”
The longest serving Home Secretary, Mrs May first came to public notice in 2002 when as Tory chair she told the party conference that the Conservatives were regarded by some people as “the nasty party”. Aged 59, she is the only daughter of an Anglican priest and attended a state comprehensive school before going on to study geography at Oxford.
Not only is Mrs May storming deep into Conservative ‘One Nation’ territory, she is also parking her tanks firmly on Labour’s lawn. Much of her leadership statement could have been delivered by Ed Miliband:
If you are born poor in today’s Britain, you will die on average nine years earlier than others. If you are black, you are treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you are white. If you are a white working class boy you less likely than anybody else in retain to go to university.
If you are at a state school, you are less likely to reach the top professions than if you are educated privately. If you are a woman you still earn less than a man. If you are young you will find it harder than ever to own your own home. These are all burning injustices and I am determined to fight against them.
Mrs May even urged Conservatives to “think differently about the role of the state”, adding that rather than always thinking about it being the problem, “we should acknowledge that often it is only the state that can provide solutions to the problems we face.”
Nominations for the Conservative leadership close at noon today.
Mrs May will be joined in the contest by Stephen Crabb, the welfare secretary, and Liam Fox, a former defence secretary. Nicky Morgan, the education secretary, who had been considering standing, said she would support Mr Gove.
Tory MPs will begin voting next week and will continue until just two contenders remain. The country’s estimated 125,000 members will then vote to decide the winner by September 9.
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