Conservative leadership: Johnson and Hunt await result of members’ vote

Either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt will become the new Conservative leader on Tuesday as the result of the contest to succeed Theresa May is announced.

The outcome of the ballot of about 160,000 Tory members will be revealed at just before midday in London.

The victor will officially become prime minister on Wednesday.

Mr Johnson, a former mayor of London, is seen as the clear favourite although a number of senior figures have said they will not serve under him.

Mrs May, who is standing down after a revolt by Conservative MPs over her Brexit policy, will chair her last cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning.

She will officially tend her resignation to the Queen on Wednesday afternoon after taking part in her final Prime Minister’s Questions.

Her successor will take office shortly afterwards, following an audience at Buckingham Palace.

‘An extraordinary triumph?’

The embedded expectation in Westminster is that the name will be Boris Johnson – unless the Tory party has been collectively deceiving itself in the past few weeks.

If it proves so, the triumph will be extraordinary. Not because of a journey Mr Johnson has been on in the last few weeks – the controversial former foreign secretary and London mayor started out as the frontrunner.

But because again and again, over many years, his own political accidents and behaviour would have ruled other politicians out.

Mr Johnson’s supporters would say he has found himself in some serious scrapes.

His detractors would say that he has blundered his way through a high-profile career causing offence and putting his own interests ahead of the country’s.

It wasn’t so long ago that the same received wisdom in Westminster that said he could never make it, said that he had blown too many chances – his long held public ambition would never be achieved.

But it is likely that his status as Brexit’s cheerleader-in-chief will see him into the job he has craved.

Read more analysis from Laura here.

Conservative members have been voting by post for the past two and a half weeks. It is the first time they will have selected a serving prime minister.

Since he made the final two candidates last month, Mr Johnson – who led the Leave campaign in the 2016 Brexit referendum – has been regarded as the clear frontrunner.

Former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News Mr Johnson was “best placed” to unite the party as he had won the backing of more than 50% of MPs in the first stage of the race.

And Communities Secretary James Brokenshire told Channel 4 News that Mr Johnson was the “right person to get a deal with Europe” on the terms of the UK’s exit and “make it stick” in Parliament – which has rejected Mrs May’s agreement three times.

The month-long leadership campaign has been dominated by arguments over Brexit.

Mr Hunt, the foreign secretary, has said he is better placed to secure a negotiated exit and would be prepared to ask for more time beyond the Halloween deadline to finalise it.

Mr Johnson has said he is determined to take the UK out of the EU on 31 October, if necessary without a deal. He has said all ministers must “reconcile” themselves to this.

Chancellor Philip Hammond, Justice Secretary David Gauke and International Development Rory Stewart have said they cannot support this and will resign if Mr Johnson is elected.

This means there are likely to be wholesale changes in cabinet if Mr Johnson wins. Such a reshuffle will only begin if and when Mr Johnson enters Downing Street on Wednesday.

Sir Alan Duncan, who quit his Foreign Office role on Monday, has called for MPs to have a vote before this on whether they actually back Mr Johnson forming a government.

He said this would show whether Mr Johnson, who like his predecessor will depend on the votes of the Democratic Unionists to form a majority, has “the numbers to govern”.

However, his request was turned down by Commons Speaker John Bercow.

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BBC News – UK Politics

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