Tory leadership contest: where do things stand?

From their Brexit stances to their social media game, how are Johnson, Gove, Hunt et al getting on?

Boris Johnson

Pitch: The leader to see off the other parties – robust on Brexit and electorally appealing.

Stance on Brexit: Insistent the UK will leave on 31 October, whether or not there is a deal. He is officially committed to trying to renegotiate the deal with the EU, and using “alternative arrangements” for the Irish border.

Domestic offer: His only commitment so far has been to increase the secondary schools budget in England to at least £5,000 per pupil per year – a pledge that one analysis calculated would actually only mean a 0.1% rise in spending.

Key supporters: Aside from Gavin Williamson (who is helping coordinate the campaign) and Liz Truss, Johnson has won backers across the spectrum from Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker on the hardline Eurosceptic wing to Johnny Mercer and Damian Collins on the more centrist side.

Social media game: As with his entire campaign so far, quite low-key, although he did release a very glossy launch video.

Please check out my campaign launch video. Time to deliver Brexit and unite our fantastic country. I hope you will support me > @BackBoris #BackBoris

— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) June 3, 2019

Chances of winning: Very good. Bookies have him as the odds-on favourite.

Campaign so far: No disasters yet – which is precisely what Johnson needs.

Michael Gove

Pitch: Not Boris Johnson. The environment secretary is appealing to MPs as a reliable Brexiter who, unlike certain colleagues, always works hard and can focus on a brief.

Stance on Brexit: Hard, but not overly hard. Gove has promised to go for no deal if needed, but has said he could countenance shifting the deadline a few weeks beyond 31 October if it meant a deal could happen.

Domestic offer: He has also made a schools spending pledge, and more generous than Johnson – £1bn extra a year. He has also promised free British citizenship for 3 million EU nationals after Brexit.

Key supporters: Some influential Tory centrists such as George Freeman, Nicky Morgan and Tom Tugendhat have signed up, as well as more Brexit-minded colleagues such as Bob Seely.

Social media game: Professional if not overly exciting, although his campaign video won praise.

Chances of winning: Currently the second favourite, albeit on relatively distant odds of about 6/1.

Campaign so far: Slow and steady, not least in amassing a fair number of MP nominations. However, his policies have been overshadowed by accusations of hypocrisy after he admitted taking cocaine as a young journalist.

Jeremy Hunt

Pitch: The competent moderate, who would still deliver Brexit but wouldn’t scare off middle-ground voters.

Stance on Brexit: Try to renegotiate a departure deal with a new team involving the DUP and Eurosceptics. If this was not possible, Hunt could go for no deal, but has said this would be “political suicide” because it would bring a confidence vote and perhaps an election.

Domestic offer: Nothing so far in the campaign, but last month he did argue for a doubling of the defence budget in the decade after Brexit.

Key supporters: It has been a coup to be backed by cabinet Brexiter Liam Fox. The other 30-plus declared so far are generally centrists, and several are Foreign Office alumni.

Social media game: Boringly corporate. His launch video took viewers back to the garage where Hunt set up his educational publishing company. This stressed his entrepreneurial spirit, even if Hunt’s claim that these early days involved “a daily grind to stay alive” raised eyebrows, coming from the son of an admiral.

Take a look at my video and join our campaign at

— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) June 5, 2019

Chances of winning: Seems set in a battle with Gove to get the second place on the members’ ballot alongside Johnson. Currently around 7/1.

Campaign so far: Solid. Credentials as a statesman were done no harm by a central role in Donald Trump’s visit.

Sajid Javid

Pitch: The outsider with a moderniser’s zeal. Did he mention his father was a bus driver?

Stance on Brexit: Relatively robust, intimating that he would aim for a 31 October departure, even on no deal. But has mocked the idea of proroguing parliament to ensure no deal as “complete nonsense”.

Domestic offer: Unshackled from the wishes of Theresa May, the home secretary is opening up on immigration, saying he would scrap long-standing Tory net migration targets and make it easier for overseas students to stay on in the UK to work.

Key supporters: Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory leader is a major coup, and he also has influential backbencher Robert Halfon and the culture secretary, Jeremy Wright. But is lagging behind the others in numbers.

Social media game: Enthusiastic if mixed. His campaign launch video was a very basic piece to camera in an echoey parliament room, with the sound of the ubiquitous Westminster bridge bagpipe busker audible in the background.

Chances of winning: Seems slim but his campaign has been boosted by Davidson’s endorsement. Bookies say it’s 33/1.

Campaign so far: Underwhelming, but he can expect a very senior cabinet job in a new government.

Dominic Raab

Pitch: Brexit? I’ll give you Brexit.

Stance on Brexit: Positively militant. One of only two candidates to not only promise to push through a no-deal Brexit if needed, but to say they might prorogue parliament to stop MPs blocking this.

Domestic offer: Raab has made the eye-catching if expensive pledge to cut income tax by 5p over the course of the next parliament, which some estimates say would cost about £25bn.

Key supporters: Veteran Brexiter David Davis. Most of his backers are, as you’d expect, on the strongly Brexit side of the Tories.

Social media game: Verging on the mediocre, but buoyed by “grassroots” Twitter feed #ReadyforRaab.

Chances of winning: Not great now that Johnson has bagged many leading lights in the hardline European Research Group. Odds are above 20/1.

Campaign so far: Underwhelming, but in part this is due to Johnson’s dominance on the pro-Brexit side of the draw. He has also courted controversy by sticking by his assertion that feminists are some of the “most obnoxious bigots” in the debate on equality.

Rory Stewart

Pitch: Maverick, man of the people, fond of long walks.

Rory Stewart addresses a crowd gathered at Speaker’s corner in Hyde Park
Rory Stewart addresses a crowd gathered at Speaker’s corner in Hyde Park Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

Stance on Brexit: Decidedly centrist. Wants a soft Brexit, perhaps involving a customs union. Rules out no deal.

Domestic offer: You name it, he’ll think about it. Most eye-catching among the numerous ideas punted in tweets and videos is the idea of a compulsory national citizens’ service for young people.

Key supporters: Ken Clarke and David Gauke. And, sadly for Stewart, only three more MPs are publicly backing him so far.

Social media game: The clear winner on this score, for all the good it will do him in the end. Omnipresent, responsive, tireless, compulsively engaging with voters on mini-videos.

Chance of winning: Odds of 25/1 possibly overstate the real likelihood, given the lack of Tory MPs backing him. But the attention could see a cabinet promotion.

Campaign so far: A triumph, if persuading Twitter liberals is the intention. Remains to be seen how this translates to his fellow MPs.

Also running

Matt Hancock: The heir to George Osborne, with a centrist message and 14 backers so far, but seems unlikely to overtake Gove or Hunt to become the moderate candidate put to members.

Andrea Leadsom: The pro-leave ex-leader of the house is having another shot after dropping out of the contest last time around against Theresa May, but her Eurosceptic colleagues seem to be flocking to Gove and Johnson.

Mark Harper: A former chief whip barely known by the public, Harper will be glad to get past the first round of voting.

Esther McVey: The former work and pensions secretary is even more of a Brexit ultra than Raab, saying she wants to leave with no deal without even trying to renegotiate.

Sam Gyimah: The remainers’ remainer in Tory terms. Quit government to seek a second referendum, but has yet to gain any public backers among MPs.


Peter Walker Political correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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