Published: Tue, June 11, 2019

UK PM candidate Hancock asks: Why should Boris Johnson avoid public scrutiny?

UK PM candidate Hancock asks: Why should Boris Johnson avoid public scrutiny?

"Mr. Johnson, whatever you do, don't pull out", the minister said on Monday as he launched his Tory leadership bid.

An 11th, Sam Gyimah, withdrew shortly before the announcement saying he had not been able to build sufficient support.

He opposed Brexit during the 2016 referendum before switching sides.

Current foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, interior minister Sajid Javid and Environment Secretary Michael Gove are perhaps the best-known names of 10 other MPs also in the running.

The remaining candidates will go into the first round of voting on Thursday, where they must each secure at least 17 votes. One of Britain's best-known politicians, he is popular with rank-and-file Conservative Party members who think he has the popular touch, and is now the bookies' favourite to replace May.

This is a campaign targeted at just 124,000 voters - the nationwide membership of the Conservative Party - which amounts to about a quarter of one per cent of the United Kingdom electorate of 47m people.

Johnson initially attempted to become prime minister in 2016 shortly after the Brexit referendum, but his campaign imploded soon after and May was anointed without a party-wide leadership contest.

The other candidates are global development minister Rory Stewart, former minister Esther McVey, former leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom and Conservative MP Mark Harper.

It would result in a vote of no confidence in a Conservative government, ushering in a Labour-run government led by their leader Jeremy Corbyn by Christmas, said Gove.

The race is dominated by Britain's looming European Union exit on October 31, with leading Brexiteer Johnson, the former foreign secretary, among those talking tough on the need to renegotiate the divorce terms or leave without a deal.

"Why? It's because I'm being straight with you and it just isn't possible", he said.

The EU Commission spokesperson added that Brussels was on a "Brexit break" and that it would also "refrain from any positions or opinions that would risk interfering with the ongoing leadership contest in the Conservative party".

Although some believe his undistinguished two-year tenure as Britain's top diplomat may work against him, Johnson has garnered growing support from cabinet members and both centrist and right-wing Tories.

Asked about "no deal", Hunt said: "I would be prepared to without a deal if there was a straight choice between no deal and no Brexit, but I'd do so with a heavy heart".

Plans by Boris Johnson to cut income tax for high earners if he becomes Prime Minister will not benefit people living in Scotland, who will see their bills rise instead. Critics have also pointed out that when he was education secretary, Mr. Gove ordered teachers who took drugs to resign.

The door of 10 Downing Street is seen as uncertainty over Brexit continues, in London, Britain, May 24, 2019.

The flamboyant former mayor of London has been accused in the past of focusing on style over substance and failing to grasp details, something to which his rivals alluded. "The stakes couldn't be higher, the consequences couldn't be greater, if we get this wrong".

"The obvious big issue is Brexit - there is very little else that preoccupies the Conservative Party at the moment", Tim Bale, politics professor at Queen Mary, University of London, said.

At his launch, health minister Matt Hancock, who has ruled out a no-deal departure, said: "We don't need a "leaver", we don't need a "remainer", we need a leader for the future".

Hunt's own campaign received a significant boost on Monday when two ministers with opposing views on Brexit - Pensions Minister Amber Rudd and Defense Minister Penny Mordaunt - endorsed him.

So who could be the next British prime minister?

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