Boris Johnson has won the Tory leadership race and will replace Theresa May as prime minister.
It was announced today at the Queen Elizabeth 2 conference centre in central London that Mr Johnson had beaten Jeremy Hunt in a ballot of Tory members. Mr Johnson secured 92,513 votes compared with 46,656 for Mr Hunt.
The Queen will ask Mr Johnson to take over at No 10 tomorrow after Mrs May takes part in her last prime minister’s questions. His first act will be to appoint a cabinet, starting with a new chancellor to replace Philip Hammond, who has already made clear that he will quit before he can be sacked.
Mr Johnson won 66 per cent of the vote. The margin ensures that he has sufficient authority to shape his government. Anything below 60 per cent would have caused him serious early issues.
However, even with the support of the DUP, the Tories’ parliamentary allies, Mr Johnson will have a majority of only two if, as expected, the party loses a by-election in Brecon and Radnorshire on Thursday.
With just over three months to go before the Brexit deadline of October 31, he must immediately get cabinet approval for a new negotiating strategy. He intends to make a statement in the Commons at 10.30am on Thursday.
The leadership election followed a party-wide mutiny in May against Mrs May’s attempt to force through her Brexit deal with Labour votes. Her offer to provide government time for legislation enabling a second referendum put her on the brink of a second no-confidence vote by Tory MPs. Faced with the certainty of defeat she confirmed her departure on May 24, the day after the European parliamentary elections.
Much of the narrative for the leadership contest was set by polls that showed the Tories being trounced by the new Brexit Party. In a two-stage race, MPs whittled a field of ten candidates down to a final two to enter a ballot of the party’s 160,000 membership.
Of the initial ten Tory MPs that stood in the race to replace Mrs May, only the international development secretary Rory Stewart argued that her deal remained the best route out of the European Union.
Mr Johnson received an early boost when he won the backing of the European Research Group, the hardline Eurosceptic faction of the Conservative Party. As a result, other Brexiteer candidates such as Dominic Raab, Esther McVey and Andrea Leadsom were among the early casualties.
Michael Gove, the environment secretary, who also campaigned for Brexit, struggled to shrug off revelations at the start of the race that he had taken cocaine before he became an MP. He was, nevertheless, the last candidate to be eliminated in the rounds of MP voting. He was reportedly beaten by Mr Hunt only because some of Mr Johnson’s backers supported the foreign secretary in the secret ballot.
Edwin Morgan, Interim Director General, of the Institute of Directors, commented: “The new Prime Minister will take the reins at crunch-time for businesses up and down the country. It’s crucial that the incoming administration recognises that this is a daunting time for many firms, and is prepared to back them. We look forward to working with Government to achieve this.
“The UK faces long-term skills challenges that have contributed to stalling productivity growth across sectors and regions. Firms are crying out for infrastructure upgrades, while high costs and uncertainty are often stalling their own investment plans.
“A no deal Brexit would only add to the uncertainty and distract from these challenges, but avoiding a disorderly exit will enable the country to focus on them and move forward to everyone’s benefit. But whatever shape Brexit takes it is businesses that will bear much of the brunt of adapting, so we will continue to lead the charge for greater support for preparation.
“IoD members are eager to see the country’s new leader channel his energies toward the task of bolstering British enterprise.”