Boris Johnson pulls ahead in Tory leadership race | News | DW | 18.06.2019
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Boris Johnson pulls ahead in Tory leadership race

Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has surged ahead of his rivals in the second poll of the Tory leadership race. Moderate Rory Stewart survived against the odds.

A secret vote among Tory lawmakers on Tuesday saw former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab drop out of the race for party leader and gaffe-prone Boris Johnson extend his lead over the remaining four rivals.

Johnson, who served as London mayor and as foreign secretary in Theresa May's government, won 126 out 313 votes on Tuesday.  This was 12 more votes than in the first poll held last Thursday.

The Tory lawmakers were set to hold several more votes to trim the candidate list down to two names. Some 160,000 members of the Conservative Party will then decide on the next party leader, who is virtually guaranteed to become the next prime minister.

Force of personality

Johnson has a strong public profile based on his career as a political columnist and his leading role in the 2016 campaign to leave the European Union. He also has deep ties inside the Tory party establishment as a son of a Conservative Party politician and alumni of Eton and Oxford. Johnson attended the two elite schools together with former Prime Minister David Cameron.

Johnson's flamboyant personality has helped him shrug off multiple scandals during his time in the public eye, including lying about an extramarital affair, flippant descriptions of Africans, gays and Muslim women, and jokes about "dead bodies" in Libya. 

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UK Conservative Leadership Race

The 54-year-old politician said he was ready to take the UK out of the EU by the October 31 deadline, whether or not a deal was in place. He also threatened to withhold €44 billion ($50 billion) in divorce payments that the UK owes the EU.

Javid squeezes through

The latest score puts Johnson far ahead his closest rival, Jeremy Hunt. Hunt succeeded Johnson as foreign secretary and picked up 46 of the Tory lawmakers' votes on Tuesday. He is followed by Environment Minister Michael Gove with 41, Internal Development Minister Rory Stewart with 37, and Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who only managed to meet the 33-vote threshold allowing him to continue the race.

Raab was eliminated after scoring only 30 votes.

Moderate Rory Stewart, who was dubbed an outsider in the race, boosted his score by 18 votes compared with his score last week. Stewart is the only candidate who is openly in favor of trying to save the divorce deal negotiated by the current prime minister, Theresa May.

On Tuesday, he accused Johnson of peddling "fairy tales" about solving the Brexit issue.

A new prime minister should be voted in by the end of July.

dj/xx (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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