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Army veteran Tom Tugendhat has become the first Tory MP to announce that he wants to succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister.
The Conservative chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee said ‘it would be a huge privilege’ to run the country and revealed he would mount a campaign in the event of a leadership race because ‘it’s up to all of us to put ourselves forward’.
Centrist Tories are reportedly backing the ex-soldier to succeed Mr Johnson as the PM faces the threat of an imminent no-confidence vote while awaiting the results of Sue Gray’s report into the ‘Partygate’ drama gripping Westminster.
Some backbenchers believe that Mr Tugendhat, a foreign policy hawk who wants Britain to be much tougher on China and Russia and has criticised the Government’s handling of the Afghanistan crisis, represents the ‘best chance for a fresh start’.
Though he has been a Member of Parliament for seven years, he has no ministerial experience, having been denied any promotion by his longstanding foe Mr Johnson. And his support for the Remain campaign in the EU referendum could prove to be an obstacle between him and leadership of the Eurosceptic post-2016 Conservative Party.
However, he has worked in Whitehall as an adviser to General Sir David Richards, then Chief of the Defence Staff, and as an intelligence officer for the Foreign Office in Kabul.
In an interview with Times Radio, the MP for Tonbridge and Malling said: ‘I think I’m making it pretty clear that I think that it’s up to all of us to put ourselves forward. And it’s up to the electorate, in the first case parliamentary colleagues, and in the second case the party, to choose.’
He said he had not been ‘canvassing support’, but ‘of course you should have a go’, adding: ‘I think it’s a position of absolute integrity to say that of course you should offer yourself to the electorate if you think you can do it.
‘Of course you should talk to colleagues and see if you can get a group together, and if you can get a group together you should go for it.’
Army veteran Tom Tugendhat has become the first Tory MP to announce that he wants to succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister
The Conservative chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee said ‘it would be a huge privilege’ to run the country and revealed he would mount a campaign in the event of a leadership race because ‘it’s up to all of us to put ourselves forward’
Centrist Tories are reportedly backing the ex-soldier to succeed Mr Johnson as the PM faces the threat of an imminent no-confidence vote while awaiting the results of Sue Gray’s report into the ‘Partygate’ drama gripping Westminster
Who is Tom Tugendhat, the former soldier tipped as a potential successor to Boris Johnson?
Tom Tugendhat is a former soldier who as a Tory MP has become one of the most vocal critics of the Government.
The 48-year-old, who is the son of a high court judge and the nephew of a Tory peer, was first elected as the MP for Tonbridge and Malling in 2015 after a lengthy career in the Armed Forces.
The married father-of-two served in both Iraq and Afghanistan before leaving the military in July 2013.
He was a member of the Territorial Army when the Iraq War broke out in 2003 and he was mobilised as an Arabic-speaking intelligence officer to serve with the Royal Marines.
He went into Iraq as part of Operation TELIC – the initial invasion.
After the war he returned to a job in the City of London but then went back to Iraq to help with the economic reconstruction of the country.
In 2006 the Foreign Office then asked Mr Tugendhat to go to Afghanistan to help grow its national security council. The Tory MP can speak Arabic, Dari and French.
He then served as an adviser to one of the council members when they became governor of Helmand Province, setting up the ‘first non-warlord administration in Helmand since the Soviet invasion’.
Mr Tugendhat spent two years in total in Afghanistan before returning to the UK, but his former Royal Marines unit then deployed to Helmand and he agreed to go back with them.
He served operationally for two more years before coming off his final patrol in July 2009. He received an MBE in recognition of his service.
Mr Tugendhat then served as military assistant and principal adviser to the chief of the defence staff before entering Parliament in 2015. He is still a reserve officer.
The Tory MP was applauded in the House of Commons during a debate on the UK’s exit from Afghanistan in August 2021 as he detailed his experience in the country.
He told a silent chamber: ‘Like many veterans, this last week has seen me struggle through anger, grief and rage—through the feeling of abandonment of not just a country, but the sacrifice that my friends made.
‘I have been to funerals from Poole to Dunblane. I have watched good men go into the earth, taking with them a part of me and a part of all of us. This week has torn open some of those wounds, has left them raw and left us all hurting.’
As well as criticising the Government over the exit from Afghanistan, Mr Tugendhat has also been vocal in urging ministers to take a tougher approach to dealing with China over human rights abuses.
In Parliament, Mr Tugendhat has never served as a minister but he has been the chairman of the powerful Foreign Affairs Select Committee since 2017.
He grew up in London and in Kent before studying theology at Bristol University.
He later studied for a master’s degree in Islamics at Cambridge University and after graduating he worked as a journalist in Beirut. He returned to the UK and worked as a management consultant before working in the City. That was when he joined the Territorial Army.
Mr Tugendhat’s father is Sir Michael Tugendhat who is a retired High Court judge. His uncle, Lord Christopher Tugendhat, is a former Conservative MP.
Mr Tugendhat’s wife, Anissia Morel, is a French supreme court judge.
On whether he would still like to be PM, after expressing an interest in the past, Mr Tugendhat said: ‘It would be a huge privilege. It’s one of those questions that I know many people ask and some people, some of my colleagues are coy about and I don’t understand why.
‘I don’t think you should be embarrassed to want to serve your country. I was very proud to serve my country in the armed forces and I got to the highest rank I could so that I could have the best effect that I could. And I was very proud to serve as a diplomat around the world.’
In the wide-ranging interview, which will be broadcast tomorrow, Mr Tugendhat called Brexit and the pandemic ‘two revolutionary moments in the last five years to transform Britain’.
‘This is a massive opportunity for the United Kingdom. We are so well placed for a fantastic future, and we need to grab it,’ the ex-soldier insisted.
He also mounted a withering attack on the EU’s ‘deeply problematic’ response to Ukraine, calling Germany’s capital Berlin a city ‘where Russian money has bought far too much influence’.
Mr Tugendhat, who is married with two children, has previously made clear that he would fancy a tilt at the top job, saying in 2017 that it would be ‘great to be PM’.
He is viewed in Westminster as a potential leadership candidate who centrist and moderate Tory MPs could swing in behind.
A former Cabinet minister told The Guardian: ‘Tom would be my first choice. I think a lot of people think he would be the best chance for a fresh start with someone who has a lot of relevant experience and deep thinking.’
One senior Conservative MP told the newspaper it would be ‘a relief, by all accounts, to have someone like that in the job’.
A serving minister backed Mr Tugendhat to run for the leadership but warned Tory MPs would likely need to be persuaded that he has domestic policy ideas.
They said he would ‘need to convince other colleagues he’s got any sort of domestic policy ideas whatsoever’ because MPs already know ‘what he thinks about China or Afghanistan’.
Mr Tugendhat and Mr Johnson have a somewhat strained relationship, with the pair having repeatedly clashed during select committee hearings.
Mr Tugendhat has been the MP for Tonbridge and Malling in Kent since 2015, joining Parliament after a long military career which saw him serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He was asked in 2017 if he wanted to be PM and he replied: ‘Of course. I bought a ticket so why wouldn’t I want to win the lottery?’.
In a separate interview published in October 2017, he said: ‘Would it be great to be PM? Yep, it would be. Would it be great to be Foreign Secretary? Fantastic.
‘Would it be great to be Defence Secretary? Wonderful. Would it be great to be a minister of any kind? Yes, because all of those opportunities to serve are very much winning a lottery in what is frankly a fantastic opportunity to serve our country in a different way.’
Mr Tugendhat has become one of the most vocal critics of the Government during his time in Parliament, particularly on the issues of China and Afghanistan.
He repeatedly blasted the Government’s handling of the UK’s exit from Kabul last year. In October 2021 he slammed senior civil servants and ministers for going on holiday during the Afghanistan crisis. In August, he also turned his fire on President Biden as he said of the exit: ‘This is what defeat looks like.’
He was applauded in the same month in the House of Commons after delivering an emotive speech in which he recalled his own experiences in the country.
He said at the time that he had struggled through ‘anger, grief and rage’ over the withdrawal, telling a silent chamber: ‘Like many veterans, this last week has seen me struggle through anger, grief and rage – through the feeling of abandonment of not just a country, but the sacrifice that my friends made.
‘I have been to funerals from Poole to Dunblane. I have watched good men go into the earth, taking with them a part of me and a part of all of us.
‘This week has torn open some of those wounds, has left them raw and left us all hurting.’
Mr Tugendhat has repeatedly urged the UK Government to take a tougher stance on Beijing over human rights abuses.
He co-founded the China Research Group of MPs in April 2020 to ‘promote debate and fresh thinking about how Britain should respond to the rise of China’.
He was one of nine UK individuals to be hit with personal sanctions by China last year as the regime hit back over criticism.
He and his committee had repeatedly called on the Government to boycott the Winter Olympics in Beijing which are due to be held in February this year.
The UK announced a diplomatic boycott of the games in December last year after months of mounting pressure.
Some backbenchers believe that Mr Tugendhat, a foreign policy hawk who wants Britain to be much tougher on China and Russia and has criticised the Government’s handling of the Afghanistan crisis last year, represents the ‘best chance for a fresh start’
As questions persist over the future of his premiership, it is understood Mr Johnson will ‘ramp up deterrence to avoid bloodshed’ between Russia and Ukraine with a visit to the region in the coming days amid rising tensions.
The Prime Minister will also speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin over the phone.
The publication of the long-awaited Gray report into alleged lockdown-busting parties was thrown into disarray on Tuesday when Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, who had long resisted calls to investigate, announced her officers had opened a criminal inquiry.
Scotland Yard confirmed last night that it had received the material requested from the Cabinet Office to support its investigation.
The force said officers would examine this ‘without fear or favour’ to establish whether any rules were broken.
The Met had been criticised by legal experts and Tory MPs for urging Ms Gray to limit the publication of her investigation into allegations of lockdown-breaking parties at No 10, but the force insisted it had not delayed the report.
Commander Catherine Roper, who leads the Met’s Central Specialist Crime Command, said the timing of the document’s release was a matter for the Cabinet Office.
It is understood that Mr Johnson could receive a copy over the weekend, or in the coming week, rather than in weeks or months. But it is understood it will comply with any police requests, meaning certain details could be excluded.
Downing Street declined to comment on the Met statement on Friday. The Cabinet Office did not offer further comment on when the document would be published.
Source: Daily Mail