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Tory leadership hopefuls were today taking stock after Boris Johnson survived a no confidence vote among Conservative MPs.
Those touted as possible successors to the Prime Minister from within Cabinet – such as Liz Truss, Rishi Sunak and Ben Wallace – put on a show of unity with Mr Johnson this morning as they gathered in Number 10.
Hotly-tipped Penny Mordaunt, who set tongues wagging in Westminster yesterday with her less than fulsome support for Mr Johnson, also focussed on her day job as a trade minister as she held talks with US officials.
But, outside of Government, an ally of leading rebel Jeremy Hunt warned the PM his leadership strife was ‘not over’ as they warned of ‘very choppy waters ahead’
They also suggested the question of who will lead the Conservatives into the next general election is still not settled.
Boris Johnson, sat next to Rishi Sunak, today ordered his senior ministers to ‘get on with the job’ following yesterday’s high-drama at Westminster
Ben Wallace (bottom right) sat next to Liz Truss – with the pair also considered as possible successors to the PM
At a Cabinet meeting this morning, the PM ordered his senior ministers to ‘get on with the job’ following yesterday’s high-drama at Westminster.
Ms Truss, Mr Sunak and Mr Wallace were in dutiful attendance at the meeting as they were thanked for their efforts in supporting Mr Johnson.
Had the PM been toppled last night, the Foreign Secretary, Chancellor and Defence Secretary would all have been heavily backed as possible successors.
Despite Mr Johnson expressing hopes of being able to ‘draw a line’ under the intense speculation about his future, there was little sign of his opponents backing down.
The PM is now facing a renewed battle with Mr Hunt, who he defeated to win the Tory leadership in 2019, after the former health secretary came out against the Mr Johnson yesterday.
Ludlow MP Philip Dunne, who managed Mr Hunt’s leadership campaign in 2019, this morning revealed he had joined the ex-Cabinet minister in voting against Mr Johnson last night.
He told BBC Shropshire that Mr Johnson had ‘just’ won the confidence vote – by 211-148 votes – as he put the PM on notice that his position in Downing Street was still not secure.
The PM is now facing a renewed battle with long-time rival and former health secretary Jeremy Hunt
The PM this morning vowed to ‘get on with the job’ as he looks to fend off rebels who want him ousted from Number 10. But there was little sign of his opponents backing down
Ludlow MP Philip Dunne, an ally of Mr Hunt, warned of ‘very choppy waters ahead’ and suggested the question of who will lead the Conservatives into the next general election is still not settled
Explaining his reasons for voting against Mr Johnson, he said: ‘I took the view that it would be better to try to provide the opportunity for integrity, for a new vision for the party, for a new degree of competence at the heart of Government.
‘I felt that’s what we should have had an opportunity to create.
‘It’s not going to happen for now but we’ll have to see what happens in the coming weeks and months; I think this is not over.’
Mr Dunne listed upcoming by-elections in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton, a new Partygate investigation by the House of Commons’ Privileges Committee, the cost-of-living crisis and a Brexit row over Northern Ireland as upcoming challenges for the PM.
‘There’s some very choppy waters ahead,’ he added.
‘We do need to come together and we need to find a way to do that – whether that’s under the Prime Minister or somebody else.’
Trade minister Ms Mordaunt, the former defence secretary, was said to have been put on ‘resignation watch’ by Downing Street ahead of last night’s vote.
Although fears that she could quit Government in order to publicly oppose Mr Johnson proved unfounded, Ms Mordaunt prompted further questions about her political ambitions through the course of yesterday.
Firstly, she told a local newspaper in her Portsmouth constituency that she ‘didn’t choose this Prime Minister, I didn’t support him in the leadership contest’.
But Ms Mordaunt added that Mr Johnson ‘has always had my loyalty because I think that’s what you do when you have a democratic process – you select a leader and then you owe that person your loyalty’.
Ms Mordaunt then penned a Daily Express newspaper article to mark the 78th anniversary of D-Day, which many took to include veiled references to Mr Johnson’s position.
Referring to Allied Commander General Dwight Eisenhower, she wrote that ‘confidence and competence are easily confused, but they are not the same’, adding: ‘Confidence without competence is a dangerous combination, but Eisenhower also knew how to build a team.’
She continued: ‘Today is the day when we remember such leadership. It focused less on the leader and more on the ship.’
Mr Hunt’s public declaration that Tory MPs should vote for ‘change’ from Mr Johnson last night sparked furious blue-on-blue attacks.
The most vociferous came from the PM’s uber-loyalist Cabinet minister Nadine Dorries, who delivered a withering verdict on Mr Hunt’s time in Government and claimed he had been ‘wrong about almost everything’ from Brexit to Covid.
Hotly-tipped Penny Mordaunt, who set tongues wagging in Westminster yesterday with her less than fulsome support for Mr Johnson, also focussed on her day job as a trade minister as she held talks with US officials
Mr Hunt’s public declaration against Mr Johnson sparked a furious riposte from the PM’s uber-loyalist Cabinet minister Nadine Dorries
Ex-minister Jesse Norman this morning hit back at criticism of his ministerial record from Jacob Rees-Mogg
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab this morning issued a plea for unity among warring Tory MPs, telling Sky News: ‘I like and respect both Nadine and Jeremy Hunt – he’s one of my Surrey neighbours – and we will need all of the energies of all of our MPs if we’re going to deliver for the people.
‘So I think it’s time to come together.’
But there was little sign of the tensions between Conservative MPs easing.
Former energy minister Jesse Norman, who penned an excoriating letter to the PM yesterday, hit back at criticism of his ministerial record by Johnson loyalist Jacob Rees-Mogg.
After Mr Norman’s move against the PM, Mr Rees-Mogg suggested he had a ‘bone to pick’ with Mr Johnson, adding: ‘Jesse points out that he was energy minister – unfortunately, no proper energy plan was developed so Mr Norman must take responsibility for that. He doesn’t do so in his letter.’
But, in response to the Cabinet minister’s comments, Mr Norman posted on Twitter today: ‘Just for the record, the direct opposite is true. While I was at BEIS the Government massively expanded offshore wind and renewables, commissioned Hinkley Point C and put in place the UK Industrial Strategy.’