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Boris Johnsons rivals are still plotting, but there is no obvious frontrunner to replace him

inews.co.uk

A week after its dire performance at the local elections, the Conservative Party is in an odd place.

The leadership crisis Boris Johnson faced in February has temporarily subsided due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but many Tory MPs remain unhappy with him as Prime Minister.

The rush of no confidence letters in the PM from earlier this year has slowed to a trickle – but a handful have been submitted quietly in recent days, i understands, since the loss of more than 400 Tory councillors at the elections.

Yet nobody really wants a leadership contest now, while Westminster awaits the Sue Gray report and while the war in Ukraine continues to rage.

This eerie calm has allowed potential successors to Mr Johnson to show a bit of leg – insisting, like Jeremy Hunt has done, they do not think a change of leader is right during an international crisis, but making Tory MPs aware that they are interested.

Mr Hunt is not in the Cabinet so owes no strict loyalty to the PM, so can speak more freely than others.

But Liz Truss and Ben Wallace, who have emerged as stronger contenders now that Rishi Sunak’s stock has fallen over his family’s tax affairs and his Partygate fine, are able to make strong speeches on the war and the UK’s role in the world, while remaining loyal to Mr Johnson.

Jeremy Hunt has been criticised for jockeying to succeed Boris Johnson as Tory leader at a time of internal party turmoil over the cost of living crisis and disastrous local election results.

The former Foreign Secretary gave an interview in which he warned the Conservatives risk losing the next election if it made voters choose between a well-funded NHS and tax cuts.

He also did not rule out making a stand for leader in future – although he repeated his claim that the war in Ukraine meant now is not the right time for a change.

But a minister told i the response among Tory grassroots to Mr Hunt’s latest intervention was “brutal”, adding: “People are seeing it as not helping and self-serving.”

Conservative members and activists are reeling from last week’s local elections, in which the party lost more than 400 council seats.

In an interview with Times Radio, Mr Hunt warned the Conservatives have a “big mountain to climb” to win another term, and that the “setbacks” the party suffered in the local elections were not just “mid-term blues” but reflected the cost-of-living crisis.

“Underneath it, I think the reason that we got such a kicking was economic concerns that many families had,” he said.

“We are faced with a situation now where we have very, very low underlying growth in the economy.

“To win an election, the Conservative Party has to promise a well-funded NHS and the prospect of tax cuts. If we make people choose between one or the other, we’re not going to win the election.”

He told The Times Magazine it was not the “right time” for a leadership change due to the war in Ukraine.

“But I would be very open with you that I don’t rule out a return in the future,” he added.

Read more – inews.co.uk

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