Tory Backbencher Hints Intention to Contest for Leadership If Johnson Loses in a Confidence Vote

By Lily Zhou
Lily Zhou
Lily Zhou
Lily Zhou is an Irish-based reporter focusing on UK news. Lily first joined the Chinese edition of The Epoch Times before turning her focus on the UK in 2020.
January 29, 2022Updated: January 29, 2022

A British Conservative backbencher who was reportedly floated as a potential candidate to replace Prime Minister Boris Johnson has indicated on Saturday that he’s willing to run if a leadership contest is triggered.

Tom Tugendhat, a former soldier who chairs Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said it would be a “huge privilege” to become prime minister and that everyone should join the race if they think they can do it.

Several Conservative MPs have publicly called on Johnson to resign over a series of allegations of lockdown-breaching social gatherings in Downing Street during the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic and the way Johnson handled the allegations, while others are waiting for the result of an internal inquiry into the accusations led by senior civil servant Sue Gray.

With the imminent publishing of Gray’s report, there’s a significant chance that a vote of no confidence may take place, potentially triggering a Conservative leadership contest.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss have been considered by many as obvious choices of Johnson’s successor, given the two ministers’ steady popularity. The latter has said she’s “100 percent” behind Johnson while Sunak kept his distance, saying Johnson was “right to apologise” while offering ambiguous support for the prime minister’s “request for patience while Sue Gray carries out her inquiry.”

The Guardian on Friday reported that a number of Conservative MPs would support Tugendhat to run for the job, saying the outsider would offer “the best chance for a fresh start,” although the vocal China hawk and critic of the government’s handling of Afghan evacuation may “need to convince other colleagues he’s got any sort of domestic policy ideas whatsoever.” 

Speaking to Times Radio on Saturday, Tugendhat said everyone eligible should “go for it.”

“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,” the MP for Tonbridge and Malling told the “T&G” programme.

“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.”

The 48-year-old father of two said he doesn’t know if he can “get the first group together” at the moment because he hasn’t been canvassing support.

“But if you could, of course, you should have a go,” he said.

Son of high court judge Sir Michael Tugendhat, nephew of Conservative peer Christopher Tugendhat, and son-in-law of a French diplomat, Tugendhat said it “would be a huge privilege” to become the prime minister and he doesn’t understand why his colleagues are “coy” about it.

“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,” he said.

This is not the first time Tugendhat openly expressed his ambition. In 2017, two years after the former soldier became an MP, Tugendhat told Politics Home that he would “serve wherever it is,” adding it would be “a fantastic opportunity to serve our country” to be the prime minister or “a minister of any kind.”