Business Sec refuses to rule himself out of Tory leadership race if PM loses vote

6 June 2022, 17:54

Eddie Mair grills Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng as Boris Johnson fights for survival

By Megan Hinton

Kwasi Kwarteng has refused to rule himself out of a leadership contest if Boris Johnson loses a confidence vote on Monday evening.

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The Business Secretary, who said he will back the Prime Minister, revealed he will "wait to see what the result is" before he rules himself "out or in" of the potential leadership contest.

Speaking to LBC's Eddie Mair, the Minister said: "I never rule myself out or in anything. I just wait to see what the result is, and I am pretty sure there will not be a vacancy and Boris Johnson will win and serve out the rest of this parliament as a successful Prime Minister.

When grilled about the content of Tory MP's public letters of no confidence, the business Minister said he was "disappointed" that his colleagues made the decision to publish their letters, adding: "Look I have good relations with as many Conservative MP’s as I can, I’m not someone who seeks to make enemies, but we do have political disagreements."

Mr Kwarteng also refused to guess the outcome of the vote explaining: "I think he will win, and I hope he will win convincingly but I can’t possibly guess as to what the numbers will be."

When asked whether or not the possibility of a one vote majority would be enough, the Business Secretary replied: "A win is a win."

Read more: Boris in fiery clash with rebel Tories ahead of crunch leadership vote

Ahead on Monday night's vote, dozens of Conservative MPs and ministers issued public declarations of support for Boris Johnson.

In what appeared to be a co-ordinated show of support, Cabinet ministers - including potential leadership contenders Liz Truss, Rishi Sunak and Ben Wallace - declared their backing for Mr Johnson on social media.

Backbench Tories also joined in, with some tweeting a document drawn up by the Prime Minister's allies showing his achievements and setting out reasons to keep him in place.

Along with the social media comments, a concerted operation was launched to ensure allies of the Prime Minister were in front of broadcast cameras.

By mid-morning the public declarations of support had eclipsed the 54 MPs required to trigger the confidence vote.

Foreign Secretary Ms Truss said: "The Prime Minister has my 100% backing in today's vote and I strongly encourage colleagues to support him."

Mr Sunak, the Chancellor, said: "From the vaccine rollout to our response to Russian aggression, the PM has shown the strong leadership our country needs."

Defence Secretary Mr Wallace said: "In 2019 Boris won with a majority of 80. He has delivered victories in seats we have never held before.

"On Covid, on Ukraine he has helped deliver a world leading response. He has my full confidence."

Read more: Tory infighting erupts as Nadine Dorries attacks 'duplicitous' Jeremy Hunt

'I'll be voting against the Prime Minister'

The Prime Minister told MPs on the 1922 Committee today, "I will lead you to victory again", warning against descending into a "pointless fratricidal debate" about the future of the Conservative Party.

He said the Tories should "refuse to gratify our opponents by turning in on ourselves".

A senior party source said the Prime Minister received a big cheer when he said they should not "dance to the tune of the media".

He was also expected to warn Tory MPs about the dangers of an "utter disaster" if Labour took office, in alliance with the SNP, if the Conservatives "descend into some pointless fratricidal debate about the future of our party".

Sir Keir Starmer has said Conservative MPs must "show some leadership" and vote against Boris Johnson.

Speaking to LBC Radio, the Labour leader said: "I think they have got to show some leadership and vote against the Prime Minister.

"He has lost, I think, the trust of the country - that is pretty clear from the evidence that I have seen."

Referring to Tory MP Jesse Norman's statement on Monday morning, speaking out against Mr Johnson, Sir Keir added: "He's also got no plan for the country and I think those two things mean that it's in the national interest that he goes now."

The Opposition leader said many people in his party have said it is "very good" for them if Mr Johnson stays because he is "so damaged".

"But looking at the national interest, I think Tory MPs have got to step up, show leadership and get rid of him," he said.