The conservative party leadership contest is heating up with the final result due next month. The contenders, foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt and gadfly MP Boris Johnson are fighting hard to secure the top job in the country.
The contest comes at a crucial national moment with the UK set to exit the European Union at the end of October.
Boris Johnson entered the second and final stage of the contest as the clear favourite, having consistently secured the largest vote of the conservative parliamentary party.
Whilst Johnson is still the clear favourite, nonetheless his victory is not being taken for granted. This is especially the case as the conservative party establishment appears to be throwing its weight behind Jeremy Hunt.
Loved and derided in equal measure, Johnson’s idiosyncratic approach to politics, coupled with his eccentric personality, has long kept the nation entertained. Johnson’s “stardust” quality was extensively marketed by his supporters so as to pave the way for his ascent to the leadership.
It was even suggested by some sections of the British press that Johnson’s supporters would utilise his charisma in order to manage the difficult months ahead (in the run up to the Brexit deadline) whilst stripping him of the powers to manage day to day affairs.
Apparently even Johnson’s supporters felt that his gaffe-prone approach to politics might cause huge embarrassment. But this was before it became clear that the Tory party establishment has begun to conspire against Johnson in earnest.
First there is the issue of the domestic “incident” involving Johnson’s partner which appears to have been blown out of proportion. Additionally searching questions are being asked about Johnson’s past and the nature and extent of his relationships with some senior Tory officials suggesting that Johnson may become a “security” risk if he was to become prime minister.
Whilst the ultimate decision on who becomes the next prime minister rests with the Tory party’s rank and file, it is clear that the major power centres of the conservative party are pushing hard to get Hunt selected by demonising Johnson.
At minimum this reflects profound fears at the top of the conservative party about the risks and dangers ahead, especially as the prospect of a “no deal” Brexit grows by the day.
Johnson has indicated he can live with a no-deal Brexit whilst Hunt is opposed to severing all ties to the EU.