Boris Johnson was elected as the Conservative Party leader and Britain’s new Prime Minister, his party announced on Tuesday (July 22).
Johnson, the former foreign secretary, secured 92,153 votes against 46,656 of his rival Jeremy Hunt in the battle for 10 Downing Street, which was triggered last month when a Brexit-battered Theresa May announced her resignation amid a mounting rebellion from within the party.
The 55-year-old Brexit hardliner was the front-runner in the race ever since a group of Tory MPs put their hat in the ring for the first phase of the leadership election within the Conservative parliamentary party.
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Thank you all for the incredible honour you have done me. The time for campaigning is over and the time for work begins to unite our country and party, deliver Brexit and defeat Corbyn. I will work flat out to repay your confidence
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) July 23, 2019
Addressing the Tory party members at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London, near the Houses of Parliament, soon after the results were declared, Johnson said, “No one person or party has the monopoly of wisdom. Time and again it is to us [Conservative Party] that people have turned. At this pivotal point in history… I know that we will do it. The mantra is deliver Brexit, unite the country and defeat (Labour leader) Jeremy Corbyn. I will work flat out to repay your confidence. The work begins now.”
The flambouyant politician, however, is not set to take formal charge until Wednesday, once May has been driven up to Buckingham Palace to tender her resignation to Queen Elizabeth II. The new Prime Minister is expected to spend some time finalising his key Cabinet and ministerial posts soon after the results. A number of Brexiteers, including Indian-origin MPs Priti Patel and Rishi Sunak – both supporters of Johnson, are expected to be part of his new team.
“With Boris Johnson leading the Conservative Party and as Prime Minister, the UK, will have a leader who believes in Britain, will implement a new vision for the future of the country and a roadmap to move forward and thrive as a self-governing nation that re-establishes our ties with our friends and allies around the world such as India,” said Patel, in reference to the leadership contest results.
Both Johnson and Hunt had made special interventions to reach out to the party’s Indian diaspora base, with Hunt pledging to engage with India to “negotiate a free trade agreement” post-Brexit and Johnson promising a “new and improved” trading relationship with India if he is elected.
The former Mayor of London, who has in the past described himself as a “son-in-law of India” by virtue of his now estranged wife Marina Wheeler’s Indian mother, also played up a strong “personal relationship with Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi”.
“When I was with Prime Minister Modi, I stressed that the UK and India are two modern democracies who should work closely together to promote trade and prosperity, improve global security and tackle the challenges our countries face,” Johnson wrote in an open letter addressed to the Indian diaspora Tory membership base earlier this month.
“If I am elected Conservative Party Leader and Prime Minister, I will work closely with our friends in the Indian Government, business and society to deliver a truly special UK-India relationship,” he said.
The vote to choose between the two final candidates with the most backing went head-to-head before the wider Conservative Party membership up and down the country. The Tory membership base, estimated to be around 160,000, had until Monday night to get their postal ballots in to the party’s influential 1922 Committee – in charge of the poll process.
Jeremy Hunt, 52, had pegged himself as the underdog in the race who, as an entrepreneur himself, had the negotiating skills required to lead the Tories through the tough phase ahead of meeting the October 31 deadline for Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU).
The two contenders clashed in a number of hustings around the UK, with Johnson’s refusal to take the prospect of a chaotic no-deal Brexit off the table exposing the divisions within the Tory party even further.