Wednesday 21 August 2019

Delight and dismay as Boris Johnson becomes Tory leader

Opinion was mixed as politicians at home and abroad responded to Mr Johnson’s ascension.

Boris Johnson leaves Conservative party HQ in Westminster, London, after it was announced that he had won the leadership ballot and will become the next Prime Minister. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Boris Johnson leaves Conservative party HQ in Westminster, London, after it was announced that he had won the leadership ballot and will become the next Prime Minister. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

By Edd Dracott, PA

As Boris Johnson secured victory in the Tory leadership race, ensuring his place as the country’s next prime minister, reaction from the political world veered between delight, dismay and derision.

Defeated Tory leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt led a host of his fellow Conservatives in congratulating Mr Johnson after a “well fought” campaign.

“You’ll be a great PM for our country at this critical moment,” he tweeted.

Many leading Tories – including a number who may now be hoping for key cabinet positions – repeated calls for the party to unite and ensure the UK’s departure from the EU.

Among them were other former leadership contenders, including Matt Hancock, who tweeted: “Huge congrats to Boris Johnson on winning the Conservative leadership. Time for us to get behind him to deliver Brexit, unite the country — and then get on to all the other things that matter to people across the UK.”

Sajid Javid offered similar sentiments, posting: “Congratulations @BorisJohnson on a resounding victory! Now let’s come together as a party under his superb leadership, so we can deliver Brexit, unite our great country and defeat Corbyn.”

However, a number of opponents of Mr Johnson’s threat of a possible no-deal Brexit were more muted in their responses, with International Development Secretary Rory Stewart and Justice Secretary David Gauke both indicating their plans to return to the backbenches.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Philip Hammond – who has also stated that he will resign from his post – tweeted: “Congratulations @BorisJohnson! You have said very clearly that you are determined to do a deal with Brussels – and you will have my wholehearted support in doing so. Good luck!”

Some world leaders offered congratulations to Mr Johnson, including Australia’s Scott Morrison and US President Donald Trump – who proclaimed “he will be great!”.

A man who could play a key role in Mr Johnson’s campaign pledge, EU Commission Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, said he looks forward to “working constructively” with Boris Johnson to “achieve an orderly Brexit”.

Mr Barnier added: “We are ready also to rework the agreed Declaration on a new partnership in line with #EUCO guidelines.”

And Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit co-ordinator, announced an extraordinary meeting would be held with Mr Barnier in response to Mr Johnson’s election.

“The meeting will be followed by an official communication,” he tweeted.

“Looking forward to defending the interest of all Europeans.”

Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan also congratulated the Uxbridge and South Ruislip MP, who once called him a “wankerer” in a satirical limerick which rhymed the invented word with the Turkish capital of Ankara and described him having sex with a goat.

“I believe that Turkey-United Kingdom relations will develop further in this new period,” Mr Erdogan said.

Back home, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn warned Mr Johnson’s interest in a no-deal Brexit and relationship with Mr Trump would harm the the UK.

He also condemned the “unrepresentative” nature of Mr Johnson’s election by the members of the Tory party.

“Johnson’s No Deal Brexit would mean job cuts, higher prices in the shops, and risk our NHS being sold off to US corporations in a sweetheart deal with Donald Trump,” he tweeted.

“The people of our country should decide who becomes the Prime Minister in a General Election.”

Mr Corbyn’s sentiment was echoed by newly-elected Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson.

“Britain deserves better than Boris Johnson,” she tweeted.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage wished Mr Johnson well, praising his “do or die pledge to deliver Brexit on October 31st”.

But he outlined the threat faced by Mr Johnson if he fails to achieve his target, asking: “Does he have the courage to deliver?”

Nicola Sturgeon, SNP leader and First Minister of Scotland, congratulated Mr Johnson on his election but reaffirmed that preparations would be made for a second Scottish independence referendum.

“I will continue to advance the preparations to give Scotland the right to choose our own future through independence, rather than having a future that we don’t want imposed on us by Boris Johnson and the Tories,” she tweeted.

“That is now more important than ever.”

Mick Cash, leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union said: “It makes no difference to RMT what right wing Tory is running transport.

“Our fight for safety, Jobs, pay, decent working conditions and public ownership goes on and it will be business as usual as far as we are concerned.”

PA Media

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