Boris Johnson to ‘love bomb’ critics in bid to unite Tories
A number of ministers are planning to resign when new Conservative leader becomes PM
Boris Johnson has promised to unite the Conservative Party by “love bombing” his internal critics following his decisive victory over Jeremy Hunt in the leadership contest. Mr Johnson will become British prime minister on Wednesday afternoon after winning almost two-thirds of the votes of party members.
He received a rapturous welcome from backbenchers on Tuesday afternoon with loud and sustained banging of desks when he addressed the party’s 1922 Committee. But a number of ministers are expected to resign on Wednesday before Mr Johnson enters Downing Street, in a sign of the strength of opposition to his promise to take Britain out of the European Union on October 31st with or without a deal.
“Today at this political moment in our history we again have to reconcile two sets of instincts, two noble sets of instincts, between the deep desire of friendship and free trade and mutual support in security and defence between Britain and our European partners and the simultaneous desire, equally deep and heartfelt, for democratic self-government in this country,” he said.
Mr Johnson received 92,153 votes, compared with foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt’s 46,656 – a 66 per cent to 34 per cent victory.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar congratulated Mr Johnson on his election, adding that he was looking forward to “an early engagement” on Brexit, Northern Ireland and bilateral relations.
DUP leader Arlene Foster spoke to Mr Johnson following the leadership announcement and she confirmed that her party’s confidence and supply agreement with the Conservatives remained in place.
“That agreement included a review between each parliamentary session. This will take place over the coming weeks and will explore the policy priorities of both parties for the next parliamentary session,” she said.
EU leaders and senior officials also congratulated Mr Johnson but chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier made clear that the EU-UK withdrawal agreement, including the Northern Ireland backstop, was not open for renegotiation.
“We look forward to working constructively with PM Johnson when he takes office, to facilitate the ratification of the withdrawal agreement and achieve an orderly Brexit. We are ready also to rework the agreed declaration on a new partnership,” he said.
Junior education minister Anne Milton resigned before Mr Johnson was confirmed as leader and other ministers have said they will step down before he enters Downing Street. Mr Johnson has chosen as chief whip Mark Spencer, an MP who backed Remain in the 2016 referendum but is popular among all wings of the party.
Theresa May will take prime minister’s questions at noon and make a farewell statement outside 10 Downing Street before driving to Buckingham Palace to resign. Mr Johnson is expected to return from the palace to Downing Street around 4pm and to appoint the senior members of his cabinet later in the evening.