Boris Johnson ally denies 'dark arts' after Jeremy Hunt voted into final two to become Prime Minister

File photo dated 24/08/12 of the then Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport Jeremy Hunt and the then Mayor of London Boris Johnson, who will go head to head in the Conservative party leadership race.
Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson are battling it out to be the next PM (PA Images)

A supporter of Boris Johnson denied his team rigged the vote so Jeremy Hunt joined him in the final two in the race to be Prime Minister.

MP Johnny Mercer denied any ‘dark arts’ were deployed to stop Michael Gove getting through the contest.

Mr Mercer told the Today Programme: :I’m pretty close to Mr Johnson and the operation and the campaign, and I just haven’t seen it – I haven’t seen it going on, I’m not convinced it’s possible.”

Admitting some MPs may have “voted for different people at different times”, he added: “I don’t think there’s some sort of underhand operation and people like Mel Stride, who ran Michael’s operation, he has accepted that as well.

“It’s a great story for the media, of course, as a sort of continuation of the drama from years ago, but in reality I don’t think it exists.”

File photo dated 01/06/15 of Conservative MP Johnny Mercer, who has campaigned to protect veterans from repeated investigations into historical allegations, described a memorandum published by The Sunday Telegraph as a "sucker punch", saying he found the comments "genuinely appalling".
Boris Johnson support Johnny Mercer denied Boris Johnson supporters rigged the vote to block Michael Gove from the final two (PA Images)

Yesterday Tory MPs voted for Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt to battle it out in the race to be Britain’s next Prime Minister.

Michael Gove was eliminated from the competition by a margin of just two votes after Tory MPs held their fifth ballot to chose the party’s next leader on Tuesday afternoon.

After the result was announced, rumours began to circulate that Mr Johnson’s team ‘lent’ votes to Mr Hunt as they viewed him as an easier opponent in the final two.

It followed a day of speculation in Westminster that Mr Johnson’s camp would attempt to engineer a way to prevent Mr Gove making the final pair.

Tory former minister Greg Hands, a supporter of Jeremy Hunt, dismissed suggestions.

He told Sky News: "I don't agree with that. I've not seen any evidence, it's a secret ballot obviously, but I've not seen anything.

"I talked to a lot of MPs... and I've seen no evidence of that. I've seen this as a contest squarely and fairly fought."

Britain's Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary and Conservative leadership contender Michael Gove leaves his home in London on June 20, 2019. - Conservative MPs will decide on June 20 who will join Boris Johnson in the final two battling become Britain's next prime minister, with three contenders jostling for the second spot. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP)        (Photo credit should read TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Michael Gove was knocked out of the contest to become PM (Photo credit should read TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Some 160 MPs voted for Mr Johnson. Mr Hunt received 77 votes and Mr Gove was knocked out of the contest after receiving the fewest with 75.

The remaining pair will now take part in a series of hustings around the country in the next few weeks before Conservative Party members vote for the next leader, who will automatically become PM.

The next Prime Minister will be installed in the week beginning 22 July.

Andrew Gwynne MP, Labour's national campaign coordinator, said on Twitter: "What a choice: the man who broke the NHS or the man who wants to sell it to Donald Trump.

"A handful of unrepresentative Conservative members should not be choosing our next prime minister. People should decide through a general election."

Mr Johnson tweeted to thank his supporters after charging to victory.

Mr Johnson is currently the runaway favourite to become Prime Minister.

He is the most popular candidate with Conservative Party members, with considerably more saying he would make a better Prime Minister than Jeremy Hunt.



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After he was eliminated, Michael Gove said on Twitter: “Naturally disappointed but so proud of the campaign we ran. Huge thanks to my brilliant campaign team.

“It’s been an honour to be able to set out a vision for the future of our great country. Many congratulations to Boris and Jeremy!”