Jeremy Hunt rules out Tory leadership bid

Jeremy Hunt has ruled himself out of the race to replace Rishi Sunak as Tory leader after the crushing election defeat to Labour.

It comes as the jostling begins to lead the Conservatives in opposition, although expected contender Suella Braverman on Saturday said there were “no announcements”.

After leading the Conservatives to their worst general election result, Mr Sunak said he would quit as party leader once arrangements were in place to choose his successor.

Meanwhile, former junior minister Stuart Andrew was announced as interim Tory chief whip after his predecessor Simon Hart lost his seat in Thursday’s rout.

It is understood that former chancellor Mr Hunt will not launch a bid.

He told GB News the “time has passed”.

He is a two-time former leadership hopeful, having unsuccessfully stood against Boris Johnson in 2019 when Theresa May resigned, and again in 2022 after Mr Johnson’s downfall.

Mr Hunt, who narrowly held off a Liberal Democrat challenge in Godalming and Ash, said in his victory speech that the Conservatives’ “crushing” defeat was a “bitter pill to swallow” for the party.

His refusal to run may come as a disappointment to Tory centrists who want to prevent the party lurching to the right.

Ms Braverman is expected to throw her hat into the ring in what could be an acrimonious contest which could shape the party for years to come as right-wingers and more moderate Tories battle it out.

Jeremy Hunt with his wife, two daughters and son in front of the black door of Number 11 Downing Street
Jeremy Hunt with his wife, daughters and son as he departed No 11 on Friday (Lucy North/PA)

Asked whether she would be the next party leader, the former home secretary told broadcasters outside her home: “No announcements. We’ve just got to take our time, we’ve got to figure out what the situation is.”

She continued: “It’s been a really bad result. There’s no two ways about it. Hundreds of excellent Tory MPs have been kicked out of office.”

Ms Braverman was elected as MP in the redrawn constituency of Fareham and Waterlooville with a 6,000 majority.

The former cabinet minister is seen as a strong contender in the leadership contest after many potential rivals lost their seats in the Tory bloodbath.

After 649 of the 650 Commons seats had been declared, Labour had 412 seats and the Tories 121, the worst result in Conservative history.

Ms Braverman is on the right of the party and has suggested the Conservatives should welcome Reform UK leader Nigel Farage into the party.

She could be vying for the leadership with former home secretary James Cleverly; ex-business secretary Kemi Badenoch; Dame Priti Patel, who served as home secretary between July 2019 and September 2022; Robert Jenrick, who previously served as immigration minister; and ex-health secretary Victoria Atkins.

A graphic showing the lowest number of seats won by Conservatives at general elections, ranging from 121 in 2024 to 156 in 1906, 165 in 1997, 166 in 2001, 175 in 1832 and 198 in 2005
(PA Graphics)

Tory MPs usually vote to select the top two candidates to put forward as potential leaders, with the party membership choosing the ultimate winner, although the rules and timeline of the race would be set out by the backbench 1922 Committee.

Mr Sunak appointed Mr Andrew the party’s chief whip on Saturday as part of his duties overseeing the transition of the Tories into Opposition until a leadership election takes place, the Conservatives said.

Mr Andrew, a former deputy chief whip, warned the party must “now more than ever” unite to provide a “strong and effective” voice to hold Labour to account.

“I am delighted to have been appointed as Opposition chief whip,” he said.

“I know there will be much frustration within the party about the disappointing election results we saw this week. Our focus now more than ever must be to come together as a united party.

“We will be ready and willing to provide the strong and effective Opposition to the government that the British public deserves.”