Jeremy Hunt ‘rules out Tory leadership bid’ as election defeat fallout continues

-Credit: (Image: Getty Images)
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images)

Jeremy Hunt has reportedly 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. Former chancellor Mr Hunt told GB News the “time has passed” for him to launch a bid.

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 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.

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.

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.

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