Nottinghamshire's only Conservative MP refuses to rule out running for party leader

Victoria Atkins and Robert Jenrick appearing on Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg
-Credit: (Image: Jeff Overs/BBC/PA Wire)

Nottinghamshire's only Conservative MP has refused to rule out trying to lead the party after arguing that it "narrowly avoided being wiped out altogether" in the general election. Robert Jenrick clung on to his Newark seat with a vastly reduced majority to become the only Tory MP in Nottinghamshire - with the party even losing its Rushcliffe stronghold to Labour for the first time since 1966.

Mr Jenrick has quickly emerged as a frontrunner to take over the leadership of the Conservative Party from Rishi Sunak, who confirmed that he would not continue as party leader after leading the Tories into their worst election defeat in history. Mr Jenrick has been the Newark MP since 2014 and was one of three MPs, alongside Rishi Sunak and Oliver Dowden, who came out to back Boris Johnson in the 2019 Tory leadership contest.

Since then, Mr Jenrick has held government roles including housing secretary under Mr Johnson, health minister under Liz Truss and immigration minister under Rishi Sunak. The Newark MP resigned from the latter role after arguing that the Rwanda plan, now scrapped by Keir Starmer, did not go far enough in tackling illegal immigration.

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Mr Jenrick has now refused to rule out running to be the Conservative Party's next leader and has set his stall out in an article for The Sunday Times. Appearing on the BBC's Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme on Sunday (July 7), Mr Jenrick said: "The reason that we lost the trust of millions of people across the country is not because we were too left-wing or too right-wing, or had this slogan or that slogan, but fundamentally because we failed to deliver on the promises that we made to the British public."

Although saying he would "fiercely defend" many aspects of the Conservative Party's time in power, Mr Jenrick said growth, taxation, the NHS and immigration were the principal failings. Asked whether he would run as party leader, the Newark MP said: "I honestly don't think that three days on from a general election in which we've just lost so many of our friends and colleagues that it is right to have self-indulgent conversations like this.

"The reason I came on your programme is because I care about the Conservative Party, I've been a member of this party since 1997 when I was 16 years of age, I've been with it through thick and thin. I want to ensure that it has the right diagnosis of what's gone wrong. That diagnosis is not about personalities, it's about principles and ideas."

Mr Jenrick appeared on the programme alongside Louth and Horncastle MP Victoria Atkins, also said to be interested in leading the Tories. Responding to Mr Jenrick's answer, Laura Kuenssberg said: "I think it's quite clear to most of our viewers that you and Victoria Atkins both are partly here because you have ambitions and you want to at least be considered to be in the running for the party leadership and I think our viewers will know that very clearly, even though both of you are being slightly coy this morning."

Other potential contenders for Conservative Party leader include Suella Braverman, Kemi Badenoch and Priti Patel. Rishi Sunak has said he will stay on as leader whilst the process of selecting his replacement takes place, with some Tories favouring a shorter contest over the summer and others favouring a longer one into the autumn - the latter being preferred by Robert Jenrick.