Rehman Chishti’s unlikely Tory leadership bid ends with zero backers

Rehman Chishti (Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament/PA) (PA Media)
Rehman Chishti (Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament/PA) (PA Media)

Rehman Chishti’s unlikely Tory leadership bid ended as he failed to secure a single public supporter among fellow Conservative MPs.

The backbencher’s withdrawal did not come as a surprise following a low-key campaign which appeared not to catch the imagination of any of his colleagues.

Fringe candidates who were not household names, such as Mr Chishti, were unlikely to pass the first hurdle as they needed the support of at least 20 MPs to stand.

The newly appointed Foreign Office minister said his “bottom-up campaign with very few resources” did not “secure the necessary parliamentary backing” to make it onto the ballot paper.

The 43-year-old launched his improbable bid to succeed Boris Johnson on Sunday evening in a video posted on Facebook, which appeared much less slick than his rivals’ efforts, having been filmed on a phone and inadvertently cutting off at the end.

On Tuesday afternoon, Mr Chishti tweeted: “I will not be taking my campaign any further for the leadership of our party @Conservatives as I have not been able to secure the necessary parliamentary backing”.

In a resignation letter posted online, the MP for Gillingham and Rainham also wrote: “My campaign was a bottom-up campaign with very few resources.”

A few hours earlier, he had vowed on Twitter to “continue my candidature till the very end”.

He became the second hopeful to drop out of the race after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, and was quickly followed by former health secretary Sajid Javid.

In his campaign video, Mr Chishti told of his desire to protect the mental wellbeing of people across the nation.

“For me it’s about aspirational conservatism, it’s about fresh ideas and then it comes down to having a fresh team.”

He promised a Government of “lower taxes, small state, big society”.

The MP for Gillingham and Rainham had an unusual political background, having previously stood as a Labour candidate in the 2005 general election before defecting to the Conservatives in 2007.

He was Tory vice-chair in 2018.

In 2020, he resigned as Mr Johnson’s special envoy for freedom of religion over the Government’s stance on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The former barrister said at the time clauses in the UK Internal Markets Bill “unilaterally break (the) UK’s legal commitments”.

He was appointed as a junior foreign minister on July 8 following a mass exodus from Boris Johnson’s Government in protest at his leadership.