Tory leadership battle: Can 'true blue' Jeremy Hunt see off Conservative rivals to become PM?

Joe Gamp
Contributor, Yahoo News UK
The race for Number 10: Jeremy Hunt

In a series of in-depth profiles, we take a look at the Tory leadership candidates to replace Theresa May and become Britain’s new Prime Minister.

Jeremy Hunt, the current Foreign Secretary, officially launched his campaign on Monday June 10. He has never rebelled against the party and his relationship with Theresa May has been sturdy.

In one sentence:

Conservative, intelligent, articulate and ambitious, Mr Hunt has held various roles in the cabinet and with his ‘one nation’ Conservative values, he’s seen as a true blue Tory.

Betting odds:

Second favourite behind Boris Johnson at 9/2, as of June 10.

How did he vote on Brexit, and what does he think now?

Hunt supported the remain vote during the 2016 referendum and backed a second referendum with any withdrawal agreement. However, in 2017, Mr Hunt said he changed his mind over Brexit, due to the ‘arrogance of the EU Commission’.

In May of this year he warned his party of ‘political suicide’ if it pushed for a no deal Brexit. He said: ‘I’m worried that if we don’t solve it, we will face a political crisis that is far bigger actually than our legal relationship with the EU, it could lead to the destruction of our party system and the end of my own party.’

Jeremy Hunt when he was Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport in 2010 (PA)

More recently, Mr Hunt has adopted an increasingly Eurosceptic tone, adding this month he had “always believed we should keep no deal on the table” as it is the “best way of getting a good deal”.

Mr Hunt said it was important to “find a different way to get a deal”, adding “we have to have a go at this” as he proposed forming a new wider negotiating team to change the Withdrawal Agreement.

Any controversy?

Faced accusations of nepotism in 2010 when his former parliamentary assistant was given a job in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport where Hunt was minister, despite proposing departmental cuts.

Hunt courted trouble in the same year over comments made about Hillsborough. He suggested that football hooliganism may have played a part in the stadium disaster in which 96 people died. Hunt later apologised after being labelled a ‘disgrace’ by a Hillsborough campaigner.

Mr Hunt and his wife Lucia at Buckingham Palace during the state visit of Donald Trump this month. (PA)

While Health Secretary in 2016, Hunt oversaw the first general strike by junior doctors in 40 years due to a long-running contract dispute. The industrial action was taken after negotiations between the NHS and union the British Medical Association were overshadowed by Mr Hunt’s involvement in the contractual issues.

The bitter dispute over junior doctors’ hours, pay and working conditions caused lasting ill-feeling towards Mr Hunt which could affect his prime ministerial ambitions.

Voting history:

In 2006, Hunt voted for an inquiry into the Iraq war by a select committee of Privy Counsellors.

In 2014, he ‘consistently voted’ for allowing marriage between two people of same sex.

He voted against allowing terminally ill people to be given assistance to end their life in 2015.

Mr Hunt was unpopular with junior doctors when he was health minister, who took strike action over hours and pay in 2016 (PA)
Foreign Secretary Mr Hunt launches his campaign for the Tory leadership in central London on Monday June 10. (PA)

Career to date:

Born in south London, Mr Hunt was educated at Oxford where he studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Magdalen College. Since being elected into the House of Commons in 2005, he has held multiple positions in Government.

Rising through the ranks, over time Mr Hunt was promoted to the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Minister for Disabled People from 2005 to 2007, and later took the role of Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport from 2007 to 2010.

His next role was Culture Secretary and Minister for the Olympics when David Cameron became Prime Minister.

Arguably his most high-profile title was as Health and Social Care Secretary, a job he held longer than any other British politician, where he made headlines across the country for overseeing a controversial new junior doctors' contract in England. His current role is Foreign Secretary.

What his colleagues say:

Robert Goodwill MP, ministerial deputy to Michael Gove: ‘He is the only candidate who has the experience and ability to square this circle, unite the party, and take the fight to Jeremy Corbyn.’

Will Quince, MP for Colchester: ‘The most important changes we can make, are those that improve the lives of our constituents, that is why I will be support him to be the next leader of the Conservative party.’

Jeremy Hunt has been a heavyweight in Therea May's Government. But will he secure the top job? (PA)

John Lamont, MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk: ‘I believe he is the best candidate to bring our country together, which is why I will be backing him in the forthcoming leadership election.’

Public awareness?

According to YouGov, Hunt is the 17th most popular Conservative politician and the 6th most famous.

In his own words:

When he was Culture Secretary: ‘All I can do is advocate changes at the BBC while respecting editorial independence upon which the success of the BBC rests. I can't do anything that requires the BBC to pay certain people certain amounts’

On the Conservative Party’s EU election results: ‘Yes, we knew it was coming but still a painful result. Existential risk to our party unless we now come together and get Brexit done.’


On mistakenly calling his wife Japanese in 2018: ‘My wife is Japanese -- my wife is Chinese. That´s a terrible mistake to make. My wife is Chinese and my children are half-Chinese... they have Chinese grandparents in Xian. And strong family connections in China. In fact we came to China on holiday in April.'

Did you know?

In the nineties, Hunt spent two years as an English Language teacher in Japan. He is also the richest MP serving in Government, after selling his company, Hotcourses, in January 2017 for over £30 million to Australian education organisation IDP Education. He gained £14 million from the sale.

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