A roll call of rogues: Who are the Tory leadership front-runners?

We look at the front-runners for a potential Tory leadership contest - and their disturbing records.

Pic: A Remain campaign poster from 2016 is looking remarkably prescient…

The PM faces a leadership challenge tonight – and the front-runners for a potential contest are starting to emerge. With that comes scrutiny over some shoddy records and views.

A recent report by campaigners at For Our Future’s Sake revealed the right-wing agenda of leading Brexiters. Among the worst culprits are those who could seize the crown from May.

Here’s the top front-runners, with odds taken from Ladbrokes at 10am. A secret ballot of MPs will take place on Wednesday night.  

Boris Johnson (4/1)

  • The former Foreign Secretary has u-turned on Brexit so much that he is no longer trusted – previously backing many of the soft Brexit policies he’s now apparently at war against.
  • Called EU workplace protections“back-breaking”: “There is little doubt that it is that extra stuff, the stuff from Brussels, that is helping to fur the arteries to the point of sclerosis. The weight of employment regulation is now back-breaking: the collective redundancies directive, the atypical workers directive, the working time directive and a thousand more.” 
  • He has an unpleasant record comparing the EU to the Nazis.
  • Despite infamous promises of £350m a week extra for the NHS, he has backed ending the principle of a free health service: “If NHS services continue to be free in this way, they will continue to be abused…if people have to pay for them, they will value them more.”
  • He is increasingly despised by Conservative MPs…
  • He’s even more unpopular among the public than Theresa May – 57% of voters say he’d make a bad PM, compared to just 11% who think he’d make a good one, according to YouGov.

Dominic Raab (4/1)

  • The former Brexit Secretary has long been an advocate of leaving the customs union and single market: “Of course we have to leave the customs union, of course we have to leave the single market” (The Express, January 12 2018)
  • “Britain should secure a total opt-out from the Working Time Directive and scrap the UK regulations,” Raab has said.
  • During the referendum campaign, Raab led scaremongering over the idea that Turkey might join the EU.
  • In 2016, Raab said there can’t be “any tricksy fudging” about leaving the customs union…which is exactly what the government is doing, Best for Britain say.
  • Also in 2016… Raab backed the idea of a further vote if the result was ‘within a couple of points’. 

Sajid Javid (6/1)

  • Has consistently supported Theresa May’s ‘hostile environment’ policies.
  • Consistently voted against a right to remain for EU nationals already in living in the UK. Javid is delighted that freedom of movement is ending “deal or no deal”. The Tory MP was previously an outspoken Eurosceptic, but ended up backing Remain because of his worries about the effects on business of Britain leaving.
  • 33% of voters say he’d make a bad PM, to just 15% who say he’d make a good one, according to the latest YouGov polling. Of course, despite being Home Secretary he’s still a relative unknown –52% say they’re not sure or don’t know enough about him to say.

Michael Gove (8/1)

  • Reportedly keen to ditch workers’ rights after Brexit, removing guarantees on holiday pay and maximum working hours.
  • Voters may be reminded of the Environment Secretary – then a humble opposition MP – ‘flipping’ his home in the run-up to the expenses scandal. A sexual abuse investigation – in which he is alleged to have intervened – may also crop up.
  • Like Johnson, he is prone to bizarre comparisons: Gove compared economic experts to the Nazi scientists who denounced Albert Einstein in the 1930s.
  • Again – more unpopular among voters than May: 52% say he’d make a bad PM compared to 11% who think he’d make a good one

Jeremy Hunt (8/1)

  • His NHS record during a long tenure as Health Secretary was an unmitigated disaster.
  • During the 2016 Conservative leadership election, Hunt proposed another Brexit vote. Now he spends his time attacking those people who proposed the same idea that he did…
  • He is more well-known than other candidates – meaning he’s also more unpopular. 46% of voters think he’d make a bad PM, to 10% who say he’d make a good one.

Amder Rudd  (16/1)

  • Will the public be so quick to forgive the figure at the centre of the Windrush scandal?
  • Used her first address as DWP chief to try and discredit the UN’s report on the poverty crisis in the UK
  • More unpopular than the PM: 37% think she’d make a bad Prime Minister, to 14% who say she’d make a good one (YouGov)

Jacob Rees-Mogg (16/1)

  • Said he would reduce employment rights after Brexit: “I don’t think those laws need to be made for us by foreigners. A Labour government may wish to campaign for more employment rights; a Conservative government may wish to reduce them. […] I don’t support all the employment rights that come from Europe.”  (Channel 4 News, 16 February 2016)
  • Apparently happy to reduce agricultural standards after Brexit: “I’m not in the least bit worried about chlorinated chicken.” (Party Conference fringe event, October 1, 2017)
  • Dismissed anger about the widespread use of offshore tax havens amongst high earners as “socialist hysteria” (Express, November 12, 2017)

Other frontrunners include hard-Brexiteer David Davis (16/1) – one of the first to storm out of Cabinet – and Commons leader Andrea Leadsom (25/1), known to back a harsher form of Brexit than that pushed by the PM.

David Davis has previously said he was “agnostic” about whether climate change was real, making him a potential climate disaster if elected. He has also previously backed a ‘Mandate’ referendum on the Brexit deal – before going on to attack it.

Andrea Leadsdom has said she would like to ‘scrap the entire burden of [EU] regulation’ – otherwise known as workplace and environmental rights – and have ‘absolutely no regulation whatsoever’ for small companies.

What a lovely bunch!

Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.

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