Politics

Tom Tugenhadt confirmed leadership ambitions as name floated for top job: ‘I’d consider’

Tom Tugendhat swears as he speaks about Putin

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Mr Johnson has been handed a damning verdict by Sue Gray, the veteran civil servant who drew up a report into the ‘Partygate’ scandal. She blamed the debacle on a “failure of leadership” in a time when the country was under strict lockdown rules imposed by the Prime Minister himself. Ms Gray added that some events “should not have been allowed to take place” and that others should not have been allowed to “develop” in the way they did.

The embarrassing saga has left many to conclude that Mr Johnson could be at risk of a leadership challenge from any number of senior figures in his party.

Among them include Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Health Secretary Sajid Javid, Secretary for Levelling Up Michael Gove, Deputy Prime Minister Dominc Raab, chair of Health and Social Care Committee Jeremy Hunt, and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Tom Tugendhat.

All have a legitimate claim to the job, either having worked in senior positions, having previously run for the position or voicing their ambitions to one day become Prime Minister.

Compared to the others, Mr Tugenhadt is a relative outsider, but has consistently said he would “consider” the top job, as recently as this week saying it would be a “huge privilege”.

Speaking to Ridge on Sunday in 2018, just as Theresa May’s position started to look untenable, he said: “At the moment, I am just waiting to see what deal the Prime Minister brings back.

“I haven’t made any great secret of the fact that I would consider running for my party leadership at some point, but to me the whole point of this is not to run for the leadership, it’s to change the country.

“To me the whole point of this is not to be an individual, but to be a team.

“If there’s one thing that soldiering taught me is that as individuals we don’t achieve very much, but we have an amazing Conservative team.”

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He added: “I’ve listed some names there and there are many others, and if we get the right people in the team then actually the leadership becomes not academic but certainly an expression of that, and that’s what we’ve got to get to.

“We’ve got to get a really strong Conservative team forward, arguing for the future of the country, arguing for a positive future, arguing for a future that includes everybody in our community and really values the work that so many do, from the young to the old.

“We have an amazingly dynamic society, sometimes I think we forget that and it’s a great shame because it leads us to despondency when actually we should be fully optimistic.

“So I am really focused on doing my bit to support a Conservative team and see where that gets us.”

Amid the Partygate scandal, Mr Tugendhat has said he would throw his hat into the ring if there were a Conservative party leadership contest.

The MP for Tonbridge and Malling and chair of the Commons foreign affairs committee said it would be a “huge privilege” to serve as Prime Minister, a job he once described as like winning the lottery.

The 48-year-old, who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, said anyone who could garner support from colleagues should “go for it” and it was “up to all of us to put ourselves forward”.

Mr Tugendhat, a Tory centrist, has no ministerial experience and is considered a 16-1 outsider to succeed Mr Johnson.

However, his name is increasingly being touted as a viable option.

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One former Cabinet minister told The Guardian: “Tom would be my first choice.”

Speaking to Times Radio, Mr Tugendhat said: “I think I’m making it pretty clear that I think that it’s up to all of us to put ourselves forward.

“And it’s up to the electorate – in the first case parliamentary colleagues, and in the second case the party – to choose.”

He said he had not been canvassing support, but “of course you should have a go”.

He continued: “I think it’s a position of absolute integrity to say that of course you should offer yourself to the electorate, if you think you can do it.

“Of course you should talk to colleagues and see if you can get a group together, and if you can get a group together, you should go for it.

“I don’t think you should be embarrassed to want to serve your country.

“I was very proud to serve my country in the armed forces and I got to the highest rank I could so that I could have the best effect that I could.

“And I was very proud to serve as a diplomat around the world.”

Mr Tugendhat has an important ally in Michael Gove, but is thought to be less popular on the right-wing side of the party.

Gabriel Pogrund of The Times tweeted that Mark Spencer, the Tory chief whip, privately calls Mr Tugendhat ‘Tom Tugentwat’.

Mr Tugendhat shared the tweet and wrote: “Just like school, but without the imagination.”

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