New Tory leadership challenger mooted as release of party report drags on


A Tory backbench MP who has criticized the government’s handling of the Afghan withdrawal has become the first to announce he intends to run for leader if Boris Johnson is voted out.

It comes as the Prime Minister finally got to see senior civil servant Sue Gray’s long-awaited ‘partygate’ inquiry report as early as this weekend, after police insisted they had no not delay its publication.

No 10 had still not received a copy of the report into possible lockdown breaches in Downing Street and Whitehall on Saturday morning.

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak or Foreign Secretary Liz Truss are widely believed to be the first to win the top job if the prime minister is ousted.

But the Daily Mail reported on Friday that centrist Tories backed former soldier Tom Tugendhat.

The newspaper said some Tory MPs believed the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) represented the “best chance for a fresh start”.

The MP for Tonbridge and Malling told Times Radio on Saturday: ‘I think I’m saying quite clearly that I think it’s up to all of us to come forward. And it is up to the electorate, in the first case the parliamentary colleagues, and in the second case the party, to choose.

“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 co-workers and see if you can form a group, and if you can form a group, you should go for it.

“Now I haven’t asked for support, so I don’t know if I’ll be able to get the first group together – you have to get a group together first. But if you could, of course you should try.

As Prime Minister, he said: “It would be a huge privilege. It’s one of those questions that I know a lot of people ask and some people, some of my colleagues, are shy and I don’t understand why.

“I don’t think you should be embarrassed about wanting to serve your country. I was very proud to serve my country in the armed forces and achieved the highest possible rank in order to have the best possible effect. And I was very proud to serve as a diplomat around the world.

Mr Tugendhat has previously criticized the government’s handling of the British withdrawal from Afghanistan.

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In December, he said there had been “a lack of leadership, urgency and adequate resources” in the evacuation of Kabul.

After a FAC session, he said, “The evidence we heard today points to a lack of leadership, urgency and adequate resources.

“It is deeply painful to see how badly we have let Afghanistan down.”

As questions linger over his future as Prime Minister, it is understood Mr Johnson will ‘step up deterrence to avoid bloodshed’ between Russia and Ukraine with a visit to the region in the coming months. days amid rising tensions.

The Prime Minister will also speak by telephone with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The release of Gray’s long-awaited report into alleged lockdown exit parties was fraught with difficulty on Tuesday when Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, who had long resisted calls to investigate, announced that her officers had opened an investigation. criminal.

Scotland Yard confirmed on Friday evening that it had received the documents requested from the Cabinet Office to support its investigation.

The force said officers would look into this “without fear or favour” to establish whether any rules had been broken.

The Met had come under fire from legal experts and Tory MPs for urging Ms Gray to limit the publication of her investigation into allegations of lockdown-breaking parties at No 10, but the force insisted she did not had not delayed the report.

Commander Catherine Roper, who heads the Met’s Central Specialist Crime Command, said the timing of the document’s release was up to the Cabinet Office.

The PA news agency understands that Mr Johnson could receive a copy over the weekend, or within the next week, rather than weeks or months from now.

But it is understood he will comply with all police requests, which means some details could be left out.

Downing Street declined to comment on the Met’s statement on Friday.

The Cabinet Office did not comment further on when the document was published.

Ms Roper said the force had requested that ‘minimal reference’ be made in the report to ‘relevant events’, to ‘protect the integrity of the police investigation’ and to be ‘as fair as possible to those who are subject to it”. ”.

“This will only be necessary until these cases are closed, and this is to give detectives the most reliable picture of what happened during these events. We intend to complete our investigations quickly, fairly and proportionately,” she said.

“We have not delayed this report and the timing of its release is up to the Cabinet Office investigation team.”

Ms Roper said offenses under investigation, when proven, would normally result in a fixed fine notice being issued.

“If a recipient disputes the notice of fixed fine, the case will be referred to the Met where officers will consider whether to pursue the matter in magistrates court,” she said.

“As the commissioner said, we will not be giving current comment, but will continue to update when significant progress is made in the investigation process.”

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