In Brief

Tory leadership race: what are the contenders saying?

Contest begins in earnest as potential candidates begin setting out vision

The Tory leadership battle is intensifying as potential candidates launch thinly-concealed campaigns for the top job, while Boris Johnson is reportedly considering legal action to open the door to 10 Downing Street.

The Guardian says the race to succeed Theresa May ahead of her planned departure within weeks has “escalated”, with ten key contenders spending Monday “either touting their visions for the future or busily refusing to rule out running”.

The Daily Telegraph agrees that all signs indicate the Tory leadership race has “begun in earnest”. It points to Dominic Raab’s call for the basic rate of income tax to be cut by 5p, which the former Brexit secretary has framed as a chance to “give working Britain a fairer deal”.

Matt Hancock, Liz Truss, James Cleverly and Victoria Atkins spoke alongside Raab at the Daily Telegraph event. Speculation has linked all four to potential leadership bids.   

Meanwhile, former work and pensions secretary Esther McVey has launched a new group called Blue Collar Conservatism as part of a bid to appeal to working-class Tories. She has vowed to cut the overseas aid budget and redistribute the funds to schools and police.

The current work and pensions secretary, Amber Rudd, appears to be pitching to centrist Remainers, telling the One Nation caucus: “The Conservative party is entering a new phase and we here in this room are determined to shape that phase.”

Rory Stewart and David Gauke – also considered potential leadership candidates – were present at the caucus meeting.

Other potential candidates have been coy about their intentions. Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “The prime minister has said she will step down. When she does there will be no shortage of candidates and whether I’m one of them, you’ll have to wait and see.” Jeremy Hunt has been similarly coy.

Meanwhile, The Sun says that Boris Johnson is preparing to take legal action against Tory MPs trying to block him from being elected as the new party leader.

The former foreign secretary is first choice for 39% of party members, far ahead of the second most popular option, Raab, who is on just 13%.

However, a so-called “Anyone but Boris” group of Tory MPs say they will vote tactically to prevent him reaching the shortlist, setting up a bitter battle which could turn legal.

A Boris ally confirmed: “We have legal advice that was drawn up for Boris that proves if members want a chance to vote on him in big numbers, MPs and CCHQ cannot stop that.”

Rachel Sylvester of The Times has words of warning for Brexiteers who see Johnson as their man. “The frontrunner to succeed May knows how to woo the right but he will pivot away from a hard Brexit if it suits him,” she writes, adding that “their buccaneering cheerleader ends up opening the door to Remain”.

Chancellor Philip Hammond has cautioned leadership contenders against “hijacking” Brexit by “knowingly inflicting” the economic damage of a no-deal exit.

In a speech to the CBI he will urge Tories not to ape the “populist right” by claiming a clean break from the EU is the only “truly legitimate Brexit”.

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