Tory leadership: did Boris Johnson's campaign engage in dirty tricks?
Allegations of dark arts and intimidation as Michael Gove is knocked out
Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have been chosen as the final two candidates in the race for the Tory leadership amid claims that tactical voting blocked Michael Gove from making it through.
There is no love lost between Johnson and Gove after the 2016 leadership contest, when Gove abandoned Johnson's bid to be leader to launch one of his own.
There is speculation over “dark arts” from Johnson’s team, because although five MPs who had supported Sajid Javid promised to switch to Johnson in the final ballot, Johnson's vote share increased by just three.
Simon Clarke, a Boris supporter, said some MPs may have “freelanced” outside the official campaign, adding: “I think some people might have taken it upon themselves to try and steer the outcome.”
An unnamed Boris backer told The Times: “Gove stabbed us in the back — we’ve stabbed him in the front.”
The Guardian says Johnson’s team was “accused of skulduggery” during a “nail-biting afternoon of lobbying in Westminster’s wood-panelled corridors”.
The Times says “Johnson’s supporters boasted last night that they had exacted revenge on Michael Gove”.
Sky News quotes a “battle-hardened Boris Johnson supporter” as saying: “Revenge is a dish best served cold,” and adding: “To lose by two votes: he'll forever be wondering what if, what if, there's no peace in that.”
In the first round of voting yesterday, Johnson secured 157 votes, Gove had 61, Hunt took 59 and Javid attracted 34. With Javid eliminated, in the second round Johnson increased his tally by three to 160 while Hunt usurped Gove to secure a place in the run-off with 77 votes to Gove’s 75.
Meanwhile, there have been intimidations of dirty tricks by Johnson’s campaign. The Times says a Tory MP has seen a text sent to a junior minister who was still backing a non-Johnson candidate yesterday morning which read: “How are you enjoying your job? Do you want to carry on?”
Another claims that MPs who were supporting Johnson’s rivals were intimidated in a variety of ways. “People have been told that they’ll never get a job unless they switch sides. One was even threatened that their private life would be exposed. It’s pretty disgusting stuff.”
Sky News adds that “there was talk of aggressive arm-twisting by MPs to come out early and publicly for Mr Johnson or risk career suicide”.
A spokesman for Johnson’s campaign described claims that they had manipulated Hunt’s success as “absolute nonsense”.
Johnson and Hunt now have until late July to try to convince the Conservative Party's 160,000 members to vote for them.