Tory leadership hopefuls Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have both said it’s “all to play for” as Britain waits to learn who will become the next prime minister.
Foreign Secretary Hunt was in a positive mood when he arrived home from a run on Tuesday morning despite Johnson remaining the clear favourite to take over from Theresa May.
With the result expected around midday, Hunt said it was still “all to play for”, a comment echoed by his rival as he entered his campaign headquarters.
A Johnson win could spark more Government resignations after Sir Alan Duncan quit as Foreign Office minister on Monday in protest at his expected victory, predicting a “crisis of government” if Johnson becomes PM.
Ministers opposed to his “do or die” pledge to pull the UK out of the EU on October 31, even if there is no deal in place, could leave before May formally gives up the premiership on Wednesday afternoon.
Chancellor Philip Hammond and Justice Secretary David Gauke have given notice that they will resign rather than serve under Johnson.
Gauke said he believed there were “parliamentary mechanisms” that could prevent a no-deal Brexit which would “not necessarily” involve bringing down a Johnson administration.
He stressed that he would not vote against a Tory government in a motion of no confidence if it was heading towards a no-deal Brexit.
But Gauke told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There is a clear majority in the House of Commons that doesn’t want to leave the EU without a deal; I think that will become very clear in the autumn.”
He told the Times that newly elected Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson could take votes from the Tories in the event of a no-deal exit.
He said: “If we were to narrow our support to purely being those in favour of a no-deal Brexit, I think we would be significantly out of touch with a lot of people who have traditionally voted Conservative – those who live in London, the Home Counties, and various other relatively affluent parts of the country.”
Employment Minister and Johnson backer Alok Sharma called for Tory unity from ministers returning to the back benches.
He told BBC Two’s Newsnight: “I hope what they will do is reflect on the fact that the new prime minister, if it is Boris, will actually have a mandate from the parliamentary party and from the membership.
“What we will do if we have disunity in the party is risk a Corbyn government.”
Arch Brexiteer Nigel Evans, a senior member of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, predicted Johnson’s arrival in Downing Street, telling the BBC: “He will be going in there … with at least half a dozen knives already in his back.”
May will tender her resignation to the Queen after taking Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons on Wednesday afternoon for the final time, with the new Tory leader set to enter Number 10 soon afterwards.
The new prime minister will have to govern with a Tory-DUP majority of just two, after Dover MP Charlie Elphicke had the Conservative whip suspended when he was charged with sexually assaulting two women.
The Government majority could be further reduced next week if the Tories lose the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?