‘Johnson has one final shot at be­ing leader then it’s all over’

The Sunday Telegraph - - Tories in manchester - By Ben Ri­ley-Smith

BORIS JOHNSON thinks the Con­ser­va­tive Party will turn to a younger gen­er­a­tion of MPs for its next leader, the jour­nal­ist behind a doc­u­men­tary about him has claimed.

The For­eign Sec­re­tary be­lieves Mrs May’s pre­mier­ship could last less than a year and has asked friends about his prospects, ac­cord­ing to Gary Gib­bon, Chan­nel Four’s po­lit­i­cal ed­i­tor.

The claims, made in an ar­ti­cle for The I news­pa­per, come after Mr Gib­bon fol­lowed the Tory MP for the doc­u­men­tary, ti­tled Boris Johnson: Blond Am­bi­tion, which airs tonight.

“Johnson has told friends that the party’s eyes are al­ready turn­ing to a new gen­er­a­tion of MPs.” Mr Gib­bon wrote. “Those close to Johnson say he thinks he prob­a­bly has one more go at the top job in him and then it’s re­ally over.”

The com­ments tee up a ten­sion that is set to play out at the Tory con­fer­ence this week as the Cab­i­net big guns and young up­starts tus­sle for the spot­light.

As well as Mr Johnson’s ob­vi­ous lead­er­ship ri­vals – Ruth David­son, the Scot­tish Tory leader; David Davis, the Brexit Sec­re­tary; and Am­ber Rudd, the Home Sec­re­tary – are a host of rel­a­tive Henry Bolton, the new leader of Ukip, has said that “far from strength­en­ing the UK’s hand in Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions”, Theresa May’s Florence speech has weak­ened it.

In his speech to the party con­fer­ence in Torquay, he said: “So, 14 months after the ref­er­en­dum, have we re­gained con­trol of our bor­ders? Are we able to con­clude our own trade agree­ments?

“We have not, no. And our par­lia­ment and courts are still sub­or­di­nate to a for­eign power. Far from hav­ing a strong hand, we now learn that the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion pretty much dic­tated the lan­guage re­gard­ing the UK’s fi­nan­cial set­tle­ment to the EU that the Prime Min­is­ter used in her speech in Florence last week.”

un­knowns. Many MPs from the 2015 and 2017 in­takes be­lieve the party needs to turn to younger blood to have any hope of win­ning a fourth term.

When the dis­cus­sion crops up in the cor­ri­dors of West­min­ster, some names are of­ten re­peated. Do­minic Raab, the jus­tice min­is­ter and former lawyer, is tipped by some col­leagues for his in­tel- lect and Euroscep­tic in­stincts. He cam­paigned heav­ily for Brexit last year.

Tom Tu­gend­hat, a former sol­dier who joined Par­lia­ment in 2015, has risen swiftly to chair­man of the For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee and raised eye­brows with fre­quent news­pa­per ar­ti­cles.

Priti Pa­tel, the In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment Sec­re­tary, and Bran­don Lewis, who has the immigration brief, are two of the younger min­is­ters at­tend­ing Cab­i­net and are praised by some.

And then there is the mav­er­ick fig­ure of Jacob Rees-Mogg, the ar­dent Euroscep­tic whose surge in pop­u­lar­ity this sum­mer ap­pears to be hold­ing up.

Many will be speak­ing in Manch­ester – Mr Rees-Mogg no fewer than nine times in 48 hours – at fringe events full of the party mem­bers who will ul­ti­mately pick the next leader.

Tim­ing will be cru­cial, say those who favour turn­ing to the “next gen­er­a­tion” when the lead­er­ship is next up for grabs. If it comes be­fore March 2019, the of­fi­cial Brexit date, an experienced hand to guide talks looks best placed to take the helm – but if later than that, the need for party re­newal could well favour a fresher face.

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