On your marks: Lead­er­ship hope­fuls vie for spot­light in race to be PM

The Scotsman - - FRONT PAGE - By PARIS GOURTSOYAN­NIS West­min­ster Cor­re­spon­dent paris.gourtsoyan­[email protected]­man.com

Ten can­di­dates have se­cured the nom­i­na­tions to en­ter the first round of vot­ing in the Tory lead­er­ship race. Top row, from left: Boris Johnson, Do­minic Raab, Jeremy Hunt, Rory Ste­wart and Mark Harper. Bot­tom row, from left: Es­ther Mcvey, Matt Han­cock, An­drea Lead­som, Michael Gove and Sa­jid Javid

Michael Gove de­fied calls to drop out of the race to be­come the next Prime Min­is­ter over his past co­caine use, telling his sup­port­ers: “I’m in it to win it”.

The en­vi­ron­ment sec­re­tar y was one of ten Tor y MP con­firmed as can­di­dates for the Conser va­tive lead­er­ship yes­ter­day, the most crowded field in the party’s mod­ern history.

Lead­er­ship ri­vals will face off in two hus­tings de­bates at West­min­ster to­day and to­mor­row, be­fore the first bal­lot of Tor y MPS on Thursday that will elim­i­nate those that fail to get at least 16 votes from their peers.

Mr G ove r e j e c t e d s u g g e s - tions that his chal­lenge was fin­ished thanks to the dam­ag­ing rev­e­la­tion that he had taken co­caine be­fore en­ter­ing pol­i­tics, at the same time as writ­ing news­pa­per col­umns c o n d e m n i n g m i d d l e - c l a s s drug use.

In­stead, he said he was “sure” he would make it to the last stage of the contest, where the fi­nal two can­di­dates will be put to a bal­lot of party mem­bers, and mocked the fron­trun­ner B oris Johnso n, te llin g him: “Don’t pull out.”

Mr Johnson aban­doned a p r e v i o u s l e a d e r s h i p b i d i n 2016 af­ter Mr Gove quit his cam­paign to launch his own f a i l e d a t t e m p t t o r e a c h 10 Down­ing Street.

At his cam­paign launch yes­ter­day, Mr Gove, who has the mo s t s u p p o r t a mo n g S c o ttish Tor y MPS of any can­di­date, de­nied ap­ply­ing a dou­ble stan­dard on drug use while serv­ing as jus­tice sec­re­tary.

“One of the con­se­quences of hav­ing had the chance to re­flect on my mis­takes, is that when I was jus­tice sec­re­tary I was de­ter­mined to en­sure that those peo­ple who had fallen into the net of the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem were given all the sup­port, the help and the care they needed in order to achieve re­demp­tion and to en­joy a sec­ond chance,” he said.

He vowed not quit the race, say­ing: “I’m in it to win it ... ev­ery time I’ve been given a job I’ve been told it’s im­pos­si­ble and have de­liv­ered.”

In a pointed chal­lenge to his for­mer friend, Mr Gove added: “If I get through, which I’m sure I will ac­tu­ally to the fi­nal two against Mr Johnson, this is what I will say to him.

“Mr Johnson, what­ever you do, don’t pull out.”

He said the “deeply per­sonal” choice to put friend­ships and fam­ily ties on the line by leading the Brexit cam­paign in 2016 was a sign of brav­ery, and in a veiled at­tack on Mr Johnson, called on other can­di­dates to get out of their “bunker”.

He also said the UK needed a “s e r i o u s” l e a d e r who ha d been “tested in the heat of battle”, ad­ding: “I don’t want a sit­u­a­tion where we have Jeremy C o r by n i n D ow n i n g S t r e e t , propp ed up by Ni­cola Stur­geon, break­ing up our United King­dom.”

He set out a pack­age of mea­sures he said would help se­cure the Union that will ap­peal to h i s S c o t t i s h To r y b a c k e r s , i n c l u d i n g b y p a s s i n g H o l y - rood with new funds to in­vest di­rectly in Scot­land, and cre­at­ing a ‘Union unit’ at the heart of gov­ern­ment to test poli­cies and make sure they work for all na­tions of the UK.

Four other lead­er­ship con­tenders launched their cam­paigns yes­ter­day, with many seek­ing to de­fine themselves i n o p p o s i t i o n t o M r Jo h n - son. For­mer Brexit sec­re­tar y D o m i n i c R a a b s a i d B r e x i t could not be de­liv­ered through “bluff and blus­ter”, and said he was will­ing to sus­pend Par­lia­ment to take the UK out of the EU with­out a ne­go­ti­ated deal. “We’ve been hu­mil­i­ated as a coun­try in these talks with the EU,” Mr Raab claimed. But the op­tion of pro­rogu­ing Par­lia­ment was at­tacked in strong t e r m s b y h e a l t h s e c r e t a r y Matt Han­cock, who in­voked the memory of D-day troops, say­ing it “goes against ever ything those men who fought their way up those b eaches died for”.

Mr Han­cock won a sig­nif­i­cant en­dorse­ment last night w i t h t h e b a c k i n g o f D av i d Lid­ing­ton, ef­fec­tive deputy to Theresa May.

0 Theresa May ad­dresses at­ten­dees at the start of London Tech Week as mem­bers of the 1922 Com­mit­tee an­nounce the names of the ten can­di­dates in­clud­ing Es­ter Mcvey and Michael Gove

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