Voting closes in latest Tory leadership ballot as final two set to be announced – UK politics live | Politics

PMQs – snap verdict

Sir Lindsay Hoyle said when he was elected Speaker that he would not let PMQs run for up to 40 or 50 minutes as his predecessor, John Bercow used to. However, this afternoon Hoyle made an exception to mark Boris Johnson’s final day at the dispatch box. Towards the end, after a long and often tedious session that mostly illuminated how threadbare Johnson’s legacy was, Hoyle must have been thinking it might have been better to pull the plug at 12.30 sharpish. But then, in his final answer, to Sir Edward Leigh, Johnson suddenly shifted gear and said something interesting.

It was the political equivalent of his last will and testament, and it is worth reproducing in full. He said:

I want to use the last few seconds to give some words of advice to my successor, whoever he or she may be.

Number one: Stay close to the Americans, stick up for the Ukrainians, stick up for freedom and democracy everywhere. Cut taxes and deregulate wherever you can to make this the greatest place to live and invest, which it is.

I love the Treasury but remember that if we’d always listened to the Treasury we wouldn’t have built the M25 or the Channel Tunnel.

Focus on the road ahead but always remember to check the rear-view mirror.

And remember, above all, it’s not Twitter that counts, it’s the people that sent us here.

The last few years have been the greatest privilege of my life, and it is true that I helped to get the biggest Tory majority for 40 years, and a huge realignment in UK politics. We have transformed our politics and restored our national independence.

We’ve helped, I’ve helped, get this country through a pandemic, and helped save another country from barbarism. And, frankly, that’s enough to be going on with. Mission largely accomplished – for now.

I want to thank you, Mr Speaker, I want to thank all the wonderful staff of the House of Commons, I want to thank all my friends and colleagues, I want to thank my friend opposite, I want to thank everybody here, and hasta la vista, baby, thank you.

Johnson shows little interest in introspection, and the speech he gave on Monday afternoon, at the opening of the debate on the motion of confidence in the government, was mostly a trite and unreliable catalogue of boasts. This afternoon’s statement was much more revealing, for three reasons.

‘Hasta la vista, baby’: Boris Johnson’s last words at PMQs – video

First, it is a useful guide to what Johnson’s political convictions actually are: Atlanticism, low taxes and deregulation – conventional Conservatism, in other words, leavened with support for big spending projects of the kind the Treasury dislikes. Levelling up didn’t get a mention, nor the environment. But his advice to politicians (focus on the future, and don’t take Twitter too seriously) was sound.

Second, although Johnson has never publicly acknowledged that he was the cause of his own downfall, there was a hint here that his achievements have been limited. Listening to his speech on Monday, you would assume that his government was the most successful ever. But here he boiled it all down to: a big election victory, Brexit, getting through Covid, and Ukraine. “That’s enough to be going on with,” he added, suggesting there was much left undone.

And that leads on to the third, and most interesting, feature of his valedictory: the very strong hint that he wants to stage a comeback. “Mission largely accomplished – for now,” he said. And he concluded with a line from Terminator 2 normally translated as “See you later.” Another line from the same film (and, more famously, in the first Terminator movie) is “I’ll be back.”

The Tory applause for Johnson at the end seemed quite genuine, according to colleagues who were watching from the gallery. But that may just be a function of good manners, as much as anything else, and it doesn’t mean they want him to stay on. Keir Starmer did a good job at explaining quite what a mess Johnson had left his party in, and there is no evidence at all that the voters would welcome a second Johnson premiership. Britain has not seen an outgoing PM return to Downing Street after a period out of office for almost 50 years, since Harold Wilson in 1974. But, like his quasi US counterpart Donald Trump, Johnson is clearly mulling over the possibility of a comeback one day. It might not be the last PMQs after all.

Key events:

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Cabinet secretary launches inquiry into leak of trans policy documents used to damage Mordaunt campaign

Simon Case, the cabinet secetary, has agreed to launch a leak inquiry into the leak of government documents to the Sunday Times that were used to as the basis for a story undermining Penny Mordaunt’s claim that she never backed self-identification for trans people when she was equalities minister. The revelations were damaging to Mordaunt’s campaign for the Tory leadership.

These are from the Telegraph’s Christopher Hope.

** EXCLUSIVE **

Exclusive: Simon Case launches inquiry into ‘leaks to damage Penny Mordaunt’

Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary, has launched an inquiry into alleged leaks from the Civil Service to sink Penny Mordaunt’s Tory leadership campaign. 1/4#ToryLeadershipContest

— Christopher Hope📝 (@christopherhope) July 20, 2022

The inquiry is thought to be into the leak to The Sunday Times of papers drawn up by civil servants that suggested Mordaunt supported watering down the legal process for transitioning when she was equalities minister. 2/4

— Christopher Hope📝 (@christopherhope) July 20, 2022

SimonCase has now told @DavidDavisMP: “Unauthorised disclosure of government information to the media is clearly inappropriate. In light of these facts and the concerns you raise, I can confirm that I have launched a leak investigation into this matter.” 3/4

— Christopher Hope📝 (@christopherhope) July 20, 2022

Theresa May, the former prime minister, may have been the only Tory MP in the chamber not applauding Boris Johnson after PMQs. Shehab Khan from ITV has the clip.

Gavin Williamson, the Tory former chief whip and Rishi Sunak supporter, has dismissed claims that he has been engaged in a secretive vote lending operation in the Tory leadership ballot, the i’s Arj Singh reports.

Sunak supporter Gavin Williamson, asked if he was lending any votes to other campaigns – “I don’t know what you’re talking about”

— Arj Singh (@singharj) July 20, 2022

Williamson was one of the key figures in the Boris Johnson campaign in 2019 and it is widely believed that, in that contest, he did allocate some of Johnson’s votes to Jeremy Hunt in the final ballot to ensure that Johnson faced Hunt in the members’ ballot, not Michael Gove, who was seen as a more formidable opponent.

Gove was ahead of Hunt in the fourth ballot. But Hunt beat him by two votes in the final ballot for MPs.

In this contest there have been numerous theories about what sort of vote lending strategies are in play. The rumour mill went into overdrive yesterday after the results came in because the departure of the (remain, leftish) Tom Tugendhat from the race led to an improbable 15 extra votes going to the (Brexity, rightwing) Liz Truss.

Reporting on what might be happening, the Times says:

One theory is that Sunak “lent” some of his supporters to Truss to force [Kemi] Badenoch out of the race. This, one Tugendhat supporter suggested, could explain why Sunak’s vote rose so little while Truss’s rose disproportionately. Another theory is that Brexiteers who had backed Badenoch over Truss in the third round moved back to support the foreign secretary amid fears that she could be pushed out altogether, putting [Penny] Mordaunt in pole position to get a place in the run-off.

A third theory is that Badenoch was a potemkin candidate and that she and her most prominent backer Michael Gove will now declare for Sunak to give him the greatest momentum.

The Daily Mail today splashes on an alternative theory: that the Sunak camp will be lending votes to Penny Mordaunt today, to force Truss out of the race. The Mail is strongly backing Truss.

We will probably never be sure quite what is going on. But in 2019 Johnson had more than twice as many votes as any other candidate in every stage of the parliamentary ballot, meaning that he could easily afford to lend votes to someone else to knock out his most serious rival. In this contest Sunak’s lead is much narrower, making such tactics much more risky.

But even if campaigns are not directing their most loyal supportes to vote tactically for someone else, individual MPs may well be voting tactically with the intention of knocking someone out. In these contests, stopping the person you most dislike becoming leader can be a stronger incentive for voting than getting your favourite elected. Eleni Courea makes this point well in today’s London Playbook.

What is certainly true: There are both “stop Penny” and “stop Liz” crews eager to knock their least-desired candidate out of the running (as well as a “stop Rishi” crew camped inside No. 10). The big unknown of these parliamentary knock-out stages is how tactical voting by individual or small groups of MPs is influencing the final tallies. Playbook will say one thing: The margins in this contest are too narrow for Sunak’s team to try to play that game themselves without risk. “What you do have is MPs thinking who they could live with and backing them to move them into second place rather than vote for Rishi,” a Sunak campaign source tells the Times. “That is very dangerous freelancing. You only need 10 or 20 people to do that and Rishi is out of the final by accident.”

At the post-PMQs No 10 briefing Boris Johnson’s press secretary responded to Keir Starmer’s claim that Johnson is a “complete bullshitter”. (See 11.57am.) The press secretary said:

I would not respond with similar language of course.

But I would disagree with that characterisation. I think the prime minister has delivered a huge amount that was promised to the British public, not least getting Brexit done, which was delivering on the will of millions of people.

And [it’s] possibly slightly hypocritical of the leader of the opposition to say such things when he voted against doing that 48 times.

Government departments will have to fund this year’s higher-than-expected pay awards out of existing budgets, says No 10

Downing Street has said government departments will have to fund the public sector pay awards announced yesterday out of their existing budgets. At the post-PMQs briefing, the PM’s spokesperson said:

There are no plans for the Treasury to provide additional resources beyond the £150bn increase in cash terms it’s providing over this parliament.

Department spending is growing on average 3.7% in real terms each year which is the largest increase for any parliament this century.

Asked whether this could mean cuts in other areas of departmental spending, the spokesperson replied:

The NHS themselves will make clear that there will not be a need for further cuts or savings as a result of these decisions, so the NHS will be able to focus on some of the core issues in front of it.

In a briefing this morning the Institute for Fiscal Studies thinktank said that, because the pay awards were higher than originally planned, government departments would have to make “painful cuts” elsewhere if their existing budgets were not increased. (See 11.37am.)

Tobias Ellwood has Tory whip temporarily restored so he can vote in leadership ballot

Tobias Ellwood has had the Tory whip temporarily restored so he can vote in the leadership ballot today, the government has revealed. A government whips office spokesperson said:

From the start of the leadership contest the whips office took a neutral position.

After Tobias Ellwood MP failed to attend an important vote he had the Conservative party whip suspended.

To ensure that the whips office neutrality in the leadership contest can not be questioned, the whip has been temporarily unsuspended from Tobias Ellwood MP.

Upon the conclusion of today’s leadership contest, Tobias Ellwood MP will have the whip suspended.

There were claims that Ellwood had the whip suspended because he was backing Penny Mordaunt rather than Liz Truss, who is seen as No 10’s preferred candidate.

PMQs – snap verdict

Sir Lindsay Hoyle said when he was elected Speaker that he would not let PMQs run for up to 40 or 50 minutes as his predecessor, John Bercow used to. However, this afternoon Hoyle made an exception to mark Boris Johnson’s final day at the dispatch box. Towards the end, after a long and often tedious session that mostly illuminated how threadbare Johnson’s legacy was, Hoyle must have been thinking it might have been better to pull the plug at 12.30 sharpish. But then, in his final answer, to Sir Edward Leigh, Johnson suddenly shifted gear and said something interesting.

It was the political equivalent of his last will and testament, and it is worth reproducing in full. He said:

I want to use the last few seconds to give some words of advice to my successor, whoever he or she may be.

Number one: Stay close to the Americans, stick up for the Ukrainians, stick up for freedom and democracy everywhere. Cut taxes and deregulate wherever you can to make this the greatest place to live and invest, which it is.

I love the Treasury but remember that if we’d always listened to the Treasury we wouldn’t have built the M25 or the Channel Tunnel.

Focus on the road ahead but always remember to check the rear-view mirror.

And remember, above all, it’s not Twitter that counts, it’s the people that sent us here.

The last few years have been the greatest privilege of my life, and it is true that I helped to get the biggest Tory majority for 40 years, and a huge realignment in UK politics. We have transformed our politics and restored our national independence.

We’ve helped, I’ve helped, get this country through a pandemic, and helped save another country from barbarism. And, frankly, that’s enough to be going on with. Mission largely accomplished – for now.

I want to thank you, Mr Speaker, I want to thank all the wonderful staff of the House of Commons, I want to thank all my friends and colleagues, I want to thank my friend opposite, I want to thank everybody here, and hasta la vista, baby, thank you.

Johnson shows little interest in introspection, and the speech he gave on Monday afternoon, at the opening of the debate on the motion of confidence in the government, was mostly a trite and unreliable catalogue of boasts. This afternoon’s statement was much more revealing, for three reasons.

‘Hasta la vista, baby’: Boris Johnson’s last words at PMQs – video

First, it is a useful guide to what Johnson’s political convictions actually are: Atlanticism, low taxes and deregulation – conventional Conservatism, in other words, leavened with support for big spending projects of the kind the Treasury dislikes. Levelling up didn’t get a mention, nor the environment. But his advice to politicians (focus on the future, and don’t take Twitter too seriously) was sound.

Second, although Johnson has never publicly acknowledged that he was the cause of his own downfall, there was a hint here that his achievements have been limited. Listening to his speech on Monday, you would assume that his government was the most successful ever. But here he boiled it all down to: a big election victory, Brexit, getting through Covid, and Ukraine. “That’s enough to be going on with,” he added, suggesting there was much left undone.

And that leads on to the third, and most interesting, feature of his valedictory: the very strong hint that he wants to stage a comeback. “Mission largely accomplished – for now,” he said. And he concluded with a line from Terminator 2 normally translated as “See you later.” Another line from the same film (and, more famously, in the first Terminator movie) is “I’ll be back.”

The Tory applause for Johnson at the end seemed quite genuine, according to colleagues who were watching from the gallery. But that may just be a function of good manners, as much as anything else, and it doesn’t mean they want him to stay on. Keir Starmer did a good job at explaining quite what a mess Johnson had left his party in, and there is no evidence at all that the voters would welcome a second Johnson premiership. Britain has not seen an outgoing PM return to Downing Street after a period out of office for almost 50 years, since Harold Wilson in 1974. But, like his quasi US counterpart Donald Trump, Johnson is clearly mulling over the possibility of a comeback one day. It might not be the last PMQs after all.

Jessica Elgot

Jessica Elgot

Supporters of Liz Truss and Penny Mordaunt were locked in a frantic last-minute battle for votes this morning before the final parliamentary ballot opened.

Two MPs backing Rishi Sunak told the Guardian they were expecting to face Liz Truss in the final ballot for party members. “I think she’s the one with the momentum,” one said.

Another Sunak supporter said they thought the votes were seeing “significant churn” but added they thought it would be a mistake for campaigns to lend votes. “It’s all very unpredictable, I don’t think trying to stitch it up either way would necessarily help particularly,”

Supporters of Sunak said they were hoping to see a new surge of votes for their candidate to give him momentum into the weekend. One MP said Sunak was a significantly better media performer than Truss which they hoped would give him the edge in the coming days. “We should be seeing his face everywhere as ballots start to land.”

In Camp Mordaunt MPs were stressing to colleagues that they believed Mordaunt versus Sunak would be a “clean campaign” as opposed to Sunak versus Truss, which one said would be full “blue on blue” – pointing to the attacks they had directed against each other in the TV debates.

MPs were punting out screenshots to colleagues showing Mordaunt’s electoral advantage. “I think even this morning we are seeing a swing away from Liz,” said one of Mordaunt’s campaign team.

‘Mission largely accomplished,’ claims Johnson as he ends final PMQs with standing ovation from Tories

Sir Edward Leigh (Con) says he wants to thank Johnson for rolling out the vaccines, for delivering Brexit, for rolling out levelling up and for supporting Ukraine. “For true grit and determination, keep going.”

Johnson thanks Leigh.

And he says he has advice for his successor. Stay close to the Americans, stay close to the Ukrainians, and stick up for freedom, he says.

He says he loves the Treasury, but if government had listened to them, it would never have built the M25.

Do not listen to Twitter, he suggests.

He says he got the country through the pandemic, and helped protect another country from barbarism.

“Mission largely accomplished … for now,” he says. “Hasta la vista, baby,” he ends.

That’s a reference to this, from Terminator 2.

And that’s it. Johnson gets a standing ovation as he leaves the chamber.

Geraint Davies (Lab) says the PM will be remembered as a man of his word. “Pile them high” – 200,000 people died from Covid, he says. And he says people who took out student loans are now having to pay 7% …

Tory MPs are jeering. Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker, intervenes to get them to be quieter.

Will the PM help people in need, Davies says.

Johnson says students want a system where they do not pay back more than they borrow. And the government will get people into high-wage, high-skilled jobs, he says. He says Labour will let them languish on benefits.

Anna Firth (Con) says the PM to back plans for a new hospital in Southend.

Johnson says the case for this is being reviewed.

John Nicolson (SNP) asks how many people will be ennobled in Johnson’s resignation honours list.

Johnson says Nicolson will have to wait.

Martin Vickers (Con) asks about a tariff on white fish, and the impact it is having on the seafood industry in his constituency.

Johnson says he wants to encourage the fish and chip industry not to use Russian fish.

Kirsten Oswald (SNP) says Brexit was imposed on Scotland against its wishes. Does the PM accept Scotland is a democracy. He has no right to stop it having the referendum it voted for.

Johnson says the SNP is over-taxing to the tune of £900m. There was a referendum in 2014, he says.





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