UK Conservative leadership: Johnson vs Hunt

Boris Johnson still very likely to be the next British Prime Minister, with Jeremy Hunt pipping Michael Gove for second among Conservative MPs. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at The University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

At the June 13 first round of voting, three of the ten Conservative leadership candidates were eliminated as they had less than the 17 votes required – Mark Harper, Andrea Leadsom and Esther McVey. The next day Matt Hancock also withdrew. Combined these four candidates had 50 first round votes.

At the June 18 second round, Boris Johnson won votes from 126 of the 313 Conservative MPs (up 12 from round one), Jeremy Hunt 46 (up three), Michael Gove 41 (up four), Rory Stewart 37 (up 18), Sajid Javid 33 (up ten) and Dominic Raab 30 (up three). As he finished last, hard Brexiteer Raab was eliminated, with Javid just scraping through the 33-vote threshold required to continue.

In subsequent rounds, there was no threshold, and the bottom candidate was eliminated. At the June 19 third round, Johnson won 143 votes (up 17 since round two), Hunt 54 (up eight), Gove 51 (up ten), Javid 38 (up five), and Stewart was eliminated with 27 votes (down ten). While there is speculation that Johnson people tactically voted for Stewart to eliminate Raab in the previous round, commentator Stephen Bush says it is more likely that Stewart’s drop reflected his poor performance in a BBC debate on June 18. Stewart was the candidate most opposed to both a no-deal Brexit and Johnson.

At the June 20 morning fourth round, Johnson won 157 votes (up 14 since round three), Gove 61 (up ten), Hunt 59 (up five) and Javid was eliminated with 34 votes (down four). Two ballot papers were spoilt. Johnson achieved a majority of MPs (157 of 313) with three other candidates still in.

At the June 20 afternoon final round, Johnson won 160 votes (up three), Hunt 77 (up 18) and Gove was eliminated with 75 votes (up 14). From the first round to final round, Johnson increased his total by 46 votes to reach 51% of Conservative MPs, Hunt increased by 34 votes to reach 25%, and Gove by 38 votes to reach 24%. Johnson or someone like him was likely to be one of the final two after 157 Conservative MPs voted in favour of a no-deal Brexit on March 27.

Johnson and Hunt, the current Foreign Secretary, will now proceed to a postal ballot of Conservative members that is expected to conclude by mid-July. Johnson is the heavy favourite to win this vote, and become Britain’s next PM. In a recent YouGov poll of Conservative members, 77% thought Johnson would be a good party leader, and just 19% thought he would be poor. For Hunt, these figures were 56% good, 37% poor. Gove and Stewart were perceived as worse than Hunt by Conservative members.

Bush says Conservative MPs voted for Johnson after their party lost over 1,300 councillors at local government elections in early May, and then finished fifth with just 9% of the national vote at EU elections in late May. Bush suggests that the 27 Stewart voters imply that many Conservative MPs are very unhappy with Johnson, and with the prospect of a no-deal Brexit. A new election may be required soon if those Conservative MPs join Labour in voting no-confidence in their government if Johnson pursues a no-deal Brexit.

I wrote for The Conversation about the education divide explaining the Coalition’s upset victory in Australia, and also about Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 US presidential election. Johnson is likely to appeal to the same types of voters that benefited the Coalition and Trump.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

17 comments on “UK Conservative leadership: Johnson vs Hunt”

  1. By-election required in Brecon & Radnorshire after Tory MP recalled following conviction for fraud.

    The Lib Dems held this seat from 1997 to 2015. At the last election, the rise for the two major UK parties assisted the Tories, as they beat the Lib Dems by 48.6-29.1. However, the major parties have both tanked since then, and the Lib Dems are clear favourites to gain. If they do gain, it will put the Tory/DUP majority at even more risk.

  2. A remarkably frank and jaundiced view of Big Boris from the UK Daily Telegraph:

    A few months ago it seemed impossible that Boris Johnson could get even to the threshold of becoming prime minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Now he is in the final two, bracing himself for four weeks of party hustings around Britain with his opponent, Jeremy Hunt, Britain’s current Foreign Secretary. Then an estimated 160,000 members of the Conservative Party will vote to choose their new leader and, therefore, a new prime minister.

    Johnson’s last ministerial post, from which he resigned almost a year ago, was as foreign secretary. He was, by popular acclaim and according to most of his parliamentary colleagues, an atrocious secretary of state. His staff detested his laziness and mendacity; ambassadors deplored his lack of diplomatic skill, and his utter unwillingness to cultivate any …

  3. From a few years ago:

    Victory of style over substance

    Daily Mail: Comment

    What a brilliant piece of stagecraft it was. Boris Johnson mounted the platform at the Conservative Part conference, set out his script then peered around and demanded: “Where’s Dave?” In the seventh row of the stalls was the answer.

    Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron was laughing so hard it must have hurt, when his dearest private wish can only be that a thunderbolt reduces his old mate to a pile of cinders.

    Boris Johnson is not only better-loved than the Prime Minister, he is the most popular politician in Britain, with a plus 30 rating in an opinion poll last weekend, against Cameron’s minus 21. The public, and especially the young, do not just like the guy; they love him.

    He was greeted in Birmingham by rock-style acclaim. At a moment when the Conservative faithful recognize that their party is on course to lose the next general election to a rabble of Left-wing zombies, they see Johnson as the fat white hope, Joan of Arc, Superman, Indiana Jones.

    He is an authentic star, who lights up every room he enters. He makes people laugh and feel good. He sings a song that the British people – who despise almost every other politician in the pack – will crowd any venue to hear.

    Why should he not be prime minister? Why should Boris not be the man to leap
    forward and save the Conservative Party and the country from the dark forces?

    My own answer is that if the Mayor of London is the answer, there is something desperately wrong with the question.

    If the days ever comes that Boris Johnson becomes tenant of Downing Street, I shall be among those packing my bags for Buenos Aires or suchlike, because it means that Britain has abandoned it last pretensions as a serious country.

    I have known the mayor for more than 30 years. He worked for me as EU correspondent of the Daily Telegraph and then as a columnist when I was the paper’s editor, and I have seen plenty of him since.

    I would not trust him with my wife nor – from painful experience – with my wallet. It is unnecessary to take any moral view about his almost crazed infidelities, but it hard to believe that any man so conspicuously incapable of controlling his own libido is fit to be trusted with controlling the country.

    His chaotic public persona is not an act – he is, indeed, maniacally disorganised about everything except his own image management. He is also a far more ruthless, and frankly nastier, figure than the public appreciates.

    But his lovability, or even bonkability, is not the point. One of our biggest problems as a society is that we have become obsessed by the X Factor culture.

    We no longer look for dignity, gravitas, decency or seriousness of purpose in our leaders in any field. We demand only stardust, a jolly turn in front of Simon Cowell or on Strictly Come Dancing.

    Boris Johnson is not a man to believe in, to trust or respect. He is bereft of judgment, loyalty or discretion.

    Only in the star-crazed, frivolous Britain of the 21st century could such a man risen so high, and he is utterly unfit to go higher still.

  4. According to Survation, there’s been a big shift against Boris since the story about the row with his partner was publicised Friday night UK time.

    With all voters, he’s gone from a 36-28 lead over Jeremy Hunt as best PM to a 32-29 deficit. With Tory voters, he’s gone from a 55-28 lead to a 45-34 lead. These are Tory voters, not the much smaller subset of Tory members.

    This drop for Boris is in two days, between Thursday and Saturday. We need to wait for more polling of course to confirm whether there was a drop.

  5. Oops Sorry……. the above graph recorded popularity of Boris among Scottish voters. (I was actually trying to post a Cartoon from a Dutch paper) 🙂

  6. I expect that the politically motivated invasion of Boris’ privacy will only increase support for Boris. Own goal.

  7. From the recent ComRes poll 22 June or the YouGov 10-16 June poll there needs to be a +10% swing for Boris to be beaten. He just needs to shut up and keep his head down and he is home and hosed. If you think the polls are accurate.

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