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BoJo vs Hunt: Who are the last men standing in race to be Tory boss and UK premier?

BoJo vs Hunt: Who are the last men standing in race to be Tory boss and UK premier?
Voting starts this weekend to decide who will become Theresa May’s successor as Conservative Party leader and UK prime minister. RT takes a look at the last two men standing in this race: Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt.

As May crumbled under the strain of a Brexit deadlock and announced her early resignation as the Tory leader, it is now up to the Conservatives to choose their leader and the UK’s new prime minister. Some 160,000 party members will receive their voting ballots this weekend and have until July 21 to vote. The candidate that gains more than 50 percent of the vote will be declared the winner and unveiled on July 23 as the new head of the British government. Meanwhile, the candidate list has been reduced from 10 to just two, leaving Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to battle against his predecessor with that portfolio, Boris Johnson.

The waiting is almost over. So, who are these two men, one of whom will inevitably get the keys to Number 10, Downing Street?

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BORIS JOHNSON

Born in New York to British paremts, he attended a European school in Brussels and later went to Eton College – arguably the cradle of Britain’s political elite. Johnson’s political track record was full of ups and downs. He served as an MP for Henley for eight years from 2001, becoming one of the most extravagant mayors of London afterwards. He resigned in 2016 and was appointed Foreign Minister later that year.

Controversies

The future staunch Brexiteer started attracting some controversy since the early days of his professional career. In 2004, then Conservative leader Michael Howard demanded that Johnson visit Liverpool to apologize for an article accusing its residents of “disproportionate” grief after Ken Bigley – an engineer born in the city – was kidnapped and slaughtered in Iraq. Later on, Johnson faced criticism for other disparaging comments, including some in a Daily Telegraph piece, in which he likened Muslim women wearing burkas to “letterboxes.”

Domestic & Foreign policy

Johnson promised to “find the money” to recruit extra police officers in a bid to curb street crime and other offenses. The Conservative politician also rules out paid access to Britain’s National Health Service, saying that it will remain “free to everybody” under his leadership. 

In foreign policy, he has a track record of supporting questionable military adventures, such as the war in Iraq in 2003 and the NATO-led campaign in Libya in 2011. Johnson, however, had some disagreements with the current US leadership, being dissatisfied with the minor partner role the UK plays in the “special relationship” with Washington.

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Brexit

As for Brexit, Johnson was at the forefront of the ‘Leave’ campaign and remains an avid Brexiteer in his PM bid. BoJo indicated that he will finalize the bitter divorce with the EU before October 31, even if it means a no-deal breakup. However, he also apparently has not lost hope of re-negotiating that deal on more favorable terms to the UK, such as maintaining free trade with the bloc. Johnson said he would like to take out the Irish backstop issue from the deal and settle it post-Brexit – an idea that will not sit well with Brussels – as well as his refusal to pay an estimated €45 billion divorce bill, unless the EU comes up with a somewhat better proposal.

JEREMY HUNT

Unlike his competitor, Hunt was born in the UK. He also studied in Oxford, where he first became involved in Conservative Party politics. Hunt was first elected to parliament in 2005 and later occupied several positions in the Shadow Cabinet, after endorsing David Cameron’s Tory leadership bid. After the Tories came back to power in 2010, he consecutively served as Culture Secretary, Health Secretary and, up to the present, Foreign Secretary.

Controversies

In 2012, Hunt came under intense scrutiny over his contact with the Murdoch family. At the time, he was in charge of proposed takeover of BSkyB, a British media and telecommunications conglomerate, by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. He was criticized for handling the bid, but insisted he acted with “total integrity” during the takeover process.

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As Foreign Secretary he was blamed for allowing London to offer and sell arms to the Saudis, which is involved in a civil war in Yemen. Hunt defended UK-Saudi ties, explaining the absolutist monarchy is a “very, very important military ally to the UK.”

Domestic & Foreign policy

Back at home, the 52-year-old politician plans, like Johnson, to impose some tax cuts. His plan involves a corporation tax reduction from 19 percent to as low as 12.5 percent, at a cost of around £13bn a year. Hunt sees this move as an incentive for businesses to come and invest in the UK beyond Brexit.

In Foreign politics, Hunt promised to be a strategic foreign secretary. He also said that the UK is on exactly the same page as the United States “on 90-95 percent of issues.” The latter’s trade sanctions on European goods, that also affect the UK, and Trump’s unilateral dismantling of the universally-acclaimed Iranian JCPOA deal do not stop Hunt from calling the US “our friends.”

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Brexit

Hunt’s stance on Brexit seems to be slightly different than that of Johnson. He does want to leave the EU with a deal, but insists he would back a no-deal divorce plan if necessary. However, leaving without a deal would be the “last resort” – and to prevent this Hunt pledges to create a new negotiating team to lobby an “alternative exit deal” in Brussels during August.

Hunt also signaled that he is aware of the brunt UK citizens will have to bear if no deal is reached. However, he promises that his government will cover the cost of tariffs imposed by the EU on the farming and fishing exports if the worst-case scenario were to come true.

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