Tory leadership rival Jeremy Hunt today refused to say whether Boris Johnson is ‘honest’ as he warned the Prime Minister has a ‘big mountain to climb’ in winning back Tory voters.
Mr Hunt, who ran against Mr Johnson for the Conservative leadership in 2019, once again refused to rule out another leadership challenge.
But the former Cabinet minister insisted now was not the time for renewed efforts to topple Mr Johnson and said he ‘hoped’ the PM would lead the Tories into the next general election.
Mr Hunt’s comments will be seen as a warning shot to the PM – and a clear message to Tory MPs – that he is waiting in the wings should Mr Johnson continue to stumble.
The PM’s position in Number 10 has been put into serious peril by the Partygate scandal, which saw him fined for Covid rule-breaking in Downing Street.
This month’s local election results have also increased fears within Conservative ranks that the party could see its so-called ‘blue wall’ areas across southern England continue to fall to the Liberal Democrats and Labour.
Mr Johnson saw the Tories lose both the Chesham and Amersham and North Shropshire constituences to the Lib Dems in Westminster by-elections last year.
The Conservatives are now also facing a battle to keep hold of Tiverton and Honiton following the recent resignation of porn-watching Tory MP Neil Parish.
At the council elections on 5th May, the Tories lost control of 11 councils – with many of those being ceded to the Lib Dems and Labour – with the Conservatives also suffering the loss of close to 500 council seats.