Tory leadership hopefuls line up to promise Brexit NOW as party faces wipe out by Farage: Raab and Boris say they’ll accept No Deal and Leadsom vows to ‘leave decisively’ amid silence from Remainers
- The Tories slumped to fifth in the European Elections with just 9% of the vote
- Boris Johnson said rout might become ‘permanent haemorrhage’ without action
- Jeremy Hunt said party faced an ‘existential risk’ without way out of impasse
- Andrea Leadsom said the UK ‘should never have been fighting these elections’
- Dominic Raab warned voters could ‘rightly kick us out at the next election’
Top Tories demanded Brexit be completed as soon as possible to avid a catastrophe for the party after it was utterly humiliated by voters who subjected it to its worst ever election defeat.
A host of MPs vying to replace Theresa May broke cover today to warn of a Conservative collapse as it finished fifth on 9 per cent behind the Greens after months of chaos and bitter infighting.
After Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party gobbled up votes to come top in the contest and consign the Conservatives to the worst result in their history, leadership contender Boris Johnson delivered a stark message that they must listen to the ‘millions who voted for change’.
The leadership front runner said the rout in the polls last night will become a ‘permanent haemorrhage’ of voter support unless the party takes dramatic action to win back furious Brexiteers.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who is also hoping to succeed Theresa May, said the Tories were looking at an ‘existential risk’ unless they found a way to break the impasse.
Andrea Leadsom, who quit last week over Theresa May’s later-abandoned Brexit deal, said the nation ‘should never have been fighting these elections’ and said she had a ‘three-step plan’ to deliver Brexit.
And another hardline Brexiteer, Dominic Raab, said voters had delivered a message that ‘unless we get on and actually leave the EU they will rightly kick us out at the next election’.
Tory leadership front-runner Boris Johnson has blamed the Conservatives’ drubbing in the European elections on a failure to deliver Brexit
This map shows by council that the Brexit Party have topped polls in almost everywhere in England and Wales. The Tories have not topped in any council areas
The Conservatives suffered a humiliating 14.9 per cent loss in their 2014 vote share in last night’s European election results
With most of the results now in, Brexit Party is in first place while Labour and the Conservatives struggled at the polls
The Brexit Party have topped polls in every country or region apart from London. London was won by the Liberal Democrats
The Conservative vote share slumped to around 9 per cent – thought to be its lowest in a national election since 1834 when the party took on its current name
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who is also hoping to succeed Theresa May, said the Tories were looking at an ‘existential risk’ unless they found a way to break the impasse
Mr Johnson laid into Mrs May – who announced her resignation on Friday – for having ‘flagrantly failed’ in managing Britain’s departure from the EU.
No Deal Brexit: Where do the Tory leadership candidates stand?
Boris Johnson: Brexiteer who backs a deal but will leave without a deal if required. Writing in the Daily Telegraph today the ex-foreign secretary said: ‘No one sensible would aim exclusively for a no-deal outcome. No one responsible would take no-deal off the table.’
Dominic Raab: Brexiteer who wants the current deal with Brussels renegotiated but believes the UK should leave on October 31 ‘at the latest’ with or without a deal, saying: ‘I believe that I have the plan to ensure we can leave the EU by the end of October’.
Andrea Leadsom: Brexiteer who told the Guardian we must be ‘prepared to leave without a deal’ but has a ‘three-point plan for Brexit, for how we get out of the European Union’.
Rory Stewart: Remainer who says he could not work for a PM who backed a No Deal Brexit. Described it as ‘damaging, unnecessary’ and ‘a huge mistake’.
Michael Gove: Brexiteer who favours a deal. He told the BBC at the weekend that ‘we would be able to get through it’ but added: ‘It’s ultimately better for all of us if we secure a deal with the EU and leave in an orderly way’.
Matt Hancock: Remainer who backs a deal. He told Sky News that leaving the European Union without an agreement is ‘not an active policy choice that is available to the next prime minister’, in jibe at Boris Johnson.
Jeremy Hunt: Remainer turned Brexiteer whose views on No Desal have varied. last year he said it would be ‘a mistake we would regret for generations’ before later insisting the UK would ‘would survive and prosper’ if it left unilaterally.
Esther McVey: Ruled out a futher Brexit extension, telling Sky yesterday: ‘October 31 is the key date and we are coming out then, and if that means without a deal then that’s what it means. We won’t be asking for any more extensions. If Europe wants to come back to us, the door is open if they want a better deal.’
By contrast he has already declared that if he becomes leader this summer the UK will leave the EU at the end of October, with or without a deal.
He wrote in the Daily Telegraph: ‘No one sensible would aim exclusively for a no-deal outcome. No one responsible would take no-deal off the table.’
Mr Johnson insisted last week that the UK would quit the bloc on October 31 ‘deal or no deal’.
His concerns over the future of the party were echoed by leadership rival Mr Hunt who warned there was an ‘existential risk to our party unless we now come together and get Brexit done.’
Another rival, Dominic Raab, said Britain must leave the EU by October 31, and challenged the other contenders to a televised debate on Brexit.
He said: “Voters have sent us a very clear message: unless we get on and actually leave the EU they will rightly kick us out at the next election.
“I believe that I have the plan to ensure we can leave the EU by the end of October, as well as the tenacity and experience to see it through.”
Mr Raab added: “I hope that the other candidates take me up on my suggestion of holding a televised debate so that we can test each other’s plans on Brexit. I look forward to debating my optimistic vision of a fairer deal for Britain in the coming days.”
Daniel Hannan, who was elected as one of just three Tory MEPs in England and Wales, said the European elections had been ‘without question our worst result as a party ever’.
‘People voted to leave three years ago and we haven’t left, it’s as simple as that,’ he told the Press Association.
‘I think I’m back as one of, I think it looks like being three Conservatives nationally.
‘So without question our worst result as a party ever.’
But he suggested the party’s fortunes could be turned around and the threat from Mr Farage’s Brexit Party neutralised if the UK did leave the EU.
‘The appeal of a party called the Brexit Party will dry up very quickly once Brexit has happened,’ he said.
‘We need to leave in a way that carries as many people with us as possible and we need to be conciliatory and we need to have a Brexit that is cordial and orderly and that people in the 48 per cent and the 52 per cent can live with, but it’s got to happen speedily.
‘I was not expecting to go back to the European Parliament and I really don’t want to stay there any longer than is necessary.’
Former Brexit minister Chris Heaton-Harris said the Tories deserved its thrashing.
‘Awful results for my Party tonight, but whilst our teams of candidates didn’t deserve them, our Party did,’ he said. ‘We should have left the EU on 29th March, as we promised, with or without a deal. The message about leaving on 31st Oct is crystal clear.’
Ex-cabinet minister John Redwood said: ‘The big Brexit Party win must be a wake up call to Parliament. Get us out of the EU immediately with no Withdrawal Treaty lock in.’
Dominic Raab said voters had delivered a message that ‘unless we get on and actually leave the EU they will rightly kick us out at the next election’
Mr Gove (left) said he would set out his stance on no deal in the coming days, but that he agreed with Mrs May on the need for compromise in politics
Andrea Leadsom said the nation ‘should never have been fighting these elections’ and said she had a ‘three-step plan’ to deliver Brexit
Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans said the result, which saw no Tories elected in the North West, was ‘beyond dire’, adding: ‘Wake up Conservatives and deliver Brexit.’
However, former minister Sam Gyimah warned against interpreting the results as a ‘mandate for No Deal’.
How Tory leadership hopefuls responded to election disaster
‘No one sensible would aim exclusively for a no-deal outcome. No one responsible would take no-deal off the table.’
‘Yes, we knew it was coming but still a painful result. Existential risk to our party unless we now come together and get Brexit done.’
‘Hugely disappointing results – but this is a verdict on our delivery of #Brexit.
‘There’s a clear lesson: people want us to get on with it. Not another election or referendum asking if changed their mind.
‘We’ll need to unite as a party to deliver that. There are no other options.’
‘The Conservative Party is the oldest political party in the world. It will survive and flourish, because we have far more in common than divides us.’
‘Tough election for @Conservatives, and we need to rapidly find a way forward. With 34.9% of voters voting for hard Brexit in a low turnout election (compared to the GE and referendum), we should be careful not to interpret this as a mandate for No Deal.’
In a slight consolation, the Tories appear on course to retain their single MEP in Scotland when results are officially declared.
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said ‘all indications’ pointed to Baroness Mobarik retaining her seat on a ‘tough night’ for the party across the UK.
Tory chairman Brandon Lewis said: ‘We knew this would be a difficult night for @Conservatives – people want us to deliver Brexit as quickly as possible. We must.’
As the battle for Downing Street heated up, Environment Secretary Michael Gove insisted he has ‘evolved’ as a politician since previously stating he was ‘incapable’ of being prime minister.
He told BBC Radio 4 podcast, Political Thinking with Nick Robinson: ‘I’ve changed my mind.
‘In those three years I have been through a variety of experiences. I think that I’ve evolved as a politician.’
Mr Johnson and Mr Gove fronted the Vote Leave campaign to victory in the 2016 referendum.
But they famously fell out in the aftermath when Gove quit as Johnson’s campaign chairman and sank his leadership bid.
Jeremy Hunt warned the Tories faced an ‘existential’ threat if they failed to deliver Brexit
These former battle lines are now being redrawn as the rival Eurosceptics both set their sights on Number 10.
Chancellor Philip Hammond has repeatedly refused to rule out backing a no confidence vote in Theresa May’s successor if they went for a no-deal Brexit in October.
He told the BBC: ‘A prime minister who ignores Parliament cannot expect to survive very long.’
Other leadership contenders Dominic Raab, Andrea Leadsom and Esther McVey have said they would be prepared to leave with no deal on October 31 if necessary.
Mr Gove said he would set out his stance on no-deal in the coming days, but that he agreed with Mrs May on the need for compromise in politics.
Writing in the Times, Health Secretary Matt Hancock called for fellow contenders to rule out a snap national poll in a bid to try and end parliamentary deadlock on Brexit.
He said: ‘A general election before Brexit would be madness.
‘That means we have to deliver Brexit through this Parliament, whether we like it or not.’
Mr Gove insisted he could be trusted when asked about campaigning against his previous political ally David Cameron in the referendum, and the way he suddenly abandoned Mr Johnson in the 2016 leadership contest.
And Mr Johnson used the poor Tory showing in the European Parliament election to try and position himself as the candidate best placed to battle the Brexit Party.
The new Tory leader looks set to take over as prime minister at the end of July after Mrs May finally laid out a timetable for her exit from Downing Street.
Nominations close in the week of June 10, with MPs involved in a series of votes to whittle down the crowded field to a final two contenders.
The 160,000 Tory party members will then decide who wins the run-off.