Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. UK Politics
20 June 2019updated 08 Jul 2021 1:02pm

Jeremy Hunt narrowly finishes second, as Boris Johnson storms to victory in final ballot

By Stephen Bush

Jeremy Hunt narrowly beat Michael Gove into second place in the fifth and final ballot, with the support of 77 MPs, against Gove, who received 75. Well ahead in first place was Boris Johnson, with the support of 160 MPs. Johnson and Hunt will now go forward to a vote of all Conservative party members, in which Johnson starts as the heavy favourite.

The outcome of the result is unsurprising, but the margin is unexpectedly tight. Supporters of Sajid Javid, a Cabinet minister who wooed MPs by emphasising how both his backstory and his approach would make for a constructive final round of the contest, were always expected to split in favour of Jeremy Hunt, who is considered unlikely to fight a particularly pugnacious campaign against Boris Johnson; as opposed to Michael Gove, who was thought more likely to fight a more damaging campaign against Johnson.

In the end, Hunt only just saw off Gove. Johnson picked up just three votes between the two ballots, while Hunt went up by 16, and Gove by 14:  evidence, as far some are concerned, that Johnsonites voted tactically to secure their preferred opponent. True or not, it is an indicator that while Johnson has achieved an absolute majority of Conservative MPs, doubts about his fitness for office have not vanished from the parliamentary party. Either a hard core of MPs still opted not to back him or a large number of his opponents went for the candidate most likely to give him a rough ride. 

For Team Johnson, that is a minor worry for now. They have their dream opponent: a former Remainer and a Theresa May loyalist who will be unlikely to make the final stage of the race uncomfortable for them

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. A weekly round-up of The New Statesman's climate, environment and sustainability content. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.