Fri, Jun 21, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Boris Johnson far ahead in race to become British PM

Reuters, LONDON

Conservative Party leadership contender Boris Johnson leaves his home in London yesterday.

Photo: AFP

Former British secretary of state for foreign and Commonwealth affairs Boris Johnson, who helped lead the 2016 Brexit referendum campaign, yesterday continued his progress toward the top job when he trounced his rivals again in the race to succeed British Prime Minister Theresa May.

In a fourth ballot of Conservative Party lawmakers, which eliminated British Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Johnson was again way out in front of his rivals. The result of a fifth and final ballot was due at 6pm in London yesterday.

Johnson, who served as London mayor for eight years, has cast himself as the only candidate who can deliver Brexit on Oct. 31 while fighting off the electoral threats of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.

Despite a series of scandals in the past and criticism about his attention to detail, Johnson has dominated the race since May announced that she would step down after repeatedly failing to get her Brexit deal ratified by parliament.

Johnson, 55, has increased his share of the vote of Conservative lawmakers at each of the four ballots so far: 114 out of 313 votes in the first ballot on Thursday last week; 126 on Tuesday; 143 on Wednesday and 157 yesterday.

British Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove was second with 61 votes and British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Jeremy Hunt was third with 59. Javid got 34.

After the final lawmakers’ ballot leaves just two candidates remaining, about 160,000 Conservative Party grassroots members are to vote on who will be their leader — and Britain’s next prime minister — by the end of next month.

Bookmakers give Johnson an 89 percent probability of winning.

Johnson has pledged to leave the EU on Oct. 31 with or without a deal. The EU has said it will not renegotiate the divorce deal that May agreed last year and the British parliament has indicated it would block a no-deal exit.

He has not addressed how he would solve that riddle.

The rise of Johnson, cast by many as simply “Boris,” to pole position for leading the world’s fifth-largest economy is the grandest twist so far in a career that has morphed from journalism via TV show fame, comedy and scandal into the brinkmanship of the Brexit crisis.

He began his career at a management consultancy in London, but dropped out after a week.

He then turned to journalism, but was sacked from the Times for making up quotes.

Hired by the Daily Telegraph, Johnson infuriated European officials and delighted then-British prime minister Margaret Thatcher by lampooning the European Economic Community establishment with a host of sometimes misleading reports from Brussels.

After entering politics, he was sacked from the Conservative Party’s policy team while in opposition for lying about an extra-marital affair, but his sometimes shambolic personal appearance and disarmingly self-deprecating confidence allowed him to survive both gaffes and scandal.

He won two terms as London mayor from 2008 to 2016.

In 2016, he became one of the most recognizable faces of the Brexit campaign which won the referendum with 52 percent of the votes cast versus 48 percent for staying in.

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