Tonbridge MP first to throw hat in the ring to be next PM

Olympian Louis Smith

The MP for Tonbridge & Malling told reporters it would be a ‘huge privilege’ to be PM, in the first open indication from a sitting Tory parliamentarian that they would run if the top job became open.

It comes as Boris Johnson remains under pressure over a series of ‘gatherings’ at Number 10, which have been the subject of a report this week by top civil servant Sue Gray and that are currently under investigation by the Met Police.

Mr Tugendhat, who is currently the Chair of the Commons’ Foreign Affairs Select Committee, told Times Radio on Saturday: “I think I’m making it pretty clear that I think that it’s up to all of us to put ourselves forward. And it’s up to the electorate, in the first case parliamentary colleagues, and in the second case the party, to choose.

“I think it’s a position of absolute integrity to say that of course you should offer yourself to the electorate if you think you can do it. Of course you should talk to colleagues and see if you can get a group together, and if you can get a group together you should go for it.

“Now I haven’t been canvassing support so I don’t know if I’d be able to get the first group together – you’ve got to get a group first. But if you could, of course you should have a go.”

On being Prime Minister, he said: “It would be a huge privilege. It’s one of those questions that I know many people ask and some people, some of my colleagues, are coy about and I don’t understand why.

“I don’t think you should be embarrassed to want to serve your country. I was very proud to serve my country in the armed forces and I got to the highest rank I could so that I could have the best effect that I could. And I was very proud to serve as a diplomat around the world.”

His statement comes as national newspapers have suggested the former army officer is gaining support among backbench Conservatives in Westminster as a replacement for Boris Johnson if the PM steps down following the ongoing row about parties at Number 10.

According to the Guardian, centrist Tories, those that sit politically on the left of the centre right party, have named the 48-year-old as their favourite to replace Mr Johnson, despite the Tonbridge MP having no ministerial experience.

“Tom would be my first choice,” one former cabinet minister told the newspaper. “I think a lot of people think he would be the best chance for a fresh start with someone who has a lot of relevant experience and deep thinking.”

The nephew of Tory peer Lord Tugendhat and the son of a high court judge, the Kent MP has had a long and distinguished military career, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

During the fall of Kabul, he was very vocal at the chaos of the evacuation and the approach of world leaders, especially US President Joe Biden, giving a personal and impassioned speech in the Commons that was widely praised.

But Mr Tugendhat is not the bookmakers’ favourite, odds on him being PM have come down from 33-1 before the party scandals to as low as 7-1.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak (2-1) and Foreign Affairs Secretary Liz Truss (5-1) still remain the bookies’ favourite, although neither have said they would stand if Boris Johnson were to go.



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