TWELVE Tory leadership contenders emerge with fears of nasty contest

TWELVE Tory leadership contenders emerge with fears of nasty contest 2
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Tory chiefs are today frantically hunting ways to avoid the battle to succeed Boris Johnson turning into a mud-slinging ‘wacky races’ and plunging the party into chaos for months.

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More than a dozen MPs are seriously mulling bids for the leadership after the PM’s bombshell exit, with ministers raising fears the ‘hounds of hell’ have been unleashed and they will ‘shred each other to pieces’ to gain an advantage. 

How will the Tory leadership contest happen? 

The race to replace Boris Johnson as Tory leader – and consequently as PM – will get under way in earnest next week.

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But the first issue will be setting the exact rules for the contest.

The powerful backbench 1922 committee is due to elect its new executive at the beginning of the week.

And the body’s first duty will then be to decide on how to conduct the leadership race.

Under the existing template, any candidate can feature on the ballot as long as they are nominated by eight MPs.

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However, senior figures on the 1922 are pushing for this to be increased – perhaps to 20 or 25.

That would avoid a ‘grand national’ style field, with more than a dozen politicians seriously considering a tilt at the top job today. 

MPs expect that they will start to vote on the candidates on Thursday, after a brief spell of hustings at Parliament and some intense lobbying in the tea room and corridors.

The normal format is for the lowest-scoring candidate to be ejected after each round – but in reality when they see which way the wind is blowing others also pull out.

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Deals are frequently done to throw support behind other hopefuls, as happened when Matt Hancock opted to withdraw and support Mr Johnson in 2019.

Sir Graham Brady, the 1922 committee chair, is determined that the numbers will be whittled down to a final two by the time the Commons goes into recess on July 21.

This pair are then expected to go head to head in a national vote of the Tory membership.

Hustings events will be hosted in each region during August, with a postal ballot.

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The winner should be announced in time for the return of Parliament at the beginning of September.

At this point the new leader will be able to command a majority in the House of Commons – and the Queen will invite them to take over as PM.  

‘Blue on blue’ attacks have already begun, with Rishi Sunak blasted by one rival who said it is ‘not obvious that he’s got an economic plan or is a tax cutter from his record’. 

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One Conservative MP swiped that Sajid Javid’s pitch was already over after he ‘completely lost the room’ while delivering his resignation statement in the Commons.

And they blasted Foreign Secretary Liz Truss – who has flown back from Indonesia to kick-start her campaign – as ‘bad, mad and frankly dangerous to know’.

Ms Truss is expected to pitch herself as the ‘female Boris’ in the Tory leadership race – a candidate who can win seats both in the South and the Red Wall. But critics have previously dismissed her as a ‘Poundshop Thatcher’.

Other MPs told MailOnline they were in despair about who to support, as Tom Tugendhat is ‘too left wing’ and ‘dodgy on Brexit’, Ben Wallace is the ‘son of Boris’ and ‘only knows about defence’ and Priti Patel has failed to tackle the Channel migrant crisis.

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A grumpy floating voter said they would not be able to plump for Mr Javid despite his attributed because he is ‘very wooden’.  

Attorney General Suella Braverman was slated for having ‘no name recognition’ with the public, while one backbencher said of former minister Steve Baker: ‘Every now and again he’s prone to crying. We don’t want a PM who blubs too much.’ 

Workington MP Mark Jenkison summed up the view of many with a joke candidacy announcement today.

He quipped that he had ‘sought counsel from those I can trust to blow smoke up my a***’.

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‘That, when weighed against my own inflated sense of self-importance, leads me to conclude that I should throw my hat into the ring and stand for election as Leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party,’ he wrote.

‘Over the next six weeks I will be available to promise you the moon on a stick. Ask and it shall be yours. Let me worry about how I deal with three chancellors and a cabinet of 160. It is having the answers to those questions that makes me the most suitable candidate.’ 

The politicians considering a run also include Nadhim Zahawi and Penny Mordaunt.

Although the PM’s exit was only cemented yesterday, many of the hopefuls have been cranking up campaigns for months – and have spent the last week desperately getting finalising teams. 

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But much will depend on the exact rules of the contest, which are due to be decided by the powerful backbench 1922 committee executive next week. They are believed to be looking at raising the threshold for how many MP nominations are needed to enter the ballot, which could block some less popular options.

MPs will whittle down the list in a series of votes over the next fortnight, before the final two candidates are put to the membership in a run-off. However, the wider party does not always get a say – in 2016 Theresa May was returned unopposed after her last rival Andrea Leadsom pulled out. 

In a round of interviews this morning, newly-appointed Education Secretary James Cleverly has said it was ‘right’ that Mr Johnson resigned and called for a ‘quick’ leadership contest.

He told Sky News: ‘It’s right that he has stood down and it’s right that he has put a team in place to continue governing whilst the selection procedure flows for his successor.

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‘And we should do that I think pretty quickly, pretty promptly.’

He added that Mr Johnson ‘has said that he is not going to make decisions that would limit the options for his successor, that would be wrong’.

Boris Johnson chairs a Cabinet meeting on Thursday after delivering his statement resigning as the leader of the Tories

Boris Johnson chairs a Cabinet meeting on Thursday after delivering his statement resigning as the leader of the Tories

Liz Truss

Ben Wallace

Liz Truss (left) will pitch herself as the female Boris Johnson in the Tory leadership race – a candidate who can win seats both in the South and the Red Wall. 

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New Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi (right) chats at the Spectator summer party in Westminster

New Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi (right) chats at the Spectator summer party in Westminster

Suella Braverman (pictured), the Brexit-backing Attorney General, has thrown her hat in the ring for the Tory leadership contest - although she has been given slim odds

Jeremy Hunt

Suella Braverman (left), the Attorney General, has thrown her hat in the ring for the Tory leadership contest – although she has been given slim odds. Jeremy Hunt (right) is also mulling another run

Around 20 MPs were outside No 10, clapping and cheering as Boris Johnson finished his speech that said admitted 'no-one is indispensable' - less than three years after he won a landslide general election victory

Around 20 MPs were outside No 10, clapping and cheering as Boris Johnson finished his speech that said admitted ‘no-one is indispensable’ – less than three years after he won a landslide general election victory 

SO WHO WILL BE NEXT TO MOVE INTO No10?  

LIZ TRUSS, 46

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Foreign Secretary who has also been international trade secretary, justice secretary, chief secretary to the Treasury and Lord Chancellor.

Strengths: Popular with Tory grassroots for championing low taxes and free trade.

Weaknesses: Backed Remain but now claims to regret decision.

BEN WALLACE, 52

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Former Army officer who has been Defence Secretary since 2019.

Strengths: Popular with grassroots Tories, particularly over the handling of the Ukraine war.

Weaknesses: Opposed Brexit and is not believed to be sure about running for leader.

RISHI SUNAK, 42

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Ex-banker who was Chancellor until this week.

Strengths: Long-standing Brexit supporter who kept economy afloat during the pandemic.

Weaknesses: Questions about his personal wealth, behind recent tax rises.

SAJID JAVID, 52

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Triggered this week’s wave of resignations by quitting as health secretary.

Strengths: Has served as Chancellor and home secretary.

Weaknesses: Backed EU membership and is seen as a wooden speaker.

SUELLA BRAVERMAN, 42

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The second ever female Attorney General who became the first Cabinet minister to receive paid maternity leave last year.

Strengths: Strong pro-Brexit views and has vowed to wage war on woke.

Weaknesses: Surprised many when she launched her leadership bid before Boris Johnson had quit.

PENNY MORDAUNT, 49

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First female defence secretary who is currently a junior trade minister.

Strengths: Was a key figure in the Leave campaign and popular within the party.

Weaknesses: Has told MPs controversial mantra that ‘trans women are women’.

NADHIM ZAHAWI, 55

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Dramatically promoted to Chancellor from education secretary this week.

Strengths: Successfully delivered the vaccine rollout.

Weaknesses: Accepted promotion then told Boris to quit.

STEVE BAKER, 51

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Former RAF engineer and junior Brexit minister.

Strengths: Chaired pro-Brexit ERG and challenged lockdown restrictions.

Weaknesses: Potentially alienating libertarian views.

TOM TUGENDHAT, 49

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Served in Iraq and Afghanistan, currently chairs the foreign affairs select committee.

Strengths: Already won support of several MPs.

Weaknesses: Voted Remain, has no ministerial experience.

JAKE BERRY, 43

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Currently chairs the Northern Research Group of MPs.

Strengths: Popular among Red Wall MPs and keen on levelling up agenda.

Weaknesses: Admitted he was wrong to oppose Brexit.

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However, 1922 committee Treasurer Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown warned that the decision should go to the full membership.

He told BBC’s Today programme: ‘In this case, I think there is a lot of competition.

‘And I would be surprised if it didn’t go to the membership in the country.

‘I think, actually, under these circumstances with the division in the party, I think it is a good thing that it goes to the to the membership so they have an opportunity to have their say and a vote.’

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There have been calls for Mr Johnson to step aside immediately, but Sir Geoffrey said he believed ‘that ship has sailed’ and he will now stay as PM until a successor is appointed.

‘I think that ship has sailed I think yesterday, everybody (on) this board, they decided that Boris Johnson should remain and he has said very clearly that he won’t be making any major changes during that period. And I think that is a good thing,’ he said.

‘Those ministers who are coming back in a caretaker role, having had resigned (from) work, it will be a little awkward for them.

‘I think in an ideal world, Dominic Raab, as Deputy Prime Minister, should have been the caretaker prime minister, but that ship I think has sailed and we must we must now live with the fact that Boris Johnson will be Prime Minister until a successor can be voted on.’

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Yesterday’s cabinet meeting is said to have concluded with ministers banging tables in tribute to Johnson. 

Tories have been speculating that whoever eventually come out on top will have to cope with Johnson causing trouble for them. 

One said: ‘He is a hugely charismatic person. He is a rock star and a big figure on the world stage. He is not going to fade away in the background.’

But another MP told MailOnline that Mr Johnson’s words would not carry weight any more: ‘I’m not sure whether anyone would want him to endorse them now.’ 

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An ally of Johnson who was with him on Wednesday night said: ‘I’m angry with him, he could have done everything with an 80-seat majority but he’s blown it.’

‘There is nobody who enthuses me massively,’ said one former minister.

‘After Theresa everybody knew it was going to be Boris. But this time round there is nobody really.

‘A lot of people are just not known to the voters. They are not household names, and we are 12 years into government.’

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Some Tories complained that Mr Wallace does not have the breadth of interest to rise higher. 

‘He is bang on when it comes to defence but how much does he know about economic policy,’ one MP said.

There is also disquiet on the Tory benches about Mr Zahawi’s behaviour this week, after he accepted the job of Chancellor only to call for Mr Johnson to resign within 48 hours.

‘Nadhim has damaged himself very badly over the last few days,’ one senior Conservative told MailOnline. 

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‘The whole Nasty Nadhim thing.’ 

Ms Truss will land in Britain this afternoon after she cut short a trip to a G20 foreign ministers summit in Indonesia yesterday.

The minister, who is finalising plans for her campaign, will argue she can keep together the coalition of voters who backed Mr Johnson at the 2019 general election when he won a thumping majority.

A close ally said last night: ‘She is popular in both the Red Wall and the Lib Dem-facing marginals we need to keep hold of.’

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In a swipe at Mr Sunak, who raised national insurance, Ms Truss will declare that she is a ‘low-tax’ Tory who will ‘get the economy moving again’. The ally added: ‘She is vastly experienced and knows how to drive difficult policy through Whitehall… She is tough and delivers and gets things done.’

Defence Secretary Mr Wallace is also planning to run for the top job after discussing a leadership bid with his family.

The former Army officer, 52, is expected to confirm his intentions in the coming days. He has emerged as a front-runner after a survey of Conservative Party members.

The father-of-three, who is separated from his wife, topped a YouGov poll with 13 per cent support, just ahead of Miss Mordaunt on 12 per cent, Mr Sunak on 10 per cent and Miss Truss on 8 per cent.

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Former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who was beaten by Mr Johnson in the 2019 Tory leadership contest, trailed in on 5 per cent – the same as new Chancellor Mr Zahawi. 

Bookies installed Mr Wallace as favourite following the poll.

The MP for Wyre and Preston North has gained plaudits across the political spectrum for his handling of the war in Ukraine. Miss Mordaunt, who was the first female Defence Secretary before being fired by Mr Johnson, already has a campaign team in place. 

The resignations of Mr Sunak and Mr Javid from Cabinet on Tuesday triggered the mass exodus which ultimately crippled Mr Johnson’s leadership.

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Mr Sunak was regarded as a front-runner for the Tory crown before his stock took a tumble following disclosures earlier this year that his wife had non-dom status for tax purposes. Last night it was reported he has set up a temporary campaign base in a Westminster hotel.

It is understood that former Health Secretary Mr Javid and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps are seriously considering running.

Rivals last night gloated that Mr Zahawi’s campaign was ‘falling apart’ after he took the job of Chancellor only to call for Mr Johnson to go 24 hours later.

But his allies said he would pitch himself as a successful former businessman who had delivered Britain’s Covid vaccine rollout.

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Penny Mordaunt, Minister of State for Trade Policy, is among the bookies' favourites to replace Mr Johnson, as the field of candidates begins to take shape

Rishi Sunak

Chancellor Rishi Sunak (right) and trade minister Penny Mordaunt (left) are among the bookies’ favourites to replace Mr Johnson, as the field of candidates begins to take shape

TWELVE Tory leadership contenders emerge with fears of nasty contest 3

Nadine Dorries, right, next to Carrie Johnson and her daughter Romy outside 10 Downing Street on July 7. The culture secretary – one of the Prime Minister’s most stringent supporters – warned colleagues that they have to ‘keep the cabinet sailing steadily and keep the government running smoothly’

Sajid Javid, who stepped down as health secretary within minutes of Mr Sunak's resignation, has 7/1 odds of taking his party's reigns

Sajid Javid, who stepped down as health secretary within minutes of Mr Sunak’s resignation, has 7/1 odds of taking his party’s reigns 

Former Territorial Army officer Mr Tugendhat, a backbench MP who heads the Commons foreign affairs committee, has already won the backing of several top Tories, including Theresa May’s ex-deputy Damian Green.

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Last night it emerged that Kemi Badenoch, who quit as a Levelling Up Minister on Wednesday, was ‘actively considering running’.

A source close to the 42-year-old, who was first elected to Parliament in 2017, said: ‘Some MPs are urging Kemi to run and she has started the process of taking soundings.

‘She is speaking to MPs to find out what they are looking for in a new leader to see if she has it. A poll last night showed Mr Sunak is the only one of the main candidates who can beat Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer in a head-to-head contest. His closest rival in the JL Partners poll was Mr Javid, who was three points behind Sir Keir.  

WE still love you, daddy! Sweet moment Boris is welcomed back into the arms of his son Wilf, two, inside Downing Street after finally facing the music and resigning

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By Adam Solomons for MailOnline 

Boris Johnson was pictured embracing his son Wilf before hugging wife Carrie and nine-month old daughter Romy after announcing his intention to resign at lunchtime yesterday.

The prime minister smirked at Wilf, two, after returning to Number Ten from the short speech given after 12.30pm.

Aides and ministerial colleagues applauded the doomed PM, with some reportedly crying at the news.

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Images released by Downing Street overnight also showed Mr Johnson speaking with Ukrainian president Zelensky on the phone yesterday afternoon.

In another image, the prime minister is pictured looking down at his resignation speech solemnly.

After giving the address, Johnson returned to his study to plot his latest – and final – Cabinet.

Number Ten took the rare decision to release the images taken by photographer Andrew Parsons, which showed the prime minister in the immediate aftermath of his momentous speech.

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Their official caption described Johnson’s family ‘comforting’ him following the statement.

Boris Johnson holds son Wilf, two, who already appears the spitting image of his father. The PM resigned at lunchtime yesterday

Boris Johnson holds son Wilf, two, who already appears the spitting image of his father. The PM resigned at lunchtime yesterday

Mr Johnson embraced wife Carrie and baby daughter Romy, who was held in a carrier as she attended his resignation speech

Mr Johnson embraced wife Carrie and baby daughter Romy, who was held in a carrier as she attended his resignation speech

Special relationship: Wilf was born just days after his father survived a life-threatening bout of Covid at St Thomas's Hospital

Special relationship: Wilf was born just days after his father survived a life-threatening bout of Covid at St Thomas’s Hospital

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After making his speech, Mr Johnson was applauded by aides and ministerial colleagues including Johnny Mercer (centre left), who was now been re-appointed to the Cabinet as Minister for Veterans' Affairs. The PM smirks at Wilf (below) as wife Carrie (right, in red) beams. Downing Street aide Ross Kempsell (furthest left) also applauds Mr Johnson

After making his speech, Mr Johnson was applauded by aides and ministerial colleagues including Johnny Mercer (centre left), who was now been re-appointed to the Cabinet as Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. The PM smirks at Wilf (below) as wife Carrie (right, in red) beams. Downing Street aide Ross Kempsell (furthest left) also applauds Mr Johnson

By yesterday afternoon, Jacob Rees-Mogg (centre) and Nadine Dorries (right of Mr Johnson) were among the only Cabinet ministers still in support of the PM's continued tenure. Johnson is pictured conferring with colleagues after making his speech yesterday

By yesterday afternoon, Jacob Rees-Mogg (centre) and Nadine Dorries (right of Mr Johnson) were among the only Cabinet ministers still in support of the PM’s continued tenure. Johnson is pictured conferring with colleagues after making his speech yesterday

Boris Johnson was pictured yesterday afternoon in conversation with President Zelensky, perhaps his last as prime minister

Boris Johnson was pictured yesterday afternoon in conversation with President Zelensky, perhaps his last as prime minister

Downing Street photographer Andrew Parsons captured the moment Johnson strode out of Downing Street to give the speech

Downing Street photographer Andrew Parsons captured the moment Johnson strode out of Downing Street to give the speech

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In another pensive image, Johnson goes through his statement in the minutes before stepping out in front of Number Ten

In another pensive image, Johnson goes through his statement in the minutes before stepping out in front of Number Ten

Admirers: standing in front of the podium and watched by close aides and Carrie with baby Romy (pictured, centre right), Mr Johnson pointed to his achievements since winning the 2019 general election. Staff reportedly cried before and afterwards

Admirers: standing in front of the podium and watched by close aides and Carrie with baby Romy (pictured, centre right), Mr Johnson pointed to his achievements since winning the 2019 general election. Staff reportedly cried before and afterwards

Mrs Johnson kisses nine-month-old Romy who was with her to hear the resignation speech yesterday. Ms Dorries is also present

Mrs Johnson kisses nine-month-old Romy who was with her to hear the resignation speech yesterday. Ms Dorries is also present

Jacob Rees-Mogg, Nadine Dorries and Alister Jack, his most loyal trio of Cabinet lieutenants, feature prominently.  

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From a rocky start to political power couple: A timeline of Boris and Carrie Johnson’s relationship

2009: Carrie Symonds, then 21, joins the Conservative Party as press officer. Her association with Mr Johnson dates back to the early years, having worked on his successful re-election bid at City Hall in 2012.

February 2018: Boris, then still married to wife Maria Wheeler, is spotted with Carrie outside the Conservative party Black and White Ball at the Natural History Museum. It is thought to be the first time the pair were photographed together. 

September 2018: News breaks that Boris has been kicked out of the marital home by his wife of 25 years amid reports he was seeing another woman. 

First photo: Boris, then still married to Maria Wheeler, is spotted with Carrie outside a Conservative party fundraiser

First photo: Boris, then still married to Maria Wheeler, is spotted with Carrie outside a Conservative party fundraiser

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June 2019: By now Boris and Carrie are living together in her flat in Camberwell, South East London. Reports emerge that police were called to the property after neighbours heard a loud altercation involving screaming, shouting and banging. Symonds could allegedly be heard telling Johnson to ‘get off me’ and ‘get out of my flat’.

Police initially said they had no record of a domestic incident at the address, but later issued a statement saying: ‘At 00:24hrs on Friday, 21 June, police responded to a call from a local resident in [south London]. The caller was concerned for the welfare of a female neighbour.

‘Police attended and spoke to all occupants of the address, who were all safe and well. There were no offences or concerns apparent to the officers and there was no cause for police action.’

Neither Boris nor Carrie have spoken publicly about the incident.

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Front and centre: Boris Johnson is elected as the leader of the Conservative party. Carrie is pictured alongside his family as he arrives at Downing Street

Front and centre: Boris Johnson is elected as the leader of the Conservative party. Carrie is pictured alongside his family as he arrives at Downing Street

June 2019: A few days later the couple were pictured holding hands in the countryside.  

July 2019: The couple buy a £1.3million house in Camberwell after Boris sells the £3.7million mansion he shared with wife Marina.

23 July 2019: Boris Johnson is elected as the leader of the Conservative party and Prime Minister. Carrie is pictured alongside his family as he arrives at Downing Street.

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29 July 2019: Spokesperson confirms Carrie Symonds will move into Downing Street. They are the first unmarried couple to officially live at the address. 

September 2019: Couple adopt a rescue dog, Dilyn.  

December 2019: Boris Johnson wins the general election and the couple flies to St Lucia and Mustique to celebrate

February 2020: Boris Johnson’s divorce from Marina Wheeler is approved to proceed

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29 February 2020: Boris and Carrie announce they are engaged and expecting a baby. A spokesperson for the couple said: ‘The prime minister and Miss Symonds are very pleased to announce their engagement and that they are expecting a baby in the early summer.’

27 March 2020: Boris Johnson tests positive for Covid-19 and is subsequently hospitalised.

29 April 2020: Couple welcome their son Wilfred. Wilfred Lawrie Nicholas Johnson in full – was named after Mr and Mrs Johnson’s grandfathers and partly in tribute to two doctors, Nick Hart and Nick Price, who helped save Mr Johnson’s life when he was in hospital with Covid in 2020.

Family life: Couple welcome their son Wilfred. Wilfred Lawrie Nicholas Johnson in full – was named after Mr and Mrs Johnson's grandfathers and partly in tribute to two doctors, Nick Hart and Nick Price, who helped save Mr Johnson's life

Family life: Couple welcome their son Wilfred. Wilfred Lawrie Nicholas Johnson in full – was named after Mr and Mrs Johnson’s grandfathers and partly in tribute to two doctors, Nick Hart and Nick Price, who helped save Mr Johnson’s life

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26 May 2020: Boris and Carrie Johnson wed at Westminster Cathedral with a small garden party the following day. News was made public a few days later. 

31 July 2020: Couple announce they are expecting a second child and reveal they suffered a miscarriage earlier in the year.

June 2021: Carrie joins Boris at the G7 summit and introduces son Wilfred to President Biden and his wife Jill 

9 December 2021: Carrie and Boris announce birth of a baby girl

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16 December 2021: The couple announced they have named their daughter Romy Iris Charlotte Johnson. 

Baby girl: Carrie and Boris announce birth of a baby girl. The couple later revealed they had named their daughter Romy Iris Charlotte Johnson (pictured with brother Wilf)

Baby girl: Carrie and Boris announce birth of a baby girl. The couple later revealed they had named their daughter Romy Iris Charlotte Johnson (pictured with brother Wilf)

Mrs Johnson explained the choice of name: ‘Romy after my aunt, Rosemary. Iris from the Greek, meaning rainbow. Charlotte [after] Boris’s late mum whom we miss so much.’

June 2022: Carrie joins Boris at a series of high profile events including the Platinum Jubilee, a Commonwealth visit to Rwanda and the G7 summit. Daughter Romy joins her parents on the latter two.

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7 July 2022: Boris Johnson announces he will resign following a slew of ministerial resignations.

Also present were Tory MPs Johnny Mercer, Sarah Dines, James Duddridge, and Downing Street staffers Andrew Griffith, Ross Kempsell and Charlotte Owen.

Front-row guests outside Downing Street yesterday included culture secretary Nadine Dorries and supportive backbencher Andrea Jenkyns.

After trying to weather the storm brought by Conservative MPs and numerous Cabinet ministers since Tuesday evening, Mr Johnson finally decided at 6am yesterday that he would step down.

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A Downing Street official phoned BBC political editor Chris Mason while he was appearing on a bumper special episode of the Today programme, which ran from 6.30 till 9.45am.

Mr Johnson then wrote his resignation speech alone before delivering it at lunchtime.

Unusually somber in tone, Johnson nevertheless sniped Cabinet rivals and backbench rebels, claiming it was ‘herd instincts’ in Westminster that did him in.

Mr Johnson said: ‘In the last few days I have tried to persuade my colleagues it would be eccentric to change governments when we are delivering so much.

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‘And when we have such a vast mandate, and when we’re actually only a handful of points behind in the polls, even in mid-term after quite a few months of pretty relentless sledging.

‘Of course it’s painful not to be able to see through so many ideas and projects myself.

‘But, as we’ve seen at Westminster, the herd instinct is powerful and when the herd moves, it moves.

‘In politics, no one is remotely indispensable. Our brilliant and Darwinian system will produce another leader equally committed to taking this country forward through tough times.’

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After delivering the speech, Johnson returned to his office, where he set about re-appointing the Cabinet after a slew of resignations over the past 48 hours.

Consensus-driven Commons committee chair Greg Clark was named the new Levelling Up Secretary, replacing sacked Michael Gove.

James Cleverly became Education Secretary after Nadim Zahawi was made Chancellor and his replacement, Michelle Donelan, stepped down after mere hours in the job.  

Robert Buckland returned to the Cabinet as Welsh Secretary and Shailesh Vara took over as Northern Ireland Secretary.

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Kit Malthouse was named the new Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, a title also held by Mr Gove.

The PM’s resignation announcement effectively fires the starting gun on what looks set to be a chaotic leadership battle. 

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss – expected to be a candidate – will cut short a visit to Indonesia to return to the UK.

It was revealed tonight that the ensuing Conservative leadership election will conclude by early September.

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Proposals presented to the backbench 1922 Committee are set to be approved on Monday, the FT reported.

A spate of resignations sparked by Sajid Javid’s decision to step down on Tuesday evening virtually decapitated Johnson’s government – and threatened to deprive numerous Whitehall departments of any ministers at all. 

George Freeman, who announced he was resigning as science minister this morning, said Mr Johnson must apologise to the Queen. 

He also advised her to call for a caretaker prime minister, which would be an unprecedented step in modern constitutional history.

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‘Boris Johnson needs to hand in the seals of office, apologise to Her Majesty and advise her to call for a caretaker prime minister,’ he said. 

‘To take over today so that ministers can get back to work and we can choose a new Conservative leader to try and repair the damage and rebuild trust.’

One ex-minister told MailOnline: ‘We need to be rid of the Johnson poison as quickly as possible.’

Ex-No10 strategy chief Dominic Cummings wrote on Twitter: ‘Evict TODAY or he’ll cause CARNAGE, even now he’s playing for time & will try to stay.

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‘No ‘dignity’, no ‘interim while leadership contest’.

‘Raab shd be interim PM by evening.’

Another former minister, Nick Gibb, said: ‘As well as resigning as Party leader the PM must resign his office.

‘After losing so many ministers, he has lost the trust and authority required to continue.

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‘We need an acting PM who is not a candidate for leader to stabilise the government while a new leader is elected.’

The most serious blow perhaps came from Mr Zahawi, who just hours after reportedly threatening to resign if he wasn’t handed the keys to No 11, publicly called on the PM to quit.

He tweeted a resignation letter, signed on Treasury headed paper, and wrote: ‘Prime Minister: this is not sustainable and it will only get worse: for you, for the Conservative Party and most important of all the country.

‘You must do the right thing and go now.’

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A council of Cabinet ministers reportedly visited Johnson and urged him to go yesterday afternoon.

They included Home Secretary Priti Patel, Welsh Secretary Simon Hart, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, the BBC reported.

After Johnson refused, Mr Hart quit.

It appears the only Cabinet ministers who truly wished for Mr Johnson to stay were Ms Dorries and Brexit opportunities secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg.

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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: ‘It is good news for the country that Boris Johnson has resigned as Prime Minister.

‘But it should have happened long ago. He was always unfit for office. He has been responsible for lies, scandal and fraud on an industrial scale.

‘And all those who have been complicit should be utterly ashamed.

‘The Tory party have inflicted chaos upon the country during the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades. And they cannot now pretend they are the ones to sort it out.

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‘They have been in power for 12 years. The damage they have done is profound.’

In a sensational twist late last night, Mr Johnson summarily sacked Michael Gove with No10 sources branding the Levelling Up Secretary a ‘snake’ who had tried to tell the premier that the ‘the game was up’.

Constitutional experts have branded the ‘nuclear option’ of asking the Queen for a dissolution ‘deluded madness’ which would spark a crisis as the monarch would be obliged to turned down his request.

In his resignation letter, Mr Lewis – a former party chairman who has been Northern Ireland Secretary since early 2020 – warned divided Conservatives cannot win elections.

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He said: ‘A decision to leave Government is never taken lightly, particularly at such a critical time for Northern Ireland. I have taken a lot of time to consider this decision, having outlined my position to you at length last night.

Mr Lewis told the Prime Minister that in recent months, the Conservative Party has been ‘relentlessly on the defensive, consumed by introspection and in-fighting’.

‘A divided Party cannot win elections. It cannot deliver for those who trusted us with their votes for the first time in 2019.’

Mr Lewis told Mr Johnson he had ‘given you, and those around you, the benefit of the doubt’.

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Mrs Johnson, a former Conservative Party communications chief, re-wore a £325 red L.K. Bennett for the occasion and held her daughter Romy in a baby carrier.

Mrs Johnson arriving for the speech yesterday

Mrs Johnson, a former Conservative Party communications chief, re-wore a £325 red L.K. Bennett for the occasion and held her daughter Romy in a baby carrier

The couple tied the knot in a secret ceremony at Westminster Cathedral in front of just a handful of guests in May 2021 but according to sources have planned a second event at Chequers at the end of July

The couple tied the knot in a secret ceremony at Westminster Cathedral in front of just a handful of guests in May 2021 but according to sources have planned a second event at Chequers at the end of July 

‘I have gone out and defended this Government both publicly and privately,’ the Northern Ireland Secretary told Boris Johnson in his resignation letter.

‘We are, however, now past the point of no return. I cannot sacrifice my personal integrity to defend things as they stand now. 

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‘It is clear that our Party, parliamentary colleagues, volunteers and the whole country, deserve better.’

Ms Whately, MP for Faversham and Mid Kent and another loyalist, said: ‘I have argued that you should continue as Prime Minister many times in recent months, but there are only so many times you can apologise and move on. That point has been reached.’

Johnson re-enters Downing Street after delivering the statement in which he announced his intention to resign as PM

Johnson re-enters Downing Street after delivering the statement in which he announced his intention to resign as PM

The PM's resignation announcement effectively fires the starting gun on what looks set to be a chaotic leadership battle

The PM’s resignation announcement effectively fires the starting gun on what looks set to be a chaotic leadership battle

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The PM is understood to have been 'mainly alone' as he wrote the resignation statement, which came at 12.30pm yesterday

The PM is understood to have been ‘mainly alone’ as he wrote the resignation statement, which came at 12.30pm yesterday

Yesterday afternoon Mr Johnson thanked the public for letting him serve them as PM, describing it as 'the best job in the world'

Yesterday afternoon Mr Johnson thanked the public for letting him serve them as PM, describing it as ‘the best job in the world’

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