Boris Johnson will ‘absolutely’ remain as Tory leader after local elections – even if the results are disappointing for the party, Kwasi Kwarteng has said.
the company secretary told Sky News’ Ridge on Sunday’s show that at Mr Johnson the leadership is “not threatened at all”, adding that he is “by far the right man to lead us to the next elections”.
Many voters in England, Wales and Scotland will be at the polls on May 5 to elect their local representatives.
With a large number of contested seats, the results will likely paint a vivid picture of the national mood for the first time since the snap general election in 2019.
If the Tories do poorly in this election, Mr Johnson’s premiership could be even more strained after the party scandal – with a potential leadership challenge about to be triggered.
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“I don’t think his leadership is at all threatened, what he has delivered is truly a remarkable string of successes,” Mr Kwarteng said.
“I think Brexit, he delivered on that, the fact that he was very widely appreciated in Ukrainehe was widely hailed as someone who led the overseas effort to help Ukraine, and also watching the rollout of the vaccine, it was a great success.”
PM ‘right man’ to lead Tories
Pressed on whether Mr Johnson is safe no matter what happens at the polls, he replied ‘absolutely’.
Asked about the suggestions former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is preparing for a leadership bid, Mr Kwarteng said: ‘Jeremy is a very capable colleague, he’s a good friend, I don’t know what he does, but as far as I’m concerned Boris Johnson is by far the right man to lead us to the next election.”
His comments came as Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer denied that Labor had made a secret election pact with the Liberal Democrats to try to ensure Tory candidates were not selected in future polls.
Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden had claimed Sir Keir was withdrawing candidates “in swathes of the country” where Liberal Democrat support is strong to avoid splitting the anti-Tory vote.
Read more: How do local elections work and why are they important?
He had also alleged that the Liberal Democrats had agreed to return the favor where Labor dominates elsewhere.
Asked about Mr Dowden’s claims about the alleged pact, the Labor leader told Sky News’ Ridge on Sunday’s broadcast: “I wouldn’t take anything Oliver Dowden says particularly seriously.
“The fact that he spends his Sunday…attacking Labor…why doesn’t he say anything about the cost of living crisis, for heaven’s sake?
“There is no pact, everyone knows there is no pact. We will field a candidate in a by-election, obviously after Neil Parish resigned yesterday.”
Labor and Liberal Democrats deny election pact
He later claimed that Labor was fielding more candidates than ever in local elections.
Meanwhile, Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey has also vehemently denied claims of a pact between his party and Labour.
“Listen, there is no pact now, there will be no pact in the future,” he told Sky News’ Ridge on Sunday’s show.
“No, the Liberal Democrats are actually fighting Labor in many areas, in the polls in Sunderland, in Sheffield, in Haringey, in Suffolk.
“And I can tell you a lot of other places where there’s a real fight.”
He added that he thought reports of a pact were being used as “a bit of a distraction”.
Polls in 200 local authorities across Britain open on Thursday, in a chance for voters to register their disapproval or support.
Sir Keir will also be under pressure as a failure to make inroads will lead to questions about his ability to bring Labor back to power.
Mr Johnson hopes voters will prioritize his perceived successes, such as the vaccine rollout and Brexit, over lockdown breaches and tax hikes amid a cost of living crisis.
Key party leaders under pressure ahead of election
In a statement ahead of the poll, the Prime Minister said: “Next Thursday’s election matters. People vote for councilors and councils who decide how often bins are collected, how many potholes are repaired and the amount of council tax.
“And I have to tell you, his hardworking Conservative advisers and councils across the country who deliver better local services while managing taxpayer dollars wisely.
“The choice on May 5 is clear. Labor and Liberal Democrats who waste your council tax deciding which statues to take down, or the Conservatives, who offer value for money and meet your local priorities.”
Meanwhile Sir Keir told Sky News his party’s aim was to ‘make gains’ in the next election – and accused the Government of ‘having no plan’ to tackle the cost crisis of life.
“We want to make gains, we want to keep the good seats we have, we want to make gains,” the Labor leader said.
He added: “We have wind in our sails, we are a confident team.“
Local election results are expected in the early hours and throughout Friday, with some councils also likely to declare on Saturday.
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