Tory leadership contest: 5 facts to know as campaigns kickoff

Boris Johnson would hand Britain’s richest people a vast income tax cut while Michael Gove is fading fast over his cocaine “hypocrisy”. Here are the 5 things you need to know this Monday morning.

160,000 Tory members and just over 300 MPs will decide the next PM (Image: Matt Crossick)

After months of phony war the Tory leadership election officially begins today.

Nominations open at 10am and close at 5pm – with the first knockout round of voting by Tory MPs this Thursday. Anyone without 8 backers must drop out tonight, and without 16 backers, this Thursday.

The contest runs until the end of July and the winner will be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom – decided between a final two by 160,000 Tory members.

Remainers Jeremy Hunt and Matt Hancock and Brexiteer Dominic Raab are all holding launch events this morning.

Michael Gove – whose bid is in crisis over his admission he used cocaine – is hosting a launch this afternoon.

The candidates have unleashed a flurry of policy announcements. Mr Gove said he would replace VATwith a “lower, simpler sales tax” once we have left the EU.

Matt Hancock today pledges to raise the minimum wage for under-25s to £10.21 an hour by 2022. He would also reportedly introduce an insurance system to solve the problem of social care.

Sam Gyimah said he would eliminate stamp duty on all homes worth less than £1million.

But then there’s Boris…

2. Boris Johnson is handing Britain’s richest people an outrageous £6,000-a-year tax cut

Boris Johnson is planning to spend an absolute fortune on the rich (Image: PA Archive/PA Images)

Boris Johnson has unveiled plans to raise the 40p income tax threshold in a massive tax cut for Britain’s richest people – including himself and all his MP mates.

Under current plans people start paying 40p tax, not 20p, on every pound they earn beyond £50,000 a year.

Tories gave this same elite a huge tax cut just three years ago, raising the threshold from £42,385.

Yet if Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister they will now go much further and raise it to £80,000.

Anyone earning over that sum would save £6,000 in income tax every year.

It is thought the actual benefit would be smaller as it’d be funded partly by hiking national insurance contributions.

But it’s literally a boost for the 12% – the proportion of UK taxpayers who earned £50,000 or more in 2016/17.

And in reality fewer than 12% of Brits will benefit because millions earn too little to pay income tax. The average income is just £28,400 a year.

The £9.6billion-a-year pledge has raised furious questions about the millionaire Tory’s priorities after he pledged just £48.6million to help struggling schools.

Among the biggest winners will be MPs – who with a wage of £79,468 will creep in just under the threshold.

Tory MP Nicky Morgan demanded: “Why is this a priority?”

Furious Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said: “The Tory leadership race is degenerating into a race to the bottom in tax cuts.

“When there are 4.5 million children in poverty, 1 million elderly in severe poverty, schools’ budgets & our police service stretched to breaking point, this the Tory priority.”

Mr Johnson, who also called for a cut to corporation tax, claimed the move would help people who’ve been caught in the 40p rate by “fiscal drag”.

3. Jeremy Hunt has won a key Tory’s backing – despite a furious abortion row

JEREMY HUNT SAYS HE WOULD LIKE TO SEE THE LEGAL TIME LIMIT ON ABORTIONS REDUCED FROM 24 WEEKS TO 12
Jeremy Hunt has won a major backer in his race to be Prime Minister despite a furious row over abortion.

Amber Rudd, who leads the ‘One Nation’ group of Tories, backed the Foreign Secretary today saying he’s “risen above playground politics” and can “bring all wings of the party together”.

With Michael Gove’s campaign faltering it ramps up Mr Hunt’s chances of getting to the final two and fighting against Boris Johnson for No10.

But it comes hours after Mr Hunt confirmed he backs slashing the abortion time limit from 24 weeks’ pregnancy to 12.

He said “it won’t be Government policy to change the law” – but the British Pregnancy Advisory Service warned it will force young women to become “mothers against their will”.

Amber Rudd squirmed over her backing for the anti-abortion-rights candidate (Image: AFP/Getty Images)

“You don’t think women should be trusted to make their own decisions about their own bodies and what is best for themselves and their families. But we do,” the campaign group said.

The Lib Dems branded the decision “alarming” and Labour MP Helen Goodman said it would rule out a legal route to abortion as amniocentesis results only come after 12 weeks.

Squirming Ms Rudd – the UK’s former minister for women and equalities – was forced today to insist “this government will always protect women’s rights”.

Saying it was his “personal private” opinion she added: “I have spoken to Jeremy and there will be no change to abortion law if and when he becomes Prime Minister.”

4. The Stop ‘magic beans’ Boris campaign is ramping up

“It is not enough to be told to shut your eyes, cross your fingers, pick up some magic beans and believe in Britain” (Image: Daily Mirror)

Furious Tories attacked Boris Johnson as unfit for the job as he looks set to reach the final two candidates for PM.

Steven Norris, who was the Conservative candidate for London Mayor in 2000 and 2004, told the BBC the former mayor doesn’t even read his paperwork properly.

He “doesn’t read the official papers terribly well, he didn’t do it when he was in City Hall,” Mr Norris said.

“He relied heavily on a group of colleagues who actually ran City Hall.

“I just don’t think he’s got the seriousness and the bottom to do the job.”

Despite being in talks over a possible ‘Bamber’ joint ticket just weeks ago, Amber Rudd today savaged Mr Johnson as a man who wants to enact Brexit with ‘magic beans’.

She wrote in The Times: “It is not enough to be told to shut your eyes, cross your fingers, pick up some magic beans and believe in Britain.

“We need a skilled negotiator and deal-maker, not an instruction for more optimism.

“These are serious times. They require a serious leader who will be listened to in Brussels.”

5. Michael Gove is treading a thin line

He took the thin white line – but thanks to class and race, avoided the thin blue line (Image: REUTERS)

Michael Gove is facing mounting calls to pull out of the Tory leadership race after he admitted taking cocaine.

The Environment Secretary acknowledged he was “fortunate” not to have gone to prison after taking the class A drug on several occasions around 20 years ago.

Former Tory chairwoman Baroness Warsi said it was “completely inappropriate” for him to remain in the contest to be the next prime minister.

Lady Warsi said: “This case isn’t just about drug taking, it is about trust, it is about hypocrisy of the highest order and it cannot be that we have somebody who is now mired in this issue of trust and hypocrisy feel that it is still appropriate for him to stand as leader of the Conservative Party and a prime minister of this country.”

The former CPS solicitor told Channel 4 News it was “a matter for the Crown Prosecution Service” whether Mr Gove should face prosecution for the offence, which was committed while he was a journalist.

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