Launching his Tory leadership campaign, the runaway frontrunner to succeed Theresa May will pledge not to allow any further delay to Brexit if he takes charge in Downing Street. And he will warn that the Conservative Party will “kick the bucket” unless it delivers on the verdict of the 2016 referendum vote to quit the European bloc. “Delay means defeat, delay means Corbyn,” the former foreign secretary is to tell Tory MPs.
Mr Johnson will set out his plan to “unite this country” in a speech at his campaign launch in central London tomorrow.
And the Daily Express has learned that his push for Downing Street has gained fresh momentum with the backing of senior Eurosceptic MPs Sir Bernard Jenkin and Leo Docherty.
In his speech today, Mr Johnson will say: “Now is the time to unite this country and unite this society, and we cannot begin that task until we have delivered on the primary request of the people; the one big thing they have asked us to do.
“After three years and two missed deadlines, we must leave the EU on October 31.
“We simply will not get a result if we give the slightest hint that we want to go on kicking the can down the road with yet more delay.
“Delay means defeat. Delay means Corbyn. Kick the can and we kick the bucket.
“With every week and month that goes by in which we fail to deliver on our promise I am afraid we will further alienate not just our natural supporters but anyone who believes that politicians should deliver on their promises.”
Mr Johnson will also present himself as the leadership candidate best-placed to defeat Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour at the next general election.
Boris Johnson will set out his plan to “unite this country” tomorrow
He will remind Tory MP of his poll-winning record in twice beating Left-winger Ken Livingstone twice for the London mayoralty.
“We cannot let them anywhere near Downing Street and I would remind you that the last time I faced an emanation of that Marxist cabal I defeated him when the Conservatives were 17 points behind in London. And we can do it again,” the former Cabinet minister will say.
Today’s two latest declarations for Mr Johnson’s campaign take his support to 65 Tory MPs, compared with 32 for Jeremy Hunt and 31 for Michael Gove.
Sir Bernard, one of the most prominent Eurosceptics in the Commons over more than three decades, reveals his support for Mr Johnson’s leadership bid in an exclusive article in today’s Daily Express.
“We Conservatives face a big choice in our next leader. We need someone who can deliver on Brexit, keep faith with those who voted leave, and move on to the brighter future outside the EU. It must be Boris Johnson,” the Harwich and North Essex MP writes.
Mr Docherty, MP for Aldershot, backed the former foreign secretary’s plan to withhold the £39billion divorce fee if the EU refuses to allow negotiations for a better Brexit deal.
He said: “Boris is totally committed to getting us out of there EU at the end of October.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn
“After three years of failed negotiations and delay our country needs fresh, resolute leadership that keeps ‘no deal’ on the table and makes use of the leverage our £39billion gives us.
“Total resolve will be needed to deliver Brexit and I know Boris has that resolve.”
Mr Johnson’s campaign was also boosted yesterday by gaining the backing of former Tory leader and veteran Brexiteer Iain Duncan Smith, who said the former foreign secretary was the “most likely” candidate to deliver Brexit by October 31.
In a newspaper article, he wrote: “Boris is, as he showed in London, capable of also capturing a mood of optimism for too long missing in our message to the electorate.”
And the former foreign secretary also won a straw poll of MPs conducted after a hustings hosted by the 92 Group of backbenchers on the Tory centre-Right.
He was backed by 34 MPs in the 92 Group ahead of nearest rival Dominic Raab, supported by 18.
But the frontrunner came under renewed fire from his rival Mr Gove yesterday.
The Environment Secretary savaged Mr Johnson’s plans for raising the income tax threshold for the 40% higher rate from £50,000 a year to £80,000 as “insane”.
Dominic Raab was supported by 18 MPs in the 92 Group
Mr Gove said: “You can come from my own background but if your priorities seem to be skewed towards the already fortunate in society that’s insane.”
Pressed at The Times CEO Summit on whether he was discussing Mr Johnson’s tax proposals, Mr Gove was received with laughter when he replied: “I wasn’t thinking of any one particular candidate, but I do think his tax proposals are mistaken.
“I think that there are two tests that I would apply to any tax cut. Does it par economic growth and does it help the most disadvantaged in our society?
“A tax cut that concentrates on helping the wealthiest pensioners most of all is not a tax cut which either improves productivity or generates a greater level of social equity.”
But he said he had changed his mind since the last Conservative leadership race when he said Mr Johnson lacked the necessary leadership skills.
Asked if Mr Johnson has the focus, discipline and judgment, Mr Gove said: “Well, we will find out during this race.
“Boris was a great mayor of London, it was enjoyable working with him as a foreign secretary and he now has the opportunity to set out his stall and to be judged, as all the candidates will be, on the basis of his ideas and policies.”
Tory MPs vote tomorrow in the leadership contest’s first knock out round, with several of the 10 candidates expected to be eliminated for failing to reach the minimum threshold of 17 votes needed to enter the next round.