AS THE contest to succeed Boris Johnson as Prime Minister gathered pace this week, the Archbishop of Canterbury said that he would be praying “for those contemplating taking on the serious duties of high office”.
Mr Johnson resigned as leader of the Conservative Party on Thursday morning of last week after losing the support of dozens of his ministers over the previous days, triggering a leadership election. He said that he intended to remain Prime Minister until the autumn.
Eight candidates stood in the first round of voting among MPs, on Wednesday afternoon, having secured the minimum of 20 endorsements required from fellow MPs. Rishi Sunak secured the most votes (88), followed by Penny Mordaunt (67), Liz Truss (50), Kemi Badenoch (40), Tom Tugendhat (37), Suella Braverman (32), Nadhim Zahawi (25), and Jeremy Hunt (18).
Mr Zahawi and Mr Hunt were eliminated from the contest, having failed to secure the 30 votes required to move to the next round.
The second round of voting took place on Thursday afternoon. Mr Sunak again secured the most votes (101), followed by Ms Mordaunt (83), Ms Truss (64), Ms Badenoch (49), Mr Tugendhat (32), and Ms Braverman (27). Ms Braverman was eliminated from the contest.
The third round is due to take place next Monday (18 July), and the decision on the final two candidates to be put to party members made on 21 July. Sir Graham Brady, who chairs the 1922 Committee, has said that the winner will be announced on 5 September.
Sir Gary Streeter MP, who chairs Christians in Parliament, has endorsed the former Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, whose resignation last week, with that of the former Health Secretary Sajid Javid, prompted more than 50 members of the Government to follow suit.
Among them was another member of Christians in Parliament, John Glen, MP for Salisbury, who resigned as Economic Secretary to the Treasury. He wrote in his resignation letter that he found it “impossible . . . to square continued service with my conscience”. Mr Glen has also come out in support of Mr Sunak.
Andrea Leadsom, a former Cabinet minister who ran for the party leadership in 2016 and 2019, is also a member of Christians in Parliament. She has endorsed Penny Mordaunt.
Chris Loder, MP for West Dorset, who is a churchwarden (Comment, 17 September 2021), has endorsed Ms Truss. He wrote in the Dorset Echo that she had “the delivery credentials and straight talking commitment for action that is fundamentally needed to move this country forward”.
Several high-profile Christian MPs on the right of the party had endorsed the candidacy of the Attorney General, Suella Braverman. They included Steve Baker, MP for Wycombe (Features, 29 April); Danny Kruger, MP for Devizes; Miriam Cates, who represents Penistone and Stocksbridge; and Sir Desmond Swayne, MP for New Forest West, a former Minister for International Development, and a member of the Christians in Parliament, an All-Party Parliamentary Group.
In an article published in the Telegraph on Tuesday, Mrs Cates wrote that Mrs Braverman’s pledge to cut taxes would be enacted “by building strong families and communities” to “shrink the size of the state and with it our tax bills”. Mrs Cates also argued that Mrs Braverman would also challenge the “‘progressive’ ideologies of the left [which are] causing significant harm to our children and young people”.
Archbishop Welby said in a statement on the evening that Mr Johnson resigned: “Christians are called to pray for everyone who takes on the great responsibility of political leadership. I have prayed for Boris Johnson throughout his premiership, particularly during these times of great crisis in our nation and around the world.
“As he prepares to leave office, I will pray for him and his family in this time of transition — as I will for those contemplating taking on the serious duties of high office.
“As we go forward, let us be united around a vision of the common good where every person can flourish. As Christians we continue to pray that the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is good news for every person, would be reflected in the common life we share together.”
In an interview with the BBC’s Three Counties Radio on the day when Mr Johnson announced his resignation, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, offered a “huge apology”, saying that “this has been very far from good and upright government.”
He said that time was needed to ensure that leadership candidates were “tested properly”. He continued: “This is the toughest job in British politics, because you need to be a person of huge integrity, you need to be a person who can communicate well and clearly with the public, and then you need to be someone who is sharp and has the right policy programme for the country. It is sometimes difficult to find leaders who have all of those three qualities.”
Business groups have called on the leadership candidates to deliver solutions to the climate crisis. An open letter published in The Guardian, on Wednesday, organised by the business group CLG UK, says: “We have seen first-hand that investment in low carbon infrastructure and technologies delivers huge economic benefits. Supportive policy measures bring down the costs of clean technology, enabling businesses to capitalise on growing global markets.
“The benefits are significant. From job creation, increased exports, and geographically dispersed growth to inward investment and improved air quality from clean energy. Important contributors to levelling up opportunity across the UK.”