Tom Tugendadt’s ‘unkind’ dig at Boris Johnson before leadership battle emerged

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Mr Johnson is so far holding onto his role as Prime Minister, but with the mounting partygate scandal, many in Westminster do not believe his premiership can last beyond May’s local elections. Further anger was ignited this week after Downing Street confirmed that birthday celebrations were held for him at Number 10 in June 2020 — when rules banned most indoor gatherings involving more than two people. ITV News reported that up to 30 people attended the event, sang Happy Birthday and were served cake.

But Number 10 staff maintain that they gathered “briefly” for no more than “ten minutes”.

The new revelation will be another blow to Mr Johnson’s already faltering authority within his party and Westminster, with his potential successors now being floated.

Among them include Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Health Secretary Sajid Javid, Secretary for Levelling Up Michael Gove, Deputy Prime Minister Dominc Raab, chair of Health and Social Care Committee Jeremy Hunt, and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Tom Tugendhat.

All have legitimate claims to the top job having worked in politics for many years, each of them holding or having held senior positions in Government.

Some have already thrown their hats into the ring in previous years, like Mr Javid and Mr Gove.

While Mr Tugendhat is a relative outsider to the pack and has never officially made a bid for the role, he has previously spelled out his wishes to one day become Prime Minister.

In 2017, the MP for Tonbridge and Malling said during an interview with House magazine: “Would it be great to be Prime Minister? Yep, it would be.

“Would it be great to be Foreign Secretary? Fantastic.

“Would it be great to be Defence Secretary? Wonderful.

“Would it be great to be a minister of any kind? Yes, because all of those opportunities to serve are very much winning a lottery in what is frankly a fantastic opportunity to serve our country in a different way.”

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As Theresa May’s premiership started to look doomed in 2018, he told Sophy Ridge during her ‘Ridge on Sunday’ that he had not made “any great secret of the fact that I would consider running for my party leadership at some point”.

And, archived reports appear to show minor animosity between Mr Tugenhadt and Mr Johnson.

Talking about the UK’s future role in the world during a piece for The Times in 2017, he wrote: “When humour is lost in translation, it creates misunderstandings with other countries that we can’t afford.”

It was largely seen as a jab at Mr Johnson, who was at that point Foreign Secretary.


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Andrew Gimson, a journalist, wrote a profile of Mr Tugenhadt for Conservative Home shortly after the comments, and while noting that he clearly had strong feelings about foreign policy, claimed that his comments were “unkind”.

Speaking about Mr Tugenhadt’s victory over Crispin Blunt for the chairmanship of the Foreign Affairs select committee, Mr Gimson wrote: “Blunt was felt by some MPs to be too soft on the Foreign Office, and too inclined to attribute its deficiencies to inadequate funding.

“Nor did Tugendhat shrink from criticising more eminent figures than Blunt. In a piece for The Times, published just before the vote, he began by setting out some of his own qualifications for the role.

“Tugendhat proceeded to slip in an unkind reference to the present Foreign Secretary.”

While “unkind”, Mr Gimson continued; “And yet for most of the time, Tugendhat is the soul of affability, very good at getting on with people.

“One of his most remarkable promotions was to become, towards the end of a decade of service with the Territorial Army which started in 2003 and included active service in Iraq and Afghanistan, military assistant to General David Richards, the Chief of the Defence Staff.”

Mr Tugendhat’s military career began in 2003, when he was commissioned into the Educational and Training Services Branch of the Adjutant General’s Corps, Territorial Army, as a second lieutenant.

He was later promoted to the Intelligence Corps and then rose through the ranks to reach lieutenant in 2005, captain in 2007, and major in 2010.

By July 2013, he was a Territorial Army lieutenant colonel.

He served during the Iraq War and in the Afghanistan War, also serving in a civilian capacity for the Foreign Office in Afghanistan and helped set up the National Security Council of Afghanistan and the government in Helmand Province.

It was not until 2015 that he entered politics, winning the Conservative safe seat of Tonbridge and Malling.

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