There was a huge cheer in Boris Johnson’s office when it was announced that Jeremy Hunt had 77 votes, sending him into the final two and eliminating Michael Gove. The Johnson campaign were dreading a run- off against Michael Gove, which would have been far more testing for their candidate.
The Johnson campaign are keen to say that there’s no complacency, but there is an understandable confidence that they will beat Hunt. Indeed, their planning for government, which I wrote about in this week’s magazine, is about to be significantly stepped up. Boris Johnson will have no time to waste once he enters Downing Street: there’ll only be 99 days to October 31st.
The first hustings on Saturday will give us an idea of how Hunt intends to campaign. I understand that the Johnson campaign’s plan is to try and turn these hustings into something more akin to rallies. It is worth remembering that the margin of victory will matter: the bigger it is, the more political authority he’ll have over the 49 percent of the parliamentary party that didn’t vote for him.