Security minister Tom Tugendhat fails to rule out Tory leadership bid if Rishi Sunak quits

Security minister Tom Tugendhat fails to rule out Tory leadership bid if Rishi Sunak quits

Tom Tugendhat has not ruled out running to be Conservative Party leader should Rishi Sunak resign after next week’s general election.

The Tonbridge MP, who placed fourth in the fiercely fought 2022 leadership contest won by Liz Truss, has been coy about his personal ambitions. However, Westminster watchers suggest the former soldier may be quietly preparing for a second tilt at Number 10.

Tugendhat, 50, has represented the staunchly Conservative Kent constituency since 2015.

Despite never holding a top cabinet post, the security minister has established himself as an influential voice on foreign affairs, particularly through his work on the Foreign Affairs Committee.

In March, he and Tory colleague Anne-Marie Trevelyan called on Rishi Sunak to increase military spending to at least 2.5 per cent.

Asked if he wanted to be leader, he told Times Radio: “What I want to do is to make sure we’ve got a Conservative leader in this country and that’s why I’m supporting Rishi Sunak.

“Because the alternative with Keir Starmer, I’m afraid, is higher taxes, more regulation, worse growth and more unemployment.

“What we need to do is to make sure that Conservatives across this country win their seats and that’s exactly what I’ve been focused on.”

Mr Tugendhat has been loyal to his party leader but is not considered an ally of the prime minister and was promoted to his current role under Ms Truss’s short-lived premiership.

Pressed again on the issue of what happens after the election, he said: “Well, we’ll deal with hypotheticals in a different way.

“I mean, the reality is Rishi Sunak is the candidate, there’s only two candidates for prime minister, there’s Rishi Sunak and there’s Sir Keir Starmer.

“One of them is committed to lowering your taxes, protecting your borders and making a difference in everybody’s lives.

“The other, I’m afraid, is Sir Keir Starmer who is committed to raising your taxes, to making life a little bit harder for everybody and to lecturing you on how to live your life.”

Mr Tugendhat is currently third favourite to be the next Conservative party leader, according to Oddschecker, behind Kemi Badenoch and Priti Patel respectively.

Fifth favourite is Nigel Farage, the leader of the Reform party.