Johnson builds momentum in UK PM race

Conservative MP Boris Johnson leaves his home in London on June 11, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 11 June 2019

Johnson builds momentum in UK PM race

  • The winner, who will become Britain's next prime minister, is due to be announced in late July

LONDON: Boris Johnson solidified his front-runner status in the race to become Britain's next prime minister on Tuesday, gaining backing from leading pro-Brexit lawmakers.
But he faced calls from his rivals to abandon his low-profile campaign strategy and start answering questions from journalists and the public.
Ten candidates are running to succeed Theresa May, who stepped down last week as Conservative Party leader.
Johnson, 54, has won the backing of many Brexiteer Conservatives by promising to lead Britain out of the European Union by Oct. 31, with or without a divorce deal.
Brexit-backing ex-party leader Iain Duncan Smith wrote in Tuesday's Daily Telegraph that Johnson "is the most likely to deliver on the requirement to leave the EU" by that date.
Johnson has also been endorsed by some pro-EU Tories who think the flamboyant, tousle-haired ex-foreign secretary has the skills to energize a demoralized party and win back voters angry at the mess politicians have made of Brexit.
In a straw poll among a right-of-center bloc of Tory lawmakers on Monday, Johnson received almost double the votes of his nearest rival.
Most have given television and radio interviews and held public launch events — things Johnson has so far avoided, in an attempt to reduce the chance of gaffes that could derail his campaign. He also has not said whether he will participate in planned televised debates among leadership candidates.
The right-leaning Daily Mail newspaper said in an editorial that "if he wants to win, this bunker mentality is simply not good enough. Even though he's the favorite, he can't just sit back and hope to win by default."
Health Secretary Matt Hancock, another contender, said "everybody who puts their name forward to be prime minister should be open to scrutiny, should be accountable."
"I think everybody should participate in the proposed TV debates and I think we have got to ask the question, why not?" he told the BBC.
May resigned as Conservative leader last week after failing three times to secure Parliament's backing for her divorce deal with the EU. She'll remain caretaker prime minister until the party chooses a replacement.
The candidates to succeed her divide between those, including Johnson, who say the U.K. must leave on the scheduled date of Oct. 31, and others willing to delay departure in order to secure a divorce deal that's acceptable both to the EU and to Parliament.
"It is not going to be possible to leave on the 31st of October," said candidate Mark Harper, who said more time would be needed to secure a reworked deal with the EU and get it through Parliament.
But former House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom put herself firmly in the hard Brexit camp, saying that "leaving the EU on October 31 is for me a hard, red line."
In votes starting Thursday, the 313 Conservative lawmakers will narrow the field of 10 candidates down to two, who will be put to a vote of about 160,000 party members nationwide.
The winner, who will become Britain's next prime minister, is due to be announced in late July.


Sanders set for ‘vigorous’ campaign return after heart scare

Updated 58 min 41 sec ago

Sanders set for ‘vigorous’ campaign return after heart scare

  • Less than three weeks after suffering a heart attack, the Democratic presidential contender is beginning what he’s calling a “vigorous” return to campaigning
  • Sanders suddenly finds himself looking up at progressive rival Elizabeth Warren and establishment favorite Joe Biden in the polls

NEW YORK: Bernie Sanders isn’t going anywhere.
Less than three weeks after suffering a heart attack, the Democratic presidential contender is beginning what he’s calling a “vigorous” return to campaigning with a rally expected to draw thousands of supporters to New York City on Saturday afternoon. One of them will be Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders’ latest high-profile endorsement, who will share the stage with Sanders this weekend and give his stagnant White House bid an instant dose of energy.
The event marks a coming-out party of sorts for the 78-year-old Vermont senator. He had emergency heart surgery this month but insists that he’s more committed than ever to his 2020 White House bid. With the first voting contests less than four months away, he has some work to do.
Beyond health concerns, Sanders suddenly finds himself looking up at progressive rival Elizabeth Warren and establishment favorite Joe Biden in the polls. Now he must reassure voters that he has the physical stamina to go forward while addressing broader concerns that his policies may be too far left to defeat President Donald Trump in a general election.
Enter Ocasio-Cortez.
The endorsement from the 30-year-old progressive star “send the message that the movement is growing, that it’s gaining influence, that it’s gaining traction,” Sanders’ campaign manager Faiz Shakir said.
He predicted that the newly announced support from Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, who will not be present Saturday, would help Sanders generate significantly more support from young people and minorities going forward.
“Those are two people who I think have immense power to mobilize young people, and I promise you you’ll be seeing them in Iowa, but not only in Iowa, but around the country, trying to get people engaged around the issues,” Shakir said.
For now, at least, Sanders can use the help.
While he pledged during this week’s presidential debate to move forward with a “vigorous” campaign, he’s moving cautiously in the short term. The rally in Queens is his only scheduled appearance before he returns to Iowa late next week.
The week after, he’ll join Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Michigan, for a tour of her congressional district. Tlaib hasn’t announced whether she’ll join Ocasio-Cortez and Omar in endorsing Sanders, but she is also part of the so-called “Squad” of minority women on Capitol Hill who has been frequent targets of Trump’s attacks.
Despite aggressive rhetoric from Sanders himself, senior adviser Jeff Weaver said Sanders would ease himself back onto the campaign trail. But by December, Weaver predicted, Sanders’ health scare will be forgotten.