Johnson's rivals say no to 'coronation'

Boris Johnson's rise to UK Conservative leader and PM would be a formality if his rivals withdraw.
Boris Johnson's rise to UK Conservative leader and PM would be a formality if his rivals withdraw.

Contenders for the leadership of Britain's Conservative Party insist there must be no unchallenged "coronation" for frontrunner Boris Johnson.

Senior party figures are reported to be drawing up plans for the other candidates to withdraw from the contest next week after Johnson gained an overwhelming win in the first ballot of MPs.

According to the UK's The Daily Telegraph, the scheme was hatched in the Tory whips' office in an attempt to avoid weeks of damaging "blue on blue" attacks by the rival contenders.

It would mean Johnson would be the only candidate to go forward to the final postal ballot of party members, making his election a formality.

However the plan was strongly condemned by leadership contenders Sajid Javid and Rory Stewart, who both insisted there must be a proper contest.

Arriving for a leadership hustings for the party grassroots, Javid said they needed to learn from the last contest when Theresa May was elected unopposed after Andrea Leadsom dropped out.

"The party and the country deserve a good choice," he told reporters outside the London event on Saturday.

"I don't want to see a coronation. There needs to be a proper process that's followed through.

"We had a coronation the last time. That didn't work out well so let's not make the same mistake again.

"Let's give the opportunity to the members to have their say."

His comments were echoed by Stewart, the international development secretary.

"The members of the Conservative Party who are wise, sensible, experienced people, deserve to have a choice," he said.

"We should have learned from the last time round coronations are not the way to do democratic politics."

Meanwhile Johnson, who has been criticised for his reluctance to submit to media scrutiny, avoided reporters as his Range Rover pulled up at a side door at the hotel where the event was being held.

Johnson has made it clear that he will not be taking part in the first TV debate scheduled for Sunday.

He has however said he will appear in the second debate on Tuesday after the field has further slimmed down following the second round of voting by MPs.

Australian Associated Press