Meet the Candidates: Team Hunt

Jeremy Hunt has been more overtly making himself known as a contender for the top job and today has finally signalled he’s running. Since leaving the Health Department that made him a hate figure for the left (in 2017 he received more social media abuse than Diane Abbott), he’s worked on establishing a reputation for competence, get better at connecting with the public, and beefing up his Brexit credentials. Even at the expense of foreign relations…

His ten months as Foreign Secretary got off to a bumpy start on a China trip when he memorably forget his wife’s nationality, but recent trips have proved more beneficial. His flashy tour of Africa last month landed him plenty of helmet-wearing, boat-riding action man photographs, even earning him accolades as “presidential”. Hunt’s SpAds including Ed Jones, Tim Smith and Christina Robinson have been running his campaign machine for the time being. Sue Beeby, an experienced ex-CCHQ staffer and Treasury SpAd formerly at HS2, is helping out on the campaign. Former Hunt SpAd and May’s outgoing press secretary Paul Harrison was widely thought to be in the frame, campaign sources close to Hunt insist he is not…

On the Parliamentary front, former Health Minister (and fellow multi-millionaire) Philip Dunne has been working groups of MPs at dinners for Hunt. David Morris has recruited a decent number of supporters too. Andrew Mitchell has made himself close to the team. Much of the pitch has been proposing Hunt as a ‘stop Boris’ safe pair of hands, who sensibly voted Remain but is (now) committed to delivering on the referendum result. Where has Guido heard that pitch before…?

Hunt has been working hard to shore up his ‘re-Leaver’ credentials, Guido understands he’s managed to recruit Leave-voting Leo Docherty and Will Quince on board. He’s been showing skin to Leavers by talking up ‘No Deal’, earning him the nickname “windsock” from Lib Dem voting Tory ultra-Remainer Lord Cooper. Guido hears Hunt has even being trying to court hardcore ERGers like IDS…

Despite a slick campaign and making inroads within the Parliamentary party, Hunt only managed to clock 8% support in the most recent leadership poll of Tory members, behind Boris, Raab, Gove, and Sajid. As the preferred candidate of the Tory Party establishment, he’ll have to set out a bolder vision if he wants to truly shake off the ‘continuity May’ brand…

Social media support: Hunt has 162,000 Twitter followers, and 10,000 likes on his Facebook page. Sadly no ‘Pumped for Hunt’ campaign yet…

Mainstream media support: The Sunday Times has been consistently writing positive news stories. Other papers are biding their time but if Remain support coalesces around him expect the previously Mayite papers to come on board…

ConservativeHome members survey: 6.75% (4th)

Times/YouGov membership poll: 8% (5th)

YouGov public recognition: 37% (3rd)

William Hill odds: 12/1 (5th)


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