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Glowed-up Robert Jenrick ‘not ruling out’ running for Tory leader after leading hardline immigration campaign over Rwanda flights as senior party figures jostle to replace Rishi Sunak



By David Wilcock, Deputy Political Editor For Mailonline

13:05 21 Jan 2024, updated 13:19 21 Jan 2024



Robert Jenrick today refused to rule out running to be Tory leader in place of Rishi Sunak, as senior party figures again jostled for position ahead of an expected election defeat.

The former immigration minister was questioned on GB News about his recent personal makeover which has seen him shed the pounds and adopt a new businesslike haircut.

Westminster gossip suggests he might be lining up a leadership bid in the wake of a Tory election defeat, having taking an increasingly leading role in opposition to Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda plans. 

Mr Jenrick was one of just 11 Tories who voted against the Safety of Rwanda Bill last week, arguing the plan to deport Channel migrants to east Africa was not strong enough to work.

While MPs backed down from defeating the law, potentially toppling Mr Sunak’s administration, Mr Jenrick’s actions – which included writing several hardline amendments to the bill – have increased his appeal to the party right.

Asked by GB News whether he was positioning as a future leader if Mr Sunak steps down he said: ‘I’m not giving that any though … I’m not ruling it out but that is not my intention, yet.’

It came as another potential leadership candidate broke cover to demand greater military spending.

Penny Mordaunt, who challenged both Mr Sunak and Liz Truss in the summer of 2022, warned that the Royal Navy must ‘keep pace’ with its rivals in a stark intervention in a row over the size of the fleet.

It came as Defence Secretary Grant Shapps was unable to say when the UK might hit its target of spending 2.5 per cent of GDP on defence, amid warnings about the shrinking size of the British Army.

Mr Jenrick in Downing Street in February, before his makeover and move to the party right
Westminster gossip suggests he might be lining up a leadership bid in the wake of a Tory election defeat, having taking an increasingly leading role in opposition to Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda plans.

Mr Jenrick told GB News he was just trying to ‘make an argument’ about illegal migration. 

‘I think that for too long, too few politicians have gone and argued that we need to take the most robust action. 

‘So if I can help the conservative party by making that argument very strongly then I will do. Because I think there is a path to victory at the next election, but it goes through taking the strongest possible approach on migration.’

Mr Sunak has said he is ‘determined’ to get his Rwanda legislation through Parliament, as ministers prepare for stiff resistance in the House of Lords to the flagship asylum policy.

Cabinet Minister Penny Mordaunt warned that the Royal Navy must ‘keep pace’ with its rivals in a stark intervention in a row over the size of the fleet.

Many peers have already expressed deep unease about the plan, with ministers braced for a battle with the Upper House over the Bill.

The Prime Minister, who has urged the Lords not to block the ‘will of the people’, said he wanted to get the scheme ‘up and running’ as soon as possible.

Peers could seriously frustrate that ambition, with Downing Street likely to face attempts by peers to introduce a range of amendments to the proposed legislation.

The Bill is likely to receive its second reading by the end of January, with February 12, 14 and 19 pencilled in for debate at the committee stage.

It is possible that the third reading of the Bill could happen around the middle of March.

Mr Sunak played down the prospect of having to pack the Lords with Tory peers to get the legislation through, adding that the country was fed up with the ‘merry-go-round’ on the issue.



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