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Conservative lawmaker becomes 1st to launch bid to succeed UK’s Johnson

Conservative lawmaker Tom Tugendhat on Thursday became the first contender to launch a leadership bid after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced he would resign earlier in the day.

Tugendhat, 49, is a former officer in the Territorial Army who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Currently, he is the chair of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee. He also acted as an assistant to the chief of the defense staff.

He has never previously served in government, but while that lack of experience would ordinarily count against him, it also means he is untainted by Johnson’s scandal-plagued government and so could count in his favor. He was first elected to parliament in 2015.

Tugendhat is from the centrist wing of the Conservative Party, as opposed to the hard-right Brexit wing. He voted “Remain” in the 2016 Brexit referendum but has since supported attempts to see the policy through.

He announced his bid in the right-wing British newspaper The Daily Telegraph.

“This nation needs a clean start and a government that will make trust, service and an unrelenting focus on the cost of living crisis its guiding principles,” he wrote.

On Brexit, he said: “Everyone in the next government will be committed to maintaining and strengthening Brexit, fixing the Northern Ireland Protocol and safeguarding the Union. The full advantages of Brexit are yet to be unleashed.”

He said taxes were too high and pledged to cut them. Under Johnson’s government, taxes were raised to a 72-year high. The recent spate of tax increases was hugely unpopular with the traditionally low-tax Conservative Party.

“I have served before -- in the military, and now in Parliament. Now I hope to answer the call once again as prime minister. It’s time for a clean start. It’s time for renewal,” he wrote.

Tugendhat, who is married to a French judge and civil servant and has two children, holds dual British and French citizenship. He is the son of a High Court judge.

Next week, the group in charge of the Conservative parliamentary party’s internal affairs will announce the rules of the leadership contest.

Attorney General Suella Braverman already told local media that she would run were there to be a leadership election.

Both Tugendhat and Braverman are seen as only having an outside chance of winning the race.

The main contenders are yet to formally announce their leadership bids.

These are former Chancellor Rishi Sunak, former Health Secretary Sajid Javid, current Foreign Minister Liz Truss, and current Trade Minister Penny Mourdant, all of whom have been talked up as potential future leaders. Hard-right Brexiteer Steve Baker has also said he could run.

The favorite among Conservative party members is current Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, who has not given any indication he would run.

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