Scene Boris Johnson's girlfriend's home could hurt his chances of PM

Tory MPs fear Boris' late-night

Scene Boris Johnson's girlfriend's home could hurt his chances of PM

Tory MPs fear Boris' late-night bust-up could hurt his chances of becoming Prime Minister

  • Police were called to an altercation at girlfriend Carrie Symond's home last night
  • The Tory leadership favourite shares the property with partner Miss Symonds
  • Neighbour heard screaming, shouting and banging inside the £1 million property
  • The neighbour also added that they heard Miss Symonds shouting: 'Get off me' 
  • Senior Tory MP told MailOnline episode 'will not go down well' with Tory activists
  • Another Tory MP told MailOnline the revelations gave Mr Hunt a 'big opportunity'

The domestic disturbance at Boris Johnson's girlfriend's home could harm his chance of becoming prime minister, a senior Tory MP has warned.

Police were called to an altercation at Carrie Symond's home last night, rocking the Tory frontrunner's bid for power.

Neighbours of Miss Symonds – Mr Johnson's 31-year-old lover – called the police to her south London flat in the early hours of this morning after hearing raised voices.

Pictured at 8pm, an hour after the news of a blazing bust-up at his house with his partner, Boris Johnson attended the Uxbridge and South Ruislip Conservative Association Summer Drinks in Uxbridge

Pictured at 8pm, shortly after news of a domestic disturbance at his house broke, Boris Johnson attends the Uxbridge and South Ruislip Conservative Association Summer Drinks in Uxbridge

Miss Symonds is said to have been heard screaming at Mr Johnson to get out of the flat (pictured)

Miss Symonds is said to have been heard screaming at Mr Johnson to get out of the flat (pictured)

The photos of Mr Johnson mingling with supporters were taken just after reports of a blazing bust-up between him and his partner

The photos of Mr Johnson mingling with supporters were taken just after reports of a blazing bust-up between him and his partner 

Miss Symonds is said to have been heard screaming and telling the 55-year-old Tory leadership favourite to 'get off me' and 'get out of my flat'.

A senior Tory MP told MailOnline the episode 'will not go down well' with Tory activists.

'Boris is clearly the favourite in this leadership race but four weeks is a very long time in politics,' they said.

The Tory leadership frontrunner shares the home with his partner Carrie Symonds (pictured together)

The Tory leadership frontrunner shares the home with his partner Carrie Symonds (pictured together)

Johnson's campaign team said they had 'no comment' to make concerning allegations that police were called to the home Mr Johnson, left, shares with Miss Symonds, right

Johnson's campaign team said they had 'no comment' to make concerning allegations that police were called to the home Mr Johnson, left, shares with Miss Symonds, right

'He's got 16 hustings, all of which are going to be televised… a lot can change.

'I think a lot of Conservative members are waiting to see the outcome of the debates and things like that.'

The MP added: 'This might well play into their concerns about him. You are talking about Conservative Party activists… there are lots of different types of people.

'There is a lot of female membership. I'm not sure this kind of thing goes down well.'

Another Tory MP told MailOnline the revelations would be seriously damaging and gave Mr Hunt a 'big opportunity'.

'You just couldn't make it up,' they said. 'If the bulk of your members are over 60, most of them have got grandchildren, most of them have settled down, most of them are stable… the activists are going to turn around and say do we really want this guy to be PM? Anybody normal would think that.

'This guy is going to be PM and all this stuff is going on in his private life - how chaotic is he? If he can't hold it together at his age, what the hell is going on?'

They added: 'This will go on and on. It will damage him.'

And one senior MP close to Mr Johnson told the Sun: 'What the hell is he thinking? This is our worst nightmare'.

Another backer of the former foreign secretary simply added: 'Oh f***.'

It comes after Mr Johnson today told Tory council chiefs it is 'darkest before the dawn' as he drew inspiration from Winston Churchill while making a pitch for their support.

The Tory leadership frontrunner said it was him and not his challenger Jeremy Hunt who could reverse the fortunes of the Conservative Party after it suffered a bruising set of results in the local and European elections earlier this year.

He made the comment as he and Mr Hunt formally kicked off their head-to-head battle for the keys to Downing Street as they each faced their first grilling by Tory members.

Jeremy Hunt (pictured today as he attended a Local Government Association Conservative Group event in Westminster) has described himself as the 'underdog' in the race to be PM

Jeremy Hunt (pictured today as he attended a Local Government Association Conservative Group event in Westminster) has described himself as the 'underdog' in the race to be PM

The frontrunner and the self-described 'underdog' sought to win over Conservative local authority bosses and councillors today in what was the first of more than a dozen events in front of the party grassroots which the pair will take part in over the next month. 

But it is Mr Johnson who is thought to have made the biggest impression as he quoted the British Conservative wartime prime minister who he has written books about.

'I've never known a time where we got nine per cent in a national election,' he reportedly said, according to The Sun, as he referred to the Tories' recent electoral struggles.

Boris Johnson (pictured today as he left the LGA Conservative Group event) is viewed as the prohibitive front runner with his supporters believing victory is his to lose

Boris Johnson (pictured today as he left the LGA Conservative Group event) is viewed as the prohibitive front runner with his supporters believing victory is his to lose

'My message to you today is: the hour is darkest before the dawn. We can turn this thing around.' 

The support of Tory local government figures will be critical to both men's hopes of victory and whoever does become PM will be reliant on them to motivate activists and knock on doors. 

Meanwhile, Mr Hunt appeared to take a page out of Rory Stewart's playbook as he met voters while out on a run this morning, telling them he wanted to make the UK 'walk tall in the world' again.

He said: 'I'm the outsider but in politics upsets happen. Brexit happened. No one thought it was going to happen and I am going to make this one happen.'

Mr Johnson was grilled by Conservative council bosses at the event in Westminster. He will face a bigger test tomorrow when he takes part in the first major hustings event in Birmingham

Mr Johnson was grilled by Conservative council bosses at the event in Westminster. He will face a bigger test tomorrow when he takes part in the first major hustings event in Birmingham

Mr Hunt's and Mr Johnson's appearance in front of the Local Government Association Conservative Group came after it was claimed that Mr Johnson's team had warned ministers that failing to publicly back him would destroy their careers. 

One minister was warned that it would be 'a shame if you failed to make progress' by not swapping from a rival candidate quickly enough ahead of yesterday's votes which saw Mr Johnson chosen to face Mr Hunt in the final two.

Supporters of third placed finisher Michael Gove questioned whether Mr Johnson's team arranged for some of his backers to 'lend' votes to the Foreign Secretary to ensure he got through - something it denies.

Following the elimination of Sajid Javid from the race on Thursday morning with 34 votes, at least five of the Home Secretary's supporters - Chris Philp, Chris Skidmore, Mims Davies, Kevin Foster and Mike Wood - said they would switch to Mr Johnson. 

But the former foreign secretary's vote tally only increased by three in the final ballot of MPs, fuelling speculation that some of his most loyal supporters had been instructed to vote for Mr Hunt. 

Mr Hunt beat Mr Gove by just two votes - the same number as were missing from the expected increase in support for the favourite. 

The Foreign Secretary appeared to take a page out of Rory Stewart's playbook today as he spoke to voters while out on a run this morning

The Foreign Secretary appeared to take a page out of Rory Stewart's playbook today as he spoke to voters while out on a run this morning

What do we know about Tory members?

The decision over whether Jeremy Hunt or Boris Johnson becomes the leader of the Conservatives is now in the hands of Tory Party members. 

The last time the Conservative Party released information about membership was in March 2018, when it put the number at 124,000.

Their average age is 57, according to a survey carried out after the 2017 general election by the Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) Party Members Project.

This compares with an average age of 53 for Labour members and 52 for Lib Dem members. 

More than half are estimated to live in the southern half of England, with 12% in London and 42% in the rest of the south. Some 18% live in the Midlands and Wales, 17% in northern England and 10% in Scotland. 

Seventy-one per cent are male, according to the QMUL survey. This compares with 63% of Lib Dem members and 53% of Labour members.  

While the inquest into what had happened in the final ballots continued in Westminster, Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt sought to put the controversy behind them as they got stuck in on the first day proper of the two-way fight to take over from Theresa May. 

Mr Hunt started the day in Worcester where he was pictured running before going to help out at a bakery in the nearby town of Tenbury as he delivered loaves of bread and met voters.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson had celebrated making it onto the final ballot by attending a Tory event in Reading last night. 

But both men came back to London as they addressed Tory councillors at a behind-closed-doors event in Westminster. 

Mr Johnson went first as he was asked about building on Green Belt land, his plan for the local election sin 2020 and council funding. 

Mr Hunt then faced questions on the thorny issue of adult social care, with the UK's ageing population having been blamed for the budget woes of many local authorities. 

 

The former foreign secretary (pictured today as he left the LGA event) faces a month-long battle against Jeremy Hunt in which they will take part in 16 hustings events

The former foreign secretary (pictured today as he left the LGA event) faces a month-long battle against Jeremy Hunt in which they will take part in 16 hustings events

Jeremy Hunt started his day out on the campaign trail in Worcester before returning to London for the LGA event

Jeremy Hunt started his day out on the campaign trail in Worcester before returning to London for the LGA event

The pair will have plenty of opportunities to hone their answers on such topics as they face a series of 16 hustings events across the country as they try to persuade Tory members to vote for them. 

The first major hustings event will take place in Birmingham tomorrow while the final one will be held in London on the evening of July 17 before a winner is announced in the week beginning July 22. 

Mr Johnson's team wanted to face mild-mannered Mr Hunt instead of Mr Gove, his former confidant turned nemesis, because they believed the former was less likely to fight dirty.  

A source told MailOnline that a former supporter of Dominic Raab, who was eliminated early on in the race, was warned to fall in line behind Mr Johnson by Gavin Williamson, his campaign chief.

Mr Williamson, a former chief whip, was said to have warned them: 'If I wanted you to vote for someone else I'd tell you.' 

Mr Johnson (pictured leaving home today) came first in the vote with 160, but Mr Hunt came home just two votes ahead of Mr Gove, 77-75 raising questioned about whether Mr Johnson's team arranged for some of the runaway favourite's backers to 'lend' votes to the Foreign Secretary

Mr Williamson, a former chief whip, was said to have warned a Dominic Raab backer: 'If I wanted you to vote for someone else I'd tell you.'

Mr Williamson, a former chief whip, was said to have warned a Dominic Raab backer: 'If I wanted you to vote for someone else I'd tell you.'

Mr Hunt (pictured today in Worcester)  is seen as a less punchy opponent for Mr Johnson in the runoff

 Mr Hunt (pictured today in Worcester)  is seen as a less punchy opponent for Mr Johnson in the runoff

What happens now?Tory leadership rivals face three weeks of hustings in front of the party faithful

Jeremy Hunt effectively has a fortnight to derail Boris Johnson's march to becoming Tory leader – with the first hustings taking place tomorrow. 

The two candidates face four weeks of campaign events where they will set out their stall to the 160,000 Conservative members who will decide who enters No10.

 But their ballot papers will not be sent out by post until July 6 – meaning Mr Hunt has two weeks to land a knockout blow against the frontrunner. 

The party has organised 16 hustings events across the country – with the first in Birmingham tomorrow afternoon. The final event will be in London on the evening of July 17 and a new leader will be announced in the week of July 22. 

June 22: West Midlands

June 26: Digital Hustings

June 27:  South (Central)

June 28: South West

June 29: Lakes & Borders

June 29: North West

July 4: Yorkshire & Humber

July 5: North East

July 5: Scotland

July 6: East Midlands

July 6: Wales

July 11: South East

July 12: Gloucestershire

July 13 Cambridgeshire

July 13: Essex

July 17: London

TBC: Northern Ireland

 July 22: New leader announced

It came as questions were raised over the way the vote was conducted, with 90 MPs allowed to vote by 'proxy' so they could choose their candidate despite not being there in person. 

Mr Johnson came first in the vote with 160. But Mr Hunt came home just two votes ahead of Mr Gove, 77 to 75.  

One supporter of Mr Johnson said that the result was revenge for the way that Mr Gove had turned on him in the last leadership race in 2016, going from his chief of staff to a rival candidate.

The source told the Times: 'Gove stabbed us in the back — we've stabbed him in the front.'

The result in the fifth and final ballot came after Mr Gove had managed to finish second in the fourth round, sending shockwaves through the contest. 

Mr Gove's decision to stand for the leadership in 2016 scuppered Mr Johnson's campaign and the wounds have not healed.

There was also widespread speculation - denied by Mr Johnson - that supporters of the frontrunner were being encouraged to vote tactically in order to prevent Mr Gove reaching the final ballot. 

Mr Johnson supporter Johnny Mercer denied there had been dark ops taking place during the Tory leadership campaign.

He told the Today programme: 'I have to be honest, I'm pretty close to Mr Johnson and the operation and the campaign, and I just haven't seen it - I haven't seen it going on, I'm not convinced it's possible.'

Admitting some MPs may have 'voted for different people at different times', he added: 'I don't think there's some sort of underhand operation and people like Mel Stride, who ran Michael's operation, he has accepted that as well.

'It's a great story for the media, of course, as a sort of continuation of the drama from years ago, but in reality I don't think it exists.'

But Simon Clarke, another supporter of Mr Johnson, suggested some MPs may have 'freelanced' outside the official campaign.

'I think some people might have taken it upon themselves to try and steer the outcome, ' he said. 

The two final candidates will attempt to woo Tory councillors this afternoon when they separately address Conservative members of the Local Government

Using his loaf: the Foreign Secretary helped deliver bread in Tenbury, Worcestershire today as he launched his campaign ahead of a meeting with Tory councillors in London later

Using his loaf: the Foreign Secretary helped deliver bread in Tenbury, Worcestershire today as he launched his campaign ahead of a meeting with Tory councillors in London later

Mr Hunt went on to beat Mr Gove by just two votes, the same number as were missing from the expected increase in support for Boris Johnson

Mr Hunt went on to beat Mr Gove by just two votes, the same number as were missing from the expected increase in support for Boris Johnson

ITV will host first head-to-head Tory leadership debate 

 ITV will host a head-to-head debate between Conservative leadership candidates Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt.

The broadcaster has promised to 'get answers to the questions that matter' in its coverage of the two hopefuls to be the next prime minister.

ITV made the announcement following news that Michael Gove had been knocked out of the leadership race leaving Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt competing for votes from the Tory membership.

It comes after the BBC programme featuring the five would-be PMs has been widely condemned after it emerged one of the 'ordinary voters' posting questions was an imam who had previously posted vile tweets about Israel.

Mr Gove's campaign manager Mel Stride played down the prospect of a co-ordinated vote-switching operation due to the narrow margin of the defeat.

'It doesn't seem to me on first observation of this that there has been,' he said.

'Because we didn't see a situation where, as some had speculated, a very large number of votes might have transferred from say Boris Johnson to Jeremy Hunt.

'It would appear to me everybody has behaved pretty much as one would hope they would.'

The battle to become Prime Minister will see the final two face a gruelling series of 16 hustings across the UK, starting in Birmingham on Saturday, and continuing up and down the country over the next month.

The final outcome of the leadership contest will not be known until the week beginning July 22, with the two remaining candidates taking part in a series of hustings in front of Tory members around the country before the votes are counted.

Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt will also take part in a head-to-head debate on ITV on July 9.

'Get off me. Get out of my flat': Blistering words Carrie Symonds yelled at Boris Johnson during midnight row which brought police to their door when neighbours heard screaming and favourite to become PM shouting 'get off my f***ing laptop'

Police were called to a domestic disturbance at the home of Boris Johnson and his young girlfriend last night, rocking the Tory frontrunner's bid for power. 

Neighbours of Carrie Symonds – Mr Johnson's 31-year-old lover – called the police to her South London flat in the early hours of this morning after hearing a loud altercation between the couple.

Miss Symonds is said to have been heard screaming and telling the 55-year-old Tory leadership favourite to 'get off me' and 'get out of my flat'.

A recording of the incident reveals Mr Johnson, who lives at his partner's flat, shouted at Miss Symonds to 'get off my f***ing laptop' before a loud crashing noise was heard. 

Tonight, MPs said Mr Johnson may seek an injunction to suppress any attempt to release the recording. 

The Tory leadership frontrunner shares the home with his partner Carrie Symonds (pictured together)

The Tory leadership frontrunner shares the home with his partner Carrie Symonds (pictured together)

Miss Symonds, who Mr Johnson is said to be hoping to marry, was heard complaining that he had spilled red wine on her sofa. She then added: 'You just don't care for anything because you're spoilt. You have no care for money or anything.'

Earl McDermott, who lives nearby, told MailOnline: 'It was a proper tear up. Glasses being smashed, screaming and a lot of arguing.

'I was walking past Johnson's house and you could hear it coming from the top floor. I thought someone was being murdered.'

The row was recorded by a neighbour on a smartphone, who told the Guardian: 'There was a smashing sound of what sounded like plates. There was a couple of very loud screams that I'm certain were Carrie and she was shouting to ''get out'' a lot.

'She was saying, ''get out of my flat'' and he was saying no. And then there was silence after the screaming. My partner, who was in bed half asleep, had heard a loud bang and the house shook.'

What neighbours heard during Boris Johnson's blazing row with his lover at her South London flat

Neighbours heard Miss Symonds telling Mr Johnson to 'get off me' and 'get out of my flat'.

She said he had ruined a sofa with red wine: 'You just don't care for anything because you're spoilt. You have no care for money or anything.' 

The neighbour who recorded the row told The Guardian: 'There was a smashing sound of what sounded like plates. There was a couple of very loud screams that I'm certain were Carrie and she was shouting to 'get out' a lot.

'She was saying, ''get out of my flat'' and he was saying no. And then there was silence after the screaming. My partner, who was in bed half asleep, had heard a loud bang and the house shook.

'I [was] hoping that someone would answer the door and say ''We're okay''. I knocked three times and no one came to the door.' 

Earl McDermott, who lives nearby told MailOnline: 'It was a proper tear up. Glasses being smashed, screaming and a lot of arguing.

'I was walking past Johnson's house and you could hear it coming from the top floor. I thought someone was being murdered. ' 

Next-door neighbour, 32-year-old nursery worker Fatimah, said: 'There was a lot of shouting, a lady was screaming and I could hear glasses or plates being thrown quite a few times. 

'The man was shouting back. I could hear it through my walls. I was watching TV and muted it because I was so worried.

'It lasted for about ten minutes. I have never heard anything like that before.

'You could hear glass being smashed and other things. It was obvious the lady was angry, she was screaming hysterically. My walls were shaking from all the noise and things that were being thrown around. 

'I have a four year old son and I was worried the noise would wake him up.   

'I am not used to that it is a quiet neighbourhood - there's nothing that goes in so that's why I was concerned.

'I didn't call the police because the police arrived like a few minutes after. I saw a police van and a police car turn up. I knew they would probably deal with the situation.

'It went on for just over ten minutes. His voice was quite quiet but her voice was more loud. I couldn't make out what she was saying because she was just very, very angry.'

Raymond Campbell, aged 48 who lives four doors down the road told MailOnline: 'I saw the police arrive just after midnight. I had just got in. 

'I didn't know what had happened but I asked some neighbours in the morning. They said there'd been a domestic between Johnson and his partner.'

That neighbour called the police and then shared the recording with the Guardian. 

Scotland Yard confirmed they were called to Miss Symonds' flat at 24 minutes past midnight and spoke to all the occupants of the address, 'who were safe and well'.

Mr Johnson showed no signs of the late-night row as he was spotted smiling at a Conservative summer party just an hour after the news broke.  

Next-door neighbour, 32-year-old nursery worker Fatimah, said: 'There was a lot of shouting, a lady was screaming and I could hear glasses or plates being thrown quite a few times. 

'The man was shouting back. I could hear it through my walls. I was watching TV and muted it because I was so worried.

'It lasted for about ten minutes. I have never heard anything like that before.

'You could hear glass being smashed and other things. It was obvious the lady was angry, she was screaming hysterically. My walls were shaking from all the noise and things that were being thrown around. 

'I have a four year old son and I was worried the noise would wake him up. 

'He had a much calmer voice and he was just telling her to calm down, but she was still chucking things about.' 

She added: 'I didn't call the police because the police arrived like a few minutes after. I saw a police van and a police car turn up. I knew they would probably deal with the situation.

'It went on for just over ten minutes. His voice was quite quiet but her voice was more loud. I couldn't make out what she was saying because she was just very, very angry.' 

She said she was unsure who called police. 

Raymond Campbell, aged 48 who lives four doors down told MailOnline: 'I saw the police arrive just after midnight. I had just got in

'Everybody knows Boris Johnson lives here. We see him cycling around. The police went into his house and then a short while later a police van also arrived. They were in there for about 10 to 15 minutes.

'I didn't know what had happened but I asked some neighbours in the morning. They said there'd been a domestic between Johnson and his partner.' 

One neighbour told the Telegraph: 'I heard the row, it was pretty loud. I was quite worried to be honest, it was bad.

'I heard a lot of smashing - it sounded like plates or glasses - and I could hear her shouting. It was definitely her, I didn't hear him. There was a lot of shouting and swearing. It didn't last that long, maybe five minutes. It was unusual because it's very quiet around here. We don't usually here things like this.'

Two police cars and a van arrived within minutes, shortly after midnight, but left after receiving reassurances from both the individuals in the flat that they were 'safe and well'.

Neighbours told the Times they had not even realised that Mr Johnson had been living in the apartment until earlier this week.

One said: 'Boris has been visiting for six to nine months. I think he lives there now because of the frequency we see him. He leaves the house about 8am and he gets picked up by his minders.'  

Mr Johnson was caught out as the words used by Ms Symonds - 'get off me' and 'get out of my flat' - were picked up on a neighbour's phone.

Miss Symond's flat occupies the first floor of a converted semi-detached Georgian villa.

It is not clear whether the neighbour who recorded the row lives in the same building, either above or below, or on the first floor of the adjoining house.

Following news of the confrontation, MP Ben Wallace, a senior ally of Boris Johnson tweeted this in support, before quickly deleting it

Following news of the confrontation, MP Ben Wallace, a senior ally of Boris Johnson tweeted this in support, before quickly deleting it

A senior MP told Mail Online: 'Boris is clearly the favourite in this leadership race but four weeks is a very long time in politics.

'He's got 16 hustings, all of which are going to be televised… a lot can change.

'I think a lot of Conservative members are waiting to see the outcome of the debates and things like that.

'This might well play into their concerns about him. You are talking about Conservative Party activists… there are lots of different types of people.

Mr Johnson attended the event shortly after news of the blazing row with his girlfriend broke

Mr Johnson attended the event shortly after news of the blazing row with his girlfriend broke

Mr Johnson speaking at the Uxbridge & South Ruislip Conservative Association summer drinks
Mr Johnson speaking at the Uxbridge & South Ruislip Conservative Association summer drinks

The row came just hours after Mr Johnson cemented his position as the runaway favourite to succeed Theresa May as prime minister

Johnson's campaign team said they had 'no comment' to make concerning allegations that police were called to the home Mr Johnson, left, shares with Miss Symonds, right

Johnson's campaign team said they had 'no comment' to make concerning allegations that police were called to the home Mr Johnson, left, shares with Miss Symonds, right

Boris Johnson leaving his house this morning. Police were called to Mr Johnson's house in the early hours after neighbours heard screaming, shouting and banging

Boris Johnson leaving his house this morning. Police were called to Mr Johnson's house in the early hours after neighbours heard screaming, shouting and banging

'There is a lot of female membership. I'm not sure this kind of thing goes down well.'

Another MP said: 'You just couldn't make it up. If the bulk of your members are over 60, most of them have got grandchildren, most of them have settled down, most of them are stable… the activists are going to turn around and say do we really want this guy to be PM? Anybody normal would think that.

'This guy is going to be PM and all this stuff is going on in his private life - how chaotic is he? If he can't hold it together at his age, what the hell is going on?

'This will go on and on. It will damage him.' 

But Richard Barnes, who was deputy mayor of London under Mr Johnson, told Newsnight: 'I question the motives of the neighbours who stood there with a microphone pressed against the wall recording somebody's row… so concerned were they, they went to The Guardian.'

How Boris's hitmen took out Gove: Hour by hour, the nods, winks and 'dark dealings' that helped Johnson's backers hand him revenge over his most feared rival

The alcoves and recesses of the Palace of Westminster are built for plotting.

And early yesterday, as MPs arrived for the final two rounds in the Conservative leadership contest, the air was thick with conspiracy.

Certainly Team Michael Gove feared a plot was afoot, after a newspaper report that Boris Johnson's camp wanted Mr Gove 'humiliated' in revenge for turning on their man in 2016. Back then, one Johnson ally said there was 'a special place in hell' reserved for Mr Gove. They hadn't forgotten.

Yesterday, almost in anticipation, Gove supporters went on the offensive from the off, with one accusing Boris of wanting to 'gerrymander' the result.

Boris Johnson pictured n his office . He  set out his vision saying he wants to do for the whole country what he did for the capital as Mayor of London

Boris Johnson pictured n his office . He  set out his vision saying he wants to do for the whole country what he did for the capital as Mayor of London

All fingers pointed at one man: Gavin Williamson, the former chief whip and Defence Secretary who seemed to revel in his reputation for Machiavellian dark arts

All fingers pointed at one man: Gavin Williamson, the former chief whip and Defence Secretary who seemed to revel in his reputation for Machiavellian dark arts

The theory was straightforward. Boris would prefer the run-off to be against Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who backed Remain in 2016, rather than Mr Gove, a fierce intellectual who has impeccable Brexiteer credentials. Indeeed in private, Team Gove believe the vote has been rigged all week.

They muttered darkly that Rory Stewart's numbers were inflated to remove Dominic Raab, another Brexiteer threat to Boris, and Sajid Javid's vote was pushed up to keep him in the race and stop his supporters going to Mr Gove.

Female Tory MP says colleague branded her a 'disgrace' and told her to leave the party 

A Conservative Party MP who backed Rory Stewart in the contest to replace Theresa May has revealed how she was told to 'leave the party' by one of her colleagues.

Antoinette Sandbach, who represents Eddisbury in Cheshire, posted a screen grab from WhatsApp which she claimed was sent by a male Tory MP, calling her a 'disgrace'.

She said she was travelling on the train when she received the messages.

According to Ms Sandbach: 'Barely is the ink dry on the results and the dark ops begin. This from a male conservative MP to me as I sit on the train home.' 

Ms Sandbach refused to name the MP, who she said had been 'trawling' through an old WhatsApp group and who she had removed for bullying a former colleague. 

All fingers pointed at one man: Gavin Williamson, the former chief whip and Defence Secretary who seemed to revel in his reputation for Machiavellian dark arts.

There was another issue raising paranoia levels yesterday: the large number of proxy votes. Around ninety Tory MPs were not physically in the Commons.

Some were enjoying the Ascot races, others were in constituencies and nominated someone else to cast votes on their behalf. Apart from their proxy, no-one, not even the MPs themselves, would know where the vote had gone.

In plotting hands, this could be a powerful weapon. One senior campaign source warned: 'It is always a good idea to trust someone whose interests align with your own.'

After seeing his vote collapse on Wednesday, Mr Stewart accused the Boris camp of sharp practice, saying 'five or ten proxy votes' had been lent to other campaigns.

Team Boris issued fervent denials, and insisted they just wanted to maximise their vote. One Boris supporter claimed Mr Stewart was bitter after his support 'on Twitter' didn't translate into results, saying: 'The truth hurts.'

Asked outside the voting room whether he knew anything about 'dark arts' Mr Johnson insisted: 'No.' When the first result came, at 1pm, it was good news for Mr Gove. Mr Johnson marched on to 157 – more than half the Tory parliamentary party – but Mr Gove had picked up ten votes, and was now two ahead of Mr Hunt.

Meanwhile Mr Javid was eliminated. Had the anti-Gove plot failed? Within minutes the Gove and Hunt camps were at each other's throats.

A Hunt source issued a warning about the final round being dominated by the 'personal psychodrama' of Boris vs Gove.

Gove supporters desperately tried to neutralise the accusation, promising a 'civilised debate'.

They also sought to 'peel off' Mr Johnson's Brexiteers.

Gove campaign manager Mel Stride texted several MPs saying Mr Johnson was 'secure in the final run off' and they should consider backing Mr Gove so 'we can have two Brexiteers in the final'. Where would Javid's 34 votes go? 

One Johnson supporter told the Mail, with a twinkle in his eye: 'We're not telling people to vote for Jeremy but if people feel inclined to go that way, what's to stop them?'

Team Boris had good reason to be confident about their numbers holding up. For in a remarkable feat of organisation, they had successfully predicted exactly how many votes their man would get in two of the initial counts. The person running Mr Johnson's 'book' of supporters was Grant Shapps, the former Tory chairman cast into the wilderness by Theresa May and later accused of over a botched plot to oust her.

Wizard of Oz pulls off another trick

Controversial election guru Sir Lynton Crosby is likely to make a reappearance if Boris Johnson becomes prime minister.

Sir Lynton, who masterminded Theresa May's 2017 snap election failure, speaks to Mr Johnson every day, according to his colleagues. The strategist, known as the Wizard of Oz, has been conducting private polling for Mr Johnson in the expectation that he will run the next general election campaign.

He ran Mr Johnson's two successful campaigns to be London mayor in 2008 and 2012.

However, he also ran Mrs May's election disaster, which led to her losing a parliamentary majority and having to rely on the support of the DUP.

Earlier this week, Sir Lynton, pictured, said the next Tory leader must be 'someone of character'. Speaking about whether the Tories could win a majority at the next election, he suggested a new leader in No 10 could 'create the opportunity to be heard again'.

'You need someone who can articulate the case. You need someone who has character. The most successful politicians today are those who have some element of character,' Politics Home reported.

 

His Excel spreadsheet contained thousands of entries. Down one side were the names of all 313 Tory MPs and across pages and pages of data about them – personal biography, policy interests, political affiliations and records of whether they had met Mr Johnson, or spoken on the phone to him.

He also recorded which MPs were apparently backing his man. But how to tell which were telling the truth? Early in the contest, Mr Johnson had a core of trusted supporters who were sent out to gather information. Without always revealing who they were backing, they would ask MPs who they were voting for. By the end this army of 'handlers' grew to 70.

Friends of Mr Shapps said he had spent his time on the backbenches reading up on former US president Lyndon Johnson. LBJ said the first rule of politics was to 'learn how to count'. It was a lesson Mr Johnson, and his team, learned well.

By yesterday, it meant Team Boris had a trove of information on every MP, and a good idea about how the votes would play out.

When the result came in at 6pm, Mr Hunt had beaten Mr Gove into second place by just two votes. Mr Gove issued a gracious concession message and congratulated the two winners. But his supporters screamed 'carve up'.

'If you are that far ahead you get to name your opponent. They knew which candidate they wanted in the final,' said one. Beforehand, Mr Gove's campaign estimated – correctly – that around a third of Javid votes would go their way, and the rest would go to Boris.

The final piece of evidence, which is hard to explain other than by vote lending, is that Mr Johnson's total increased by four between the two rounds, fewer than the number of MPs who said publicly they would support him. A Johnson source insisted the claims were 'nonsense'. But seasoned observers will suspect otherwise.

Trade Secretary (and Hunt backer) Dr Liam Fox smiled: 'I'm sure it's not organised. Perish the thought!'. 

The Environment Secretary, whose campaign at one stage looked to be fatally damaged by his cocaine admission, had dramatically leapfrogged ahead of Mr Hunt in the fourth ballot earlier today.

But the Foreign Secretary managed to claw his way back to secure a place in the head-to-head by just two votes this evening, amid claims that he might have been 'loaned' backers by Mr Johnson to settle old scores.

Many of Mr Johnson's acolytes have never forgiven Mr Gove for betraying him in the 2016 leadership contest, when he pulled his support at the last second and launched his own abortive bid. 

There were gasps as the incredibly close result of the fifth ballot was announced in committee room 14 in Parliament this evening, with the front runner securing 160 votes, Mr Hunt 77 and Mr Gove 75. 

The figures immediately fuelled rampant speculation about tactical voting, as Mr Johnson only increased his tally by three votes between the final rounds. 

After Sajid Javid was eliminated this afternoon, at least four of his 34 supporters publicly declared they were going to back the favourite. 

Mr Javid himself was also thought to have been ready to line up behind Mr Johnson - potentially in return for getting the plum post of Chancellor. 

In contrast to Mr Johnson's paltry haul in the final ballot, Mr Hunt gained 18 backers, and Mr Gove 14. 

Mr Johnson's allies had been accused of plotting an 'Oxford Union knifing' and the political equivalent of 'revenge porn' as they tried to stop Mr Gove getting into the run off.  

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