London: Indian-origin Conservative Party MP Priti Patel, a vocal pro-Brexiteer who was among the candidates many expected to contest for the post of British Prime Minister, instead threw her support Monday behind Boris Johnson.
Patel’s decision came as the race for a new British Prime Minister to succeed Theresa May gathered pace Monday, the deadline for all the candidates to file their nominations. But then it fizzled out.
Johnson, a former foreign secretary in the Theresa May Cabinet, is seen as a frontrunner to take over as Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister.
Patel, a former UK International Development Minister, said that she believes Johnson is also the right candidate to strengthen Britain’s bond with countries like India.
“Boris Johnson will bring a spirit of optimism and the ability to lift our standing in the world by strengthening the living bridge between our two great nations,” said the 47-year-old Patel.
“It is about time that we strengthen the political bonds between UK and India, following the recent decline. We must grow our bonds into a very special relationship built on centuries of diplomacy, trade and common values, and importantly, our people to people ties that continue to enrich our countries and our links,” added Patel.
Her intervention comes as Tory MPs on either side of the Brexit divide begin to pick the candidates they are backing in the prime ministerial race, which remains wide open with nearly a dozen hopefuls in the fray.
May officially stepped down Friday as the leader of the Conservative Party but remains as PM until her successor is chosen.
Each of those eyeing Downing Street are also trying to make a serious policy pitch in an attempt to sway as many Tory MPs as possible to vote in the first round of the ballot, which will whittle down the list to two candidates who will be put forward for a vote by the wider Conservative Party membership to choose a new leader in the coming weeks.
Johnson, 54, so far the bookies’ favourite in the race, has pledged to cut income tax bills for people earning more than GBP 50,000 a year if he wins the race to succeed May as Prime Minister. His pledge instantly attracted an Opposition backlash, with the Labour Party accusing the ruling Tories of being ‘out of touch’ with public sentiment.
Pakistani-origin Sajid Javid is using his position as UK home secretary to pledge an improved visa offering for overseas students from countries like India after Brexit.
“I want to see more international students come to our country. If they’re coming here to study at our great universities, and if they want to work afterwards, we should make it easier for them to stay and work. We need a more positive attitude to this and I think the country would welcome it,” Javid stated.
Javid has attracted the backing of the popular Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson as well as a few other prominent Tory MPs.
UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has also made a serious pitch for leadership, relying on what he believes are his strong credentials as a negotiator. He has some high-profile ministers in his camp, including work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd and Foreign Office Minister for Asia Mark Field.
Among some of the others who formally launched their leadership bids Monday include UK health secretary Matt Hancock, who called for a ‘fresh start’, and former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, who unveiled proposals to redirect GBP 500 million a year from the UK’s aid budget to create an international wildlife fund to save endangered species and habitats.