Boris Johnson at the opening of Ravensbourne
Boris Johnson is the runaway favourite to be the next prime minister Credit: The Greenwich Wire

Just one Greenwich Tory has put their name on a list of 1,000 councillors backing Boris Johnson’s push to be the next prime minister.

John Hills, one of the three councillors for Coldharbour and New Eltham, is the only one of Greenwich’s 11 Conservatives included in what the Johnson campaign calls “an unprecedented level of support from Conservative grassroots” for the favourite.

The Conservative leader on the council, Matt Hartley – who represents the same ward – has separately voiced his support for the former London mayor in the contest against Jeremy Hunt, but his name does not appear on the list issued by the Johnson campaign. (1.30pm update: Matt Hartley has said he did sign up and his name should appear on the list at some point.)

Conservative members are casting their ballots now to decide who should replace Theresa May as party leader and prime minister, with Johnson the runaway favourite to enter 10 Downing Street, with some bookmakers offering odds as low as 1/33.

Just as with the national party, the ramifications of the referendum to leave the European Union have split Greenwich’s Conservative opposition, although the task of scrutinising the Labour council leadership – and reacting to its brickbats – has provided them with something to rally around.

Just cast my vote for Boris so we can get #Brexit *done* & move on to the kind of One Nation Conservative agenda he delivered as Mayor of London #voteearly #BackBoris

— Matt Hartley (@MattHartley100) July 5, 2019

Hartley, who backed exiting the EU, has voted for Johnson “so we can get Brexit done and move on to the kind of One Nation Conservative agenda he delivered as Mayor of London”.

But Eltham South’s Matt Clare, an ardent Remainer, has plumped for Jeremy Hunt, who he praised as “someone with real life experience and self-made track record” with “reach outside of the politico-journo bubble”.

In Eltham North, Charlie Davis, the borough’s youngest councillor, mourned the loss of Rory Stewart from the race – “the only Conservative candidate dedicated to reducing our national debt and supporting public services out of the race today”.

And Nigel Fletcher, who also backed Remain, has asked his Eltham South constituents to help him decide between Johnson and Hunt. In a blog post, he said: “As an ordinary member of the Conservative Party, I am not democratically accountable for my choice. My right to help select the next Prime Minister stems purely from the £25 a year I pay to the party. Of the 13.6 million people who voted for Conservative MPs at the last General Election, just over one per cent of us are now asked to select who should lead those MPs and form the government. As I say, that makes me uncomfortable, both from a democratic and a political point of view.”

In Bexley, nine councillors from the 34-strong Tory group have put their names on the list, including Teresa O’Neill, the council leader, and Gareth Bacon, who doubles up as the London Assembly member for Bexley and Bromley.

In Bromley, 16 out of 50 Tories are supporting Johnson – in a borough that narrowly backed Remain in the 2016 referendum. Both Bexley and Bromley saw the Brexit Party top the poll in May’s European Parliament elections. In Croydon, five of 29 are on the list.

There are no Conservative councillors in either Lewisham or Southwark, and just one in Lambeth, but in the parts of inner London which do elect Conservatives – the boroughs which supplied some of Johnson’s senior staff when he was mayor of London – overt support for him appears thin on the ground.

In Westminster, just one of 41 councillors – Tony Devenish, who also doubles up as a London Assembly member – appears on the list, while there are none at all from Wandsworth, a Tory stronghold for over 40 years and a council formerly led by Sir Edward Lister, Johnson’s chief of staff at City Hall and tipped to play a key role for him in Downing Street.

The new Conservative leader is due to be announced on Tuesday 23 July, although it is still not clear when Theresa May will leave Downing Street and hand over to her successor.

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