Boris Johnson builds lead in race to be UK prime minister

Boris Johnson builds lead in race to be UK prime minister
Boris Johnson arrives at BBC studios to take part in a TV debate with candidates campaigning to replace British Prime Minister Theresa May, in London. (Reuters)
Updated 18 June 2019

Boris Johnson builds lead in race to be UK prime minister

Boris Johnson builds lead in race to be UK prime minister
  • Johnson won 126 of the 313 votes cast Tuesday in a second-round ballot of Conservative Party lawmakers
  • Johnson added a dozen votes to his tally from last week, securing more votes than the combined total for the next three challengers: Hunt with 46 votes, Gove with 41 and Stewart with 37

LONDON: Boris Johnson increased his lead Tuesday in the race to become Britain’s next prime minister as one of his rivals was eliminated in a party vote, leaving a five-strong field.
Johnson won 126 of the 313 votes cast Tuesday in a second-round ballot of Conservative Party lawmakers, all but guaranteeing he will be one of the final two candidates in a runoff that will be decided by party members.
Dominic Raab, who tried to vie with Johnson for the votes of committed Brexit supporters, got 30 votes, three short of the threshold needed to go through to the next round.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Environment Secretary Michael Gove, International Development Secretary Rory Stewart and Home Secretary Sajid Javid all remain contenders in what is now effectively a race for second place.
All five candidates were taking part in a live television debate on Tuesday evening, two days after Johnson skipped another televised debate despite being the front-runner for the post.
Tory lawmakers will vote again Wednesday and, if needed, Thursday. The final two contenders will go to a postal ballot of all 160,000 Conservative Party members nationwide.
The winner, due to be announced in late July, will replace Theresa May as both party leader and British prime minister. May stepped down as party leader earlier this month after failing to secure Parliament’s approval for her Brexit deal.
Johnson, a flamboyant former foreign secretary, was already the front-runner after last week’s first round of voting in a race that started out with 10 competitors. He has since been backed by several lawmakers who have dropped out, including hard-line Brexit supporters Esther McVey and Andrea Leadsom and moderate Matt Hancock.
Johnson added a dozen votes to his tally from last week, securing more votes than the combined total for the next three challengers: Hunt with 46 votes, Gove with 41 and Stewart with 37.
All the contenders vow they will succeed where May failed and lead Britain out of the European Union, though they differ about how they plan to break the country’s Brexit deadlock.
Johnson — a leading figure in the 2016 campaign to leave the EU — says the UK must leave the bloc on the scheduled date of Oct. 31, with or without a divorce deal to smooth the way.
The EU says it won’t reopen the Brexit agreement it struck with May’s government, which has been rejected three times by Britain’s Parliament. Many economists and businesses say a no-deal exit would cause economic turmoil by ripping up the rules that govern trade between Britain and the EU.
Johnson’s rivals are divided over how willing they are to contemplate a no-deal Brexit. Javid says no-deal would be preferable to further delay, while Hunt warns it would cause “potentially severe economic disruption” and Gove says he would be willing to postpone Brexit further in order to secure a deal.
Johnson’s team is keeping him on a tight leash, wary of gaffes that could derail his campaign. Johnson is admired by many Conservatives for his ability to energize voters, but others mistrust him for his long record of misleading and false statements, verbal blunders and erratic performance in high office.
Stewart, who started the campaign as a rank outsider but has electrified the race, accused Johnson of selling “fairy tales” about how he would solve the Brexit puzzle.
Stewart’s energetic campaign and call for compromise has won praise from many outside the Conservative Party. He urged Tory lawmakers to put him into the final two and give the party a distinct alternative to Johnson.
“I would love to go against him in the final two in order to give members the chance to choose whether they want Boris’s Brexit or mine,” Stewart said.


Charity rescue ship carrying 373 African migrants docks in Sicily

The Ocean Viking ship seen from the Italian island of Lampedusa, Sicily. (AFP/File Photo)
The Ocean Viking ship seen from the Italian island of Lampedusa, Sicily. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 4 min 54 sec ago

Charity rescue ship carrying 373 African migrants docks in Sicily

The Ocean Viking ship seen from the Italian island of Lampedusa, Sicily. (AFP/File Photo)
  • The Ocean Viking vessel had been waiting in heavy swells to get clearance from authorities
  • Many migrants recounted stories of alleged abuses suffered in Libya

ROME: A charity rescue ship carrying 373 migrants picked up off the Libyan coast has been allowed to dock in the Italian port of Augusta, in Sicily.

The Ocean Viking vessel had been waiting in heavy swells to get clearance from authorities for its passengers to disembark.

The migrants — who included 165 children of which 21 were aged under four — had been plucked from four packed dinghies and were mostly from south Saharan countries in Africa. They had told rescuers they were fleeing from camps in Libya where they feared for their lives.

Many recounted stories of alleged abuses suffered in Libya, with some having already attempted sea crossings to Europe only to be intercepted and transported back to the Libyan camps.

One of those rescued, Kylian, 19, from Mali, told Arab News: “In Libya we were all crammed into one home and we weren’t free to go where we wanted. I was out when bandits came, and I wanted to run to warn the others in the camp. When they fired, I fell to the ground. They thought that I was dead, and they just left me there.”

The man said he was wounded but could not access medical care in the camp. “I thought I was going to die. This happens all the time in Libya. I was finally treated because a friend took me to a Cameroonian woman who was doctor.”

The teenager was speaking on the phone of a volunteer from the maritime humanitarian organization SOS Mediterranee. All the migrants will be transferred to a quarantine ship after being tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Luisa Albera, rescue coordinator on the Ocean Viking, told Arab News: “From the survivors, we have heard gruesome tales of the inhumane treatment they had to endure in Libya.

“The last three days at sea have been extremely hard for those people, as the weather has worsened rapidly. Several babies and small children were on board; they have particularly suffered from seasickness.”

She pointed out that more than 1,200 people had died last year while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

“We are relieved that the 373 people on board our ship managed to reach a safe port, but the international community must do more to save people in the Mediterranean. Too many lives depend on this.

“EU member states must find a sustainable solution and set up a rapid disembarkation mechanism, supporting European coastal states such as Italy and Malta and working to respect international maritime law on our common coasts to the south,” Albera said.

Prior to the Ocean Viking being given permission to dock in Augusta, a heavily pregnant woman was taken from the ship to the Italian island of Lampedusa by an Italian coastguard vessel.

Italy has repeatedly impounded charity vessels for safety violations, a policy that charities claim is often a tactic to keep them from performing rescues.

The Ocean Viking is currently the only charity ship operating off Libya’s coast, although Libyan coastguard ships are also patrolling, assisted by the EU, and have intercepted 300 migrants and returned them to Libya this month.