Jeremy Hunt's 8 most controversial moments as he fights Boris Johnson to become PM


Jeremy Hunt is facing off against Boris Johnson one final time in the Tory leadership contest.

The two politicians have made it into the final shortlist for a ballot of the Conservative Party’s 160,000 members, with winner of the showdown due to be announced on 22 July.

Hunt, like Johnson, has had his fair share of controversies, and as he gears up to the final debate in the hopes of becoming the next prime minister, here are a few of them:

1. Hunt “150 per cent agreed” with Trump’s attack on Sadiq Khan, 2019.

The foreign secretary said he agreed “150% [with the] sentiment” behind the US president’s harsh words aimed at the London Mayor.

Following reports of violence in London, Trump quote-tweeted a Katie Hopkins tweet in which she referred to the city as “Londonistan” and added: “LONDON needs a new mayor ASAP. Khan is a disaster – will only get worse!”

When Hunt was asked about the word “Londonistan” he said: “I wouldn’t use those words myself.”

2. He reiterated his support for a change in the law to half the limit on abortions from 24 weeks into a pregnancy to 12, 2019.

In 2016 he expressed his support, and three years later speaking on the Sophy Ridge show, he stood by his comments.

Raising his previous comments, Sophy Ridge said:

Previously on an issue I know many people feel very strongly about, abortion, you have said that you would like to see the legal time limit for abortion being reduced from 24 weeks to 12 weeks, is that still your view?

In response, Hunt said:

Well, these are matters of conscience. Yes, my view hasn't changed on that. I respect the fact that other people have very different views, and that's why these matters are always matters for free votes in the House of Commons, and when they come up people vote with their conscience.

Sophy Ridge then pressed:

Can you guarantee that if you were prime minister the time limit for abortion would stay where it is?

And, to that, Hunt said:

This will be a matter for the House of Commons, not a matter for government policy. The prime minister will have his view, just like every other 650 MPs, who will vote on it as a matter of conscience, but it won't be government policy to change the law.

3. When Hunt compared the European Union to a Soviet prison.

During a speech at the Conservative party conference in 2018 he said: "What happened to the confidence and ideals of the European dream? The EU was set up to protect freedom. It was the Soviet Union that stopped people leaving."

The lesson from history is clear: if you turn the EU club into a prison, the desire to get out won't diminish it will grow - and we won't be the only prisoner that will want to escape.

4. Junior Doctors row, 2015 and onwards.

Junior doctors took part in a general strike across the NHS – the first such industrial action in 40 years – over changes to their contracts imposed by Hunt.

They included the scrapping of overtime rates for work between 7am to 10pm every day except Sunday while increasing basic pay.

This was to deliver a seven-day NHS by 2020, part of the Conservative 2010 election manifesto.

The union had argued this by saying this would lead to the relative pay cut of up to 40 per cent and Junior doctors responded by tweeting pictures of themselves working weekend and late shifts, with the hashtag #ImInWorkJeremy.

A new contract for junior doctors was later imposed.

5. When he tried to correct Stephen Hawking, a literal genius, 2017.

Jeremy Hunt attempted to call out the literal genius on Twitter over the NHS. With no scientific training whatsoever, the foreign secretary tried to school the scientist on the “7-day NHS”.

Hunt was, in turn, schooled.

Hawking corrected Hunt, accusing him of “cherry picking evidence” which is "unacceptable".

6. When he got his wife's nationality wrong during an official meeting.

The then foreign secretary received flack for referring to his wife, Lucia as "Japanese" despite the fact that she was born in Xian in central China.

Hunt told the Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi:

My wife is Japanese – my wife is Chinese. That’s a terrible mistake to make.

My wife is Chinese and my children are half-Chinese and so we have Chinese grandparents who live in Xian and strong family connections in China. 

7. The time he co-authored a book calling for the NHS to be replaced by private insurance, 2016.

Our ambition should be to break down the barriers between private and public provision, in effect denationalising the provision of healthcare in Britain

8. When MPs debated his sacking over NHS comments, 2016.

A parliamentary petition requesting a debate for a vote of no confidence in Hunt was started by Dr Ash Sadighi, who argued that Hunt had “alienated the entire workforce of the NHS” with his plans “to impose a harsh contract and conditions on first consultants and soon the rest of the NHS staff".

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