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29th Aug 2018

Theresa May says she’s “in it for long-term” and indicates she will fight Boris Johnson challenge

James Dawson

Boris Johnson resigned as foreign secretary in July and it is speculated he will launch a leadership challenge in the coming months

Theresa May has said that she is “in it for the long term”, appearing to indicate that she intends to lead the Conservatives into the next general election and fight off any future leadership contests.

The statement came as she was questioned by journalists amid speculation that Boris Johnson will launch a challenge to her premiership following his resignation as foreign minister in July.

However, speaking in Cape Town on a trade visit, the prime minister said she was in politics “to deliver for the British people”, saying that she intends to use the upcoming Conservative conference to lay out the party’s domestic agenda by focusing on non-Brexit issues such as housing and the NHS.

Responding to a direct question about whether she would fight against a leadership challenge from Johnson, she said: “I am in this for the long term. I am in this for delivering for the British people, and that’s what I’m focused on.”

There is growing speculation that Johnson will use the Tories’ annual conference in Birmingham to lay out his plans for an alternative Brexit strategy and launch a direct challenge to May’s premiership.

The prime minister’s Chequers deal remains unpopular with the party’s grassroots and led to the resignation of Johnson and other prominent Brexiteer members of May’s frontbench, including then Brexit secretary David Davis and his deputy Steve Baker, in July.

The prime minister is currently on a two-day trade visit to South Africa, but the trip already threatens to be overshadowed by questions about Conservative internal politics and Brexit.

Speaking at the beginning of her visit Tuesday morning May was forced to rebuke the claims of her own chancellor Philip Hammond that crashing out of the EU could reduce GDP by as much as 10 per cent, claiming that a no-deal Brexit “wouldn’t be the end of the world”.