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Jeremy Hunt: The 'other guy' vying to be Britain's next prime minister

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The man who credits his wife as his "secret weapon" and thought a controversial stint as health secretary had killed his career, is now going for the top job in UK politics. But he's got to beat Boris Johnson first.

UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has completed a month-long face-off with front runner Boris Johnson to become Tory leader. 

Should he win the support of the Conservative membership on 23 July, he will become the UK's next prime minister. 

The 52-year-old, born in Kennington, London, remains the underdog after Mr Johnson's dominant performance during MP's votes. 

Before entering the political spotlight, he was an English teacher in Japan and an entrepreneur.

Conservative party leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt, with his wife, Lucia, on the seafront at Bournemouth ahead of today's hustings.. Picture date: Thursday June 27, 2019. See PA story POLITICS Tories. Photo credit should read: PA Wire
Jeremy Hunt and his wife Lucia in Bournemouth during the campaign.
AAP

Political career 

From 2005 to 2007 Mr Hunt acted as shadow minister for people living with a disability before he was rewarded for backing David Cameron in the Conservative leadership election.

But in 2009, he was found to have breached expenses rules and ordered to repay more than £9,500 by allowing his agent to stay rent-free in his constituency property, which was designated as his second home.

Conservative Party leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt during a Tory leadership hustings in Colchester, Essex.. Picture date: Saturday July 13, 2019. See PA story POLITICS Tories. Photo credit should read: Joe Giddens/PA Wire
Jeremy Hunt during a Tory leadership hustings in Colchester, Essex.
AAP

He was promoted in a reshuffle to shadow culture secretary, a position he stayed in until 2010 and then became a member of the cabinet when the Tory-Lib Dem coalition was formed, acting as culture secretary until 2012.

Mr Hunt came under pressure during the Leveson Inquiry into press practices for contact with the Murdoch family. 

From 2012-2018, he became the longest-serving health secretary in NHS history, and an attempt to deliver a seven-day NHS in England caused a high-profile contract row with junior doctors. 

He has admitted it killed his career, and said at the time it was likely to be "last big job in politics".  

Jeremy Hunt arrives at a Conservative party leadership campaign hustings at Wyboston, Britain 13 July 2019
In Wyboston, UK, earlier this month.
AAP

But in July last year, Mr Hunt replaced Boris Johnson as foreign secretary who'd quit the role over Theresa May's Brexit strategy. He has been seen as more diplomatic than his predecessor but was criticised for allowing the UK to sell arms to the Saudi regime.

His latest work has seen him trying to de-escalate tensions with Tehran following a meeting of the country's emergencies committee over Iran's seizure of a British-flagged ship in the Gulf.

Personal life

Mr Hunt met Chinese-born Lucia Guo in 2008. The pair married a year later in a traditional ceremony in China. 

Mr Hunt often calls his wife his "secret weapon" in his political career, and said in an interview in May that she was “perfect foreign secretary’s wife”. 

Jeremy Hunt's wife Lucia Guo attends a Conservative Party leadership campaign hustings at the Kent Showgrounds in Maidstone.
Jeremy Hunt's wife Lucia Guo.
AAP

Hunt's policies 

Some of Mr Hunt's key policies include: 

  • Brexit: Renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement, plan for no-deal if a new deal seems unlikely by September 30, delay Brexit temporarily beyond October 31 if deal within sight. 
  • Tax: Cut corporation tax from 19 per cent to 12.5 percent. 
  • Spending: Build 1.5 million homes. 
  • Immigration: Prioritise access for skilled workers in the UK; ditch the current target of below 100,000 net per year. 
  • Environment: Get to net zero emissions by 2050. 

#HastobeHunt

The softly-spoken Mr Hunt has distinguished himself from Mr Johnson, choosing to be more cautious about a no-deal Brexit. 

So far he has the support of 77 Conservative MPs out of 313. His key backers are Liam Fox, Rory Stewart, Amber Rudd and Penny Mordaunt.

His slogan is "Unite to Win" and the hashtag #HastobeHunt. His campaign approach has been diplomatic and measured with a jacket-off, rolled-up sleeves look to match. 

But Mr has long suffered from British TV presenters struggling to get his surname right, often accidentally replacing it with the c-word. 

"I’m used to it. I had this when I was at school," he said in an interview last month. 

"Personally, I think people should just grow up and get over the fact that my last name rhymes with a rather unpleasant word."

The politician has a constantly growing social media presence with 194,000 Twitter followers, 15,000 on Facebook and 6,500 on Instagram but it remains to be seen if it's enough to get him the top job.  

- Additional reporting AFP

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