'I invaded a country': Tory contender Tugendhat points to Army career

‘I invaded a country once’: Tory leadership hopeful and ex-soldier Tom Tugendhat provides punchy response when asked about the ‘naughtiest thing’ he’s ever done

  • Tom Tugendhat is one of nine Tory MPs to have officially entered race to be PM
  • He draws on his military experience as he puts forward case to be Tory leader
  • The 49-year-old served in both Iraq and Afghanistan while in British Army 

Tom Tugendhat provided a punchy response today when – asked about the ‘naughtiest thing’ he’d ever done – the Tory leadership candidate replied: ‘Well, I invaded a country once.’

The former British Army officer looked to draw on his experience in the military – during which he served in both Iraq and Afghanistan – as he pushed forward his case to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister.

Although considered an outsider in the race for Number 10, as he has not previously been a Government minister, the 49-year-old insisted he had a wealth of experience as a ‘leader’.

Mr Tugendhat, the chair of the House of Commons’ Foreign Affairs Committe, vowed to be tough on Russia and China.

He also promised to reverse a hike in National Insurance and to take action on ‘crippling’ fuel duties.

The married father-of-two is one of nine Tory MPs to have officially declared themselves as candidate in the battle to become the next PM.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is set to swell the list of contenders further by launching her own bid within the next 24 hours.

Tom Tugendhat insisted he had a wealth of experience as a ‘leader’, despite never having served as a Government minister

Mr Tugendhat, pictured with now Labour MP Dan Jarvis, served in both Iraq and Afghanistan when he was in the British Army

The senior MP looked to draw on his experience in the military as he pushed forward his case to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister

Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday show, Mr Tugendhat was grilled about his lack of ministerial experience when many of his leadership rivals have held at least one Cabinet role.

‘It’s not an entry-level position but it’s not a management position either, it’s a leadership position,’ he said.

‘And the reality is that my entire career has been about serving our country and leading in combat operations in Iraq, in Afghanistan.

‘In leading in the foreign affairs domain where I’ve very clearly stood up for our country, defending our country against Chinese economic threats and against Russian bullying in many different areas.

‘That has led to me to being sanctioned by one and quite viciously attacked by the other.

‘And, indeed, I fought for my country and have been attacked there too so, yes, this is about leading teams, it’s about setting out a vision and a clear plan and that’s why I want a ten-year economic plan for growth.’

Mr Tugendhat also spoke of the ‘extraordinary’ lessons he learned from serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, during which he was wounded and – at one point – had a doctor fill out a death notice for him before he unexpectedly turned up again,

He said: ‘It was a very long night. I was sent to serve alongside an extraordinary group of Royal Marines, I was very proud to be there. 

‘It was an extraordinary time that taught me a lot about leadership and standing together and teamwork.

‘But it mostly taught me actually about our country because although…  we were a long way from home, I worked with people from Scotland and Northern Ireland, from across England and across Wales.

‘It was an extraordinary lesson for me of the wealth and the depth and the strength and the courage of our country and the people who make it up.’

Mr Tugendhat vowed to reverse a 1.25 percentage point rise in National Insurance that Mr Johnson introduced in order to boost NHS and social care spending.

As he championed his ’10-year economic plan’, the senior backbencher also promised action on ‘crippling’ fuel duties and said he would be ‘looking at’ the rate of Corporation Tax.

But he swerved questions on whether he backed public sector pay rises in line with soaring inflation, or how he would fund his pledges.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps admitted he was ‘not a natural rebel’ when asked about the ‘naughtiest thing’ he’d ever done

The Tonbridge and Malling MP also backtracked on his previous claim that Britain could expel all Russian nationals living in the UK following the invasion of Ukraine.

‘There are Russian citizens here who absolutely deserve and require the protection of the British state against the tyrant in Moscow,’ he added.

‘What we absolutely need to do as well though is to keep the British people safe and that’s why I have been very clear about expelling KGB officers, those connected with it and those propagandising on behalf of a vicious dictatorship.’

When rival leadership candidate Grant Shapps was asked on the same programme about the ‘naughtiest’ thing he had ever done, the Transport Secretary made reference to ex-PM Theresa May’s confession that she ran through fields of wheat when she was younger.

He said: ‘I’m not terribly naughty actually. I haven’t done any cornfields or anything like that. I’m not a natural rebel.’

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