UK: Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt seek to persuade Tory party members as leadership contest looms ahead

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have made further promises as they seek to win over Tory party members who will decide which of them becomes prime minister.

Frontrunner Mr Johnson has pledged to recruit an extra 20,000 police officers over three years if he becomes PM.

Meanwhile Mr Hunt has promised to offer MPs a free vote on whether to lift the ban on fox hunting in England and Wales – calling it “part of our heritage”.

The pledges come two days before ballot papers are posted to the party members.

Voting closes on 22 July, with the winner expected to be announced the following day.

Writing in the Sun newspaper, Mr Johnson said more police were needed to “end the current crime wave” across the UK.

The former Mayor of London said the extra officers would help in “rounding up the leaders of the county lines drugs gangs” and help police do “proper stop and search”.

He added that it was “nonsense” to suggest stop and search powers were discriminatory and that “the most loving thing we can do is take the knives off the streets”.

Between September 2009 and September 2017, police forces in England and Wales lost more than 20,000 officers – a drop of 15%. Numbers have remained more or less stable in Scotland since 2010.

Meanwhile, his rival for Number 10, Mr Hunt, has told the Daily Telegraph that he wants MPs to have a vote on whether a ban on fox hunting with hounds should be lifted.

Fox hunting with hounds is illegal in England, Scotland and Wales – but dogs can still be used to flush out foxes. There is no ban in Northern Ireland.

But Mr Hunt said he would support the vote when there was a majority in Parliament “that would be likely” to lift the ban.

Mr Hunt said he would vote to repeal the ban, adding that he did not hunt himself.

“It is part of the countryside,” he said. “And we have to recognise that in terms of the balance of the countryside. You know, it’s part of our heritage.”

The foreign secretary added that, were he to become prime minister, he would give Mr Johnson a “very important cabinet job”.

In response to the comments, campaign group the League Against Cruel Sports said they showed “how out of touch with public opinion” Mr Hunt is.

Mr Hunt would not be the first Tory leader to propose lifting the ban.

Last year, Prime Minister Theresa May dropped a Conservative manifesto pledge to hold a vote on the fox hunting ban.

Mrs May told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show there was a “clear message” against it from the public

Her predecessor, David Cameron, had promised a free vote on whether to repeal the ban in England and Wales when he was in power, but it never materialised.