Rishi Sunak could be named new PM TODAY after Boris Johnson bowed out

Destined for Downing Street? Rishi Sunak could be named UK PM TODAY after Boris Johnson pulled out of Tory leadership contest leaving only rival as Penny Mordaunt – who will ‘fight on’ despite being well off 100 supporter target ahead of 2pm deadline

  • Rishi Sunak, who launched his bid yesterday morning, has received public backing of more than 150 Tory MPs
  • As of last night, 155 MPs said they are backing Mr Sunak, while 25 had spoken out in support of Ms Mordaunt 
  • A further 54 who were hoping Mr Johnson would return are yet to publicly reveal to whom they will now back
  • Mr Johnson earlier said he had in fact reached the ‘very high hurdle of 102 nominations’ as he bowed out
  • Ms Mordaunt’s team, though, believe his decision to pull himself from the race will ‘propel her over the line’

Rishi Sunak could be named as the new Prime Minister later today after Boris Johnson bowed out of the Tory leadership race – as Penny Mordaunt insists she will ‘fight on’ despite appearing to be significantly short of the 100 supporters she needs to remain in contention ahead of the 2pm deadline.

The former Chancellor, who officially launched his campaign yesterday morning, has received the public backing of more than 150 Tory MPs – with more joining team Sunak following Mr Johnson’s departure from the race.

As of last night, 155 MPs had said they are backing Mr Sunak, while just 25 had spoken out in support of Ms Mordaunt. But a further 54 who were hoping Mr Johnson would return to the premiership are yet to publicly reveal to whom they have switched allegiance.

Mr Johnson, though, earlier said he had in fact reached the ‘very high hurdle of 102 nominations’ and believed there was a ‘very good chance’ that he would have been successful in the leadership contest.

But the former PM added that continuing his bid for a return was ‘simply not the right thing to do’, citing the need to ‘unite’ the party.

He is understood to have realised that he could not achieve unity when key Tory figures such as former Home Secretary Suella Braverman and prominent Brexiteer Steve Baker – both of whom are popular on the Tory Right – gave their backing to Mr Sunak.

Last night there was no immediate response from the Sunak camp, with a source reportedly saying the ex-chancellor is ‘not taking anything for granted’ and that he will ‘continue to talk to colleagues’ and ‘discuss how best to unite the party and take the country forward’.

It comes after Mr Sunak appeared to be surging further ahead in the contest yesterday as he also secured the backing of Grant Shapps, who replaced Ms Braverman as Home Secretary following her resignation this week, and Work and Pensions Secretary Chloe Smith.

Armed Forces Minister James Heappey also said Mr Sunak would ‘bring together our divided party and restore stability to our Government’.

And Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, writing for The Telegraph, has endorsed Mr Sunak in an article in which he compares him to Winston Churchill due to his willingness to speak the ‘truth’. 

It has left Leader of the House of Commons Ms Mordaunt as the only leadership hopeful standing in his way. She declared yesterday that ‘I’m in this to win it’, but the determined statement came amid signs she is struggling to win backers.

However, a source from Ms Mordaunt’s campaign said last night: ‘Penny is still running to be the Leader of the Conservative Party. Penny is the unifying candidate who is most likely to keep the wings of the Conservative Party together and polling shows that she is the most likely candidate to hold onto the seats the Conservative Party gained in 2019.

‘Ed Balls, Shadow Cabinet ministers and Labour advisers have all said Penny is the candidate Keir Starmer fears the most.’

She is not seen as a candidate of the right, though, and so is believed to be unlikely to secure a significant number of Mr Johnson’s backers.

But despite being well below the threshold of 100 supporters, Ms Mordaunt’s team have insisted she had dozens of MPs who have not yet gone public with their support for her as she appeals to Mr Johnson’s backers to get behind her campaign instead.

Candidates need 100 nominations from Tory MPs by 2pm tomorrow if they are to remain in contention ahead of a final poll of party members.

And Ms Mordaunt’s allies believe Mr Johnson’s decision to pull himself from the race will ‘propel her over the line’. 

In other developments:

  • Ms Mordaunt was claimed to have rebuffed attempts from Mr Johnson to get her to drop out of the race during a phone call
  • She is reported to have told Mr Johnson that the majority of her supporters were more likely to have switched to Team Sunak, rather than backing his return to the premiership.
  • Mr Johnson received public backing from 57 MPs, but a WhatsApp message to his supporters last night said he had reached the 100 threshold
  • The message, sent by Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris, said ‘all the paperwork’ had been completed to ensure he would appear on the ballot to replace Liz Truss.
  • But in a statement last night, Mr Johnson said he was bowing out of the race despite reaching the ‘very high hurdle of 102 nominations’
  • Mr Sunak praised Mr Johnson for having ‘led our country through some of the toughest challenges we have ever faced’
  • Former Chancellor George Osborne also praised the ‘very welcome and sensible judgement call by Boris Johnson’
  • But Mr Johnson loyalist Nadine Dorries revealed her disappointment that he had bowed out, saying that a general election was now inevitable 

Rishi Sunak appears set to become the new Prime Minister today after Boris Johnson sensationally dropped out of the Tory leadership race last night

Mr Johnson earlier said he had in fact reached the ‘very high hurdle of 102 nominations’ and believed there was a ‘very good chance’ that he would have been successful in the leadership contest

As of last night, 155 MPs had said they are backing Mr Sunak, while just 25 had spoken out in support of Ms Mordaunt. But a further 54 who were hoping Mr Johnson would return to the premiership are yet to publicly reveal to whom they have switched allegiance

Now only Ms Mordaunt now stands in the way of Mr Sunak’s leadership bid. ‘I’m in this to win it,’ the Leader of the House of Commons earlier declared

‘It is simply not the right thing to do’: Boris Johnson bows out of race to return as PM 

In statement this evening, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed he was bowing out of the race because it is ‘simply not the right thing to do’, despite claiming he had cleared the ‘very high hurdle of 102 nominations’.

He said: ‘In the last few days I have been overwhelmed by the number of people who suggested that I should once again contest the Conservative Party leadership, both among the public and among friends and colleagues in Parliament.

‘I have been attracted because I led our party into a massive election victory less than three years ago – and I believe I am therefore uniquely placed to avert a general election now.

‘A general election would be a further disastrous distraction just when the government must focus on the economic pressures faced by families across the country.

‘I believe I am well placed to deliver a Conservative victory in 2024 – and tonight I can confirm that I have cleared the very high hurdle of 102 nominations, including a proposer and a seconder, and I could put my nomination in tomorrow. There is a very good chance that I would be successful in the election with Conservative Party members – and that I could indeed be back in Downing Street on Friday.

‘But in the course of the last days I have sadly come to the conclusion that this would simply not be the right thing to do. You can’t govern effectively unless you have a united party in parliament.

‘And though I have reached out to both Rishi and Penny – because I hoped that we could come together in the national interest – we have sadly not been able to work out a way of doing this.

‘Therefore I am afraid the best thing is that I do not allow my nomination to go forward and commit my support to whoever succeeds. I believe I have much to offer but I am afraid that this is simply not the right time.’ 

In a statement last night, Mr Johnson said: ‘In the last few days I have been overwhelmed by the number of people who suggested that I should once again contest the Conservative Party leadership, both among the public and among friends and colleagues in Parliament.

‘I have been attracted because I led our party into a massive election victory less than three years ago – and I believe I am therefore uniquely placed to avert a general election now.

‘A general election would be a further disastrous distraction just when the government must focus on the economic pressures faced by families across the country.

‘I believe I am well placed to deliver a Conservative victory in 2024 – and tonight I can confirm that I have cleared the very high hurdle of 102 nominations, including a proposer and a seconder, and I could put my nomination in tomorrow. 

‘There is a very good chance that I would be successful in the election with Conservative Party members – and that I could indeed be back in Downing Street on Friday.

‘But in the course of the last days I have sadly come to the conclusion that this would simply not be the right thing to do. You can’t govern effectively unless you have a united party in parliament.

‘And though I have reached out to both Rishi and Penny – because I hoped that we could come together in the national interest – we have sadly not been able to work out a way of doing this.

‘Therefore I am afraid the best thing is that I do not allow my nomination to go forward and commit my support to whoever succeeds. 

‘I believe I have much to offer but I am afraid that this is simply not the right time.’

Following the statement, Mr Sunak said he hoped the former PM would contribute to ‘public life at home and abroad’.

He added: ‘Boris Johnson delivered Brexit and the great vaccine roll-out. He led our country through some of the toughest challenges we have ever faced, and then took on Putin and his barbaric war in Ukraine. We will always be grateful to him for that.

‘Although he has decided not to run for PM again, I truly hope he continues to contribute to public life at home and abroad. ‘

A jubilant Sunak-backing MP also told MailOnline: ‘I’ve known him since 1995: he never changes. He’s too thin skinned to be brave.’ Another Cabinet source said the ‘writing was on the wall’ for the ex-PM after a day of bluster.

Former Chancellor George Osborne added: ‘Very welcome and sensible judgement call by Boris Johnson – the country was heading for a constitutional crisis. Instead Rishi Sunak can now – with hard but necessary decisions – begin to restore Britain’s economic credibility and good governance.’ 

Mr Johnson’s hopes of a return had earlier gained traction when Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and Nadhim Zahawi, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, both declared their support. 

Mr Zahawi earlier claimed ‘Boris 2.0’ had ‘learned from those mistakes’ he made during his first spell in No10 and would lead the Tories to ‘victory and prosperity’.

He saw a piece backing his former boss go online just as Mr Johnson’s bombshell statement dropped. 

Mr Zahawi, who served as Chancellor in the final days of Mr Johnson’s premiership, is now backing Mr Sunak. He tweeted: ‘A day is a long time in politics… Given today’s news, it’s clear that we should turn to Rishi Sunak to become our next Prime Minister. 

‘Rishi is immensely talented, will command a strong majority in the parliamentary Conservative Party, and will have my full support & loyalty.’

Former Culture Secretary and Mr Johnson loyalist Nadine Dorries also revealed her disappointment that he has bowed out, saying that a general election was now inevitable.

She said: ‘Boris would have won members vote – already had a mandate from the people.

‘Rishi and Penny, despite requests from Boris refused to unite which would have made governing utterly impossible. Penny actually asked him to step aside for her. It will now be impossible to avoid a GE.’

Former Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, a Sunak supporter, said: ‘A thoughtful, wise and statesmanlike decision by Boris Johnson to withdraw, reflecting the qualities that made so many of us originally put our faith in him three years ago.’

Tory leadership race timeline  

Monday: Nominations for the race close, candidates making it through must have at least 100 Tory MPs backing them

Monday 3.30 pm: First round of voting (if more than one candidate gets through)

Monday 6pm: Result of first vote announced. If three make it through, the candidate with the fewest votes is be knocked out 

Monday 6.30pm: ‘Indicative’ ballot held if two candidates are left, one may drop out

Tuesday-Friday: If two candidates make it through, Conservative Party members have the chance to vote online

Friday: The final vote closes and Britain’s new Prime Minister is announced 

It came after Mr Johnson unsuccessfully reached out to his two main rivals in an attempt to make a pact. 

Ms Mordaunt, now Mr Sunak’s only rival in the leadership bid, was claimed to have rebuffed attempts from the former Prime Minister to get her to drop out in a phone call.

She is reported to have told Mr Johnson that the majority of her supporters were more likely to have switched to Team Sunak, rather than backing his return to the premiership.

It also means Ms Mordaunt is likely to be short of the 100 backers needed to remain in contention. 

Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak, meanwhile, met at 8pm last night, where the ex-PM is said to have told his former Chancellor that – if he re-entered No10 with Mr Sunak in a senior role – it would avoid a divisive battle.

But it was subsequently claimed this morning that no agreement had been struck between the pair following negotiations that last around three hours.  

It comes as Mr Sunak appeared to be surging further ahead in the contest today as he moved near to 150 Tory MPs publicly supporting him today.

His leadership bid was further bolstered by the backing of former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who is popular on the Tory Right, and her close ally Steve Baker.

Grant Shapps, who replaced Ms Braverman as Home Secretary following her resignation this week, and Work and Pensions Secretary Chloe Smith also gave their support to Mr Sunak. 

And Armed Forces and Veterans Secretary James Heappey also this evening tweeted his support, saying: ‘I’ve been agonising all weekend knowing that our choice as next PM must bring together our divided party and restore stability to our Government. 

‘All wings of our party will need to work together after contest to achieve that but I’m supporting Rishi Sunak to lead us in doing so.’  

Earlier this evening, WhatsApp messages sent to supporters of the former PM are understood to have said that ‘all the paperwork’ had been completed to ensure he would appear on the ballot to replace Liz Truss.

Chris Heaton-Harris, Northern Ireland Secretary, wrote: ‘OK everyone! Some very good news!. Thanks to all your hard work I can confirm we have completed all the paperwork (verified all nominations, with proposer and seconder) to be on the ballot tomorrow.

‘Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! More to follow, but thank you!!!!’

The message, seen by the Sun and Bloomberg, came despite Mr Johnson only having had 57 publicly-declared backers.

Candidates need 100 nominations from Tory MPs by 2pm tomorrow if they are to remain in contention ahead of a final poll of party members.

Even last night, Mr Johnson’s campaign was sharing a memo outlining the results of five recent polls that suggested he has the best chance of saving the Tories from electoral wipe-out.

The four-page document listed the results of surveys by leading pollsters indicating he would narrow the gap between Labour and the Tories, compared to Mr Sunak. It was titled Five Polls In The Last Five Days That Show That Boris Johnson Is The Best Chance The Conservatives Have At Avoiding Electoral Wipe-out.

Mr Johnson loyalist Michael Fabricant also joined claims his support had met the threshold, adding: ‘Boris WILL go to the membership. He has exceeded the 100 certified supporters.’

But fellow Tory MP Richard Holden questioned the claims, tweeting: ‘Very odd to brief this out again… (2 days in a row) It’s what they briefed yesterday.

‘What a strange thing to do… Wonder why you’d do it… It’s almost as if they still need people and are desperate to show momentum, which they can’t because no-one will publicly come out.’

Mr Fabricant then followed up on his earlier tweet to reveal his disappointment at Mr Johnson’s decision to no longer run, adding that he is now backing Ms Mordaunt.

He said: ‘I am deeply disappointed that Boris has chosen not to stand. I shall now nominate #PM4PM to let the members of our great Party decide who should be our Leader and next Prime Minister. I abhor political coronations. They invariably get it wrong.’ 

Mr Sunak, meanwhile, has vowed to ‘work day in and day out to get the job done’ as as the UK faces a ‘profound economic crisis’.

He has also promised to lead a Government with ‘integrity, professionalism and accountability’ if he is confirmed as the new PM tomorrow.

Mr Sunak officially launched his PM bid in a Twitter post, as he promised to ‘fix our economy, unite our party and deliver for our country’

Rishi Sunak’s campaign received a major boost when prominent Brexiteer Steve Baker gave his support to the former Chancellor

It comes after Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak met at 8pm on Saturday night, where the ex-PM is said to have told his former Chancellor that – if he re-entered No10 with Mr Sunak in a senior role – it would avoid a divisive battle.

But it was subsequently claimed this morning that no agreement had been struck between the pair following negotiations that last around three hours.

Mr Johnson earlier claimed ‘Boris 2.0’ had ‘learned from those mistakes’ he made during his first spell in No10 and would lead the Tories to ‘victory and prosperity’. 

Allies revealed a ‘smartly dressed’ Mr Johnson was on ‘good form’ as he ploughed on with his comeback bid this morning in a meeting with supporters. 

His hopes of a return also gained further traction today when Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and Nadhim Zahawi, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, both declared their support.

But Mr Johnson suffered a blow when prominent Brexiteer Steve Baker gave his support to Mr Sunak and warned Tory MPs against putting the former premier back in Downing Street.

The Northern Ireland minister, who backed Ms Truss over Mr Sunak in this summer’s leadership contest, claimed a Boris comeback would be a ‘guaranteed disaster’.

‘This isn’t the time for Boris and his style,’ Mr Baker told Sky News, as he claimed the parliamentary Partygate probe hanging over Mr Johnson’s head would see his premiership ‘implode’.

He warned a ‘large number’ of Tories would refuse to ‘lay down their integrity to save’ Mr Johnson in a House of Commons vote over whether he misled MPs on Covid rule-breaking in No10, which is being investigated by the Privileges Committee.

Meanwhile, Mr Sunak officially confirmed his candidacy in a Twitter post yesterday morning, as he promised to ‘fix our economy, unite our party and deliver for our country’.

He wrote: ‘I served as your Chancellor, helping to steer our economy through the toughest of times.

‘The challenges we face now are even greater. But the opportunities, if we make the right choice, are phenomenal.

‘I have the track record of delivery, a clear plan to fix the biggest problems we face and I will deliver on the promise of the 2019 manifesto.

‘There will be integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level of the government I lead and I will work day in and day out to get the job done.

‘I am asking you for the opportunity to help fix our problems. To lead our party and country forwards towards the next general election, confident in our record, firm in our convictions and ready to lead again.’

Mrs Braverman, who dramatically quit as Home Secretary the day before Ms Truss’s premiership collapsed, backed Mr Sunak as ‘a leader who will put our house in order and apply a steady, careful hand on the tiller’.

She wrote in the Telegraph: ‘I have backed Boris from the start. From running alongside him in London in 2012, to supporting him to be our leader in 2019 and willing him to succeed throughout the travails of this year. His resignation in July was a loss for our country.

‘But we are in dire straits now. We need unity, stability and efficiency. Rishi is the only candidate that fits the bill and I am proud to support him.’

And Mr Shapps added: ‘We need someone who can provide stability and proven economic competence in these challenging times, and Rishi Sunak is that person.’

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