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New Prime Minister could be decided in the next few hours after Boris Johnson withdraws

24 Oct 2022 5 minute read
UK Parliament handout photos of Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt. Picture by PA Wire

Tory MPs will choose who they want to be their new leader in the first stage of the race for No 10 after Boris Johnson dramatically pulled out of the contest.

His withdrawal means the contest could be decided by early afternoon today unless both the remaining candidates can get the support of 100 MPs.

The former prime minister claimed he had the nominations needed to make it onto the ballot paper but admitted he could not unite his warring party.

In a statement on Sunday evening, Mr Johnson said there was a “very good chance” he could have been back in No 10 by the end of the week if he had stood.

However, his efforts to “reach out” to his rivals – Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt – to work together in the national interest had not been successful so he was dropping out.

While Sunak, the former chancellor, already has more than 140 public declarations of support, Ms Mordaunt, the Leader of the House, had fewer than 30.

Her team are now hoping that the departure of Mr Johnson will see a swathe of MP who were backing him or are yet to declare swing behind her.

A campaign source confirmed she was still in the running, arguing she is the candidate who Labour fear the most.

“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,” the source said.

However, one senior minister who was backing Mr Johnson – the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Nadhim Zahawi – said he would now be supporting Mr Sunak.

“Rishi is immensely talented, will command a strong majority in the parliamentary Conservative Party, and will have my full support and loyalty,” he tweeted.

Pressure

With nominations due to close at 2pm on Monday, Ms Mordaunt has limited time to get the necessary nominations. If she fails Mr Sunak will be declared leader without a contest.

If she does get the numbers, MPs will then decide which of the two candidates they prefer in an “indicative” vote.

There will then be a final online poll of party members to decide the outcome with the result due on Friday – unless one of the candidates pulls out .

Certainly there are some in the party who would like to see an uncontested “coronation” to avoid a repeat of what happened with Liz Truss when the party in the country voted for a leader who did not have the backing of MPs.

Ms Mordaunt could find herself under pressure to withdraw if she finishes a long way behind Mr Sunak in the poll of MPs, even though she is popular with the Tory grassroots.

At the same time however many activists – many of whom loathe Mr Sunak for his role in bringing down Mr Johnson – will be furious if they are denied a say in the contest.

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives at Gatwick Airport on Saturday morning. Photo Gareth Fuller PA Images

‘Spooked’

In a statement on Sunday evening, Mr Johnson said he had been “overwhelmed” by the support he had received from people urging to run just weeks after being forced out by his own MPs after one scandal too many.

If he had stood, he said there was a “very good chance” the members would have voted him back into No 10 by the end of week and that he would have been “well-placed” to lead the party to victory in a general election in 2024.

However he had 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,” he said.

“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.

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

Some MPs were sceptical of his claim to have secured the 100 nominations needed to go forward, with the numbers of public declarations of support falling far short of that.

Some at Westminster suspected that he chose to withdraw rather than face the humiliation of having to admit he could not get the numbers.

Sunak-supporting Tory MP Tobias Ellwood, meanwhile, dismissed calls from Labour for a general election.

“The country does not want further economic instability,” the chair of the Commons defence select committee told the BBC.

“And what you’d get if there was a general election is it would not be clear as to which direction the country would go, there’d be greater upheaval, the markets would then be spooked again.

“There would probably be a run on the pound, that would see interest rates climb (and) mortgages go up as well. This isn’t the leadership the country wants.”


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George Atkinson
George Atkinson
1 month ago

So the past 2 prime ministers have not been voted into power by the electorate. This isn’t a democracy, its a party dictatorship without a mandate.

Y Tywysog Lloegr a Moscow
Y Tywysog Lloegr a Moscow
1 month ago

And shall forthwith, until the next GE be referred to as the Junta. From Spanish “a … political group ruling the country after it has been taken over.”

We could also justifiably refer to the government as totalitarian or oligarchical, but since this seems to be a one off (or a two-off if you include last week’s unelected PM), referring to the new leadership as the Junta as defined above, seems more appropriate

Y Tywysog Lloegr a Moscow
Y Tywysog Lloegr a Moscow
1 month ago

Great. Their first act must be to call a GE

Geraint
Geraint
1 month ago

Johnson has form for pulling out of elections before they start. Once Gove told it as it was Johnson could not be seen for dust when Cameron resigned. My suspicion is he was no where near having enough MPs to nominate him and he did another runner. He should have bought a return ticket for his recent flight back from the holiday he was having in company time and could then be back sunning himself in the Caribbean.

Last edited 1 month ago by Geraint
Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
1 month ago

Whilst the party games being played by the Tory Party are amusing to watch at one level, we should not forget that the candidates are all Market Fundmentalists tutored by the Tufton Street secretly funded Think Tanks. Thus the outcome of whoever takes the hot seat will be pretty much the same. Good for the rich and bad for us plebs. Since Sunak is being touted as the favourite, it is probably worth reading why he will be a failure. This article by the 99% Organisation was an evaluation of his Spring Budget, but the evaluation is still valid: [https://99-percent.org/why-sunak-fails/].… Read more »

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