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Sarah Atherton first Welsh backer of Boris Johnson in Tory leadership campaign

23 Oct 2022 6 minute read
Sarah Atherton speaking in the House of Commons

Wrexham MP Sarah Atherton has become the first Welsh Conservative MP to back Boris Johnson in next week’s Tory Leadership election.

Johnson is reported to be struggling to secure the 100 backers to make it on to the ballot for the first round of voting by MPs on Monday afternoon.

Ms Atherton switched from supporting Penny Mordaunt to Liz Truss during the the Tories protracted leadership tussle over the summer.

Rishi Sunak formally entered the Tory leadership contest this morning, promising he would lead with “integrity, professionalism and accountability” in an apparent attempt to contrast himself with his predecessors as his backers warned a Boris Johnson comeback would be a “guaranteed disaster”.

Mr Johnson’s supporters have downplayed the fact he is lagging behind his former chancellor in public support from MPs, saying he is “clearly” running, although he has not officially declared this.

Rishi Sunak passed the 100 threshold on Saturday evening and currently has the support of 124 MPs including the former Welsh Secretary Simon Hart, Craig Williams, Fay Jones, David TC Davies, Jamie Wallis, and Alun Cairns.

New backers

Mr Sunak gained three more valuable backers today in new Home Secretary Grant Shapps, Work and Pensions Secretary Chloe Smith and Northern Ireland minister Steve Baker, an influential figure on the Tory right as the former head of backbench Brexiteers.

Mr Shapps, who also threw his weight behind Mr Sunak in the last leadership contest against Liz Truss, tweeted that the ex-chancellor would “provide stability and proven economic competence in these challenging times”.

Mr Baker was scathing in his assessment of what a comeback by Mr Johnson, who is mulling a bid to return to the top job just months after being forced out by his own MPs, would mean.

He told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “Boris would be a guaranteed disaster.

“There’s going to be a vote before the House of Commons on this issue of privileges, whether he will deliberately misled the house.

“In that vote it’s guaranteed there’ll be a large number of Conservatives who will refuse, as they see it, to lay down their integrity to save him, and at that moment his premiership will collapse.”

Mr Johnson is to face an inquiry into whether he lied to the Commons over the partygate scandal, for which he was fined by police.

If found guilty by the Commons Privileges Committee, he could face recall proceedings that would leave him battling for his seat in the Commons if he receives a suspension of 10 days or more.

“I’m not willing to lay down my integrity for Boris Johnson,” Mr Baker said.

He added that “this isn’t the time for Boris and his style”, noting that Mr Johnson does not have the capacity to comply with “tedious rules”.

Conservative former cabinet minister Dominic Raab also warned that the partygate probe would overshadow a Mr Johnson premiership.

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

He told BBC One’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme: “In a matter of days, not weeks, he’s going to see televised witness testimony, including his own, which is going to take him right back into that spiral.”

But Mr Johnson won the support of Nadhim Zahawi, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who said the ex-Prime Minister “got the big calls right” and argued “Britain needs him back”.

He tweeted: “When I was Chancellor, I saw a preview of what Boris 2.0 would look like. He was contrite and honest about his mistakes. He’d learned from those mistakes how he could run No 10 and the country better.”

Mr Zahawi, who joined other Cabinet ministers including Ben Wallace, Anne-Marie Trevelyan and Jacob Rees-Mogg in backing their former boss, urged him to resign as prime minister in July.

Mr Johnson currently has the support of 57 MPs.

Partygate

Mr Rees-Mogg, the Business Secretary, confirmed Mr Johnson intends to run, telling Kuenssberg: “I have been speaking to Boris Johnson, and clearly he’s going to stand, there’s a great deal of support for him.”

Fellow Johnson ally Sir James Duddridge gave a similar indication and suggested the former prime minister will “cooperate fully” with the partygate probe.

The Tory MP tweeted: “Boris on good form at the 8am meeting with MPs. In a first for Boris he was rather smartly dressed!

“He made it very clear the Privileges Committee must and will be allowed to get on with their process. He will cooperate fully.”

Penny Mordaunt, the first candidate to declare, insisted she is “in this to win it” despite being far behind her potential rivals on public endorsements.

She has just 21 to Mr Johnson’s 57 and Mr Sunak’s 124.

Ms Mordaunt said she was a “halfway house” between Ms Truss and Mr Sunak in the last contest and that she is “best-placed to unite our party”.

“I’m in this to win it. I think it’s important for our party, we have a contest. I am very confident about our numbers,” she told Kuenssberg.

But the leadership hopeful refused to give any details of her tax and spend policy, declining to explicitly commit to raising benefits in line with inflation, the pensions triple lock, 3% defence spending and no cuts to the health service.

“I’m not going to be drawn into the detail,” she repeatedly said.

Job offer

She said reports that she offered to back Mr Johnson in return for a job from him were “completely false” and refused to say which of her two rivals she would back.

It came after Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak were said to be locked in talks late into Saturday evening amid speculation over whether the pair could agree on a joint ticket.

Mr Johnson returned to the UK on Saturday to plot a second run for the top job, in a move that has divided opinion among Conservative MPs including his former allies.

Tory MPs will vote on Monday, and two candidates will be put forward to the party membership unless one pulls out, with a result being announced on Friday.

Candidates have until 2pm on Monday to secure the 100 nominations, limiting the ballot to a maximum of three candidates.

Supporters of Mr Johnson believe that if he can make it to the last two, he will win in the final online ballot of party members with whom he remains popular.


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George Atkinson
George Atkinson
1 month ago

She is as much Welsh as I am Japanese.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
1 month ago

She may as well back the clown. She’s losing her seat hopefully sooner rather than later.

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
1 month ago
Reply to  Fi yn unig

Did she have a dalliance with de Piffle and is feeling nostalgic? Hard to see what other reason one could have for backing him.

Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter Cuthbert

Urghh..The thought of it…gross..That’s put me right off my Sunday butties….

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter Cuthbert

Dalliance? more likely a quick knee trembler after a party. Well suited to each other.

Rob
Rob
1 month ago

Dear Sarah Atherton… Please read the polls. Labour are heavily tipped to retake Wrexham at the next election. I can confidently say that your constituents do NOT want Boris to return as Prime Minister. The only reason why he was elected by such a big majority in 2019 was to A) get us out of the Brexit stalemate we had in the late 2010s and B) he wasn’t Jeremy Corbyn.
These reasons are no longer applicable.

Alwyn
Alwyn
1 month ago

Always backs losers

Mick Tems
Mick Tems
1 month ago

Atherton’s definitely out of her f*cking tree! Never mind – come the next election, she’ll be voted out for good.

Valerie Matthews
Valerie Matthews
1 month ago

I am told the definition of stupidity is to do the same things over and over and expect a different outcome! Are these people man and just desperate to hang on to their well padded jobs and to hell with the people they are supposed to represent and care about!?!

Valerie Matthews
Valerie Matthews
1 month ago

MAD not man!

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago

Treacherous Tory Sara Atherton would back a lame horse, so it’s no surprise she’s supporting Boris “I haven’t worked for my constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip as their sitting MP since I left office having been on numerous expensive holidays during the cost of living crisis”, Johnson. 🙄

#YesCymru 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿✊ #Ymlaen 👍🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿#BritishRuleIsForTheFool 🇬🇧👎

Karl
Karl
1 month ago

Cheats and liars, stick together. Expected nothing less. She has no morals or dignity. Come on Wrexham, get shot of her next time. Her lack of backbone is how Johnson run riot, same with all the others who said nothing and pedalled those same tweets.

Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
1 month ago

Sarah “Bad Bandwagon” Atherton, truly the shame of Gogledd Cymru. Tories out. Out of Wrecsam, out of Cymru, out of Westminster, out for goodness sake out and out forever. The lady who voted to let her own constituents go hungry, she played the rich kids game but didn’t have the prestige or the brains to get anywhere near a really cushy job. Another one of the no-marks of 2019, who scraped in on Boris’s coattails, himself brought in on a load of lies and deceptions that could not last (and that, let us never forget, cost peoples’ lives in the… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Cathy Jones
Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
1 month ago

Sorry, Sarah, your hero has already withdrawn.

Marc
Marc
1 month ago

That went well 😁

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