Former PM Boris Johnson has pulled out of the Tory leadership race, saying he had the support needed to stand but it would not be “the right thing to do”.

Former chancellor Rishi Sunak and cabinet minister Penny Mordaunt remain in the contest – with Mr Sunak way ahead on declared support from MPs.

Mr Johnson said there was a “very good chance” he would have been successful, and “back in Downing Street on Friday”.

But he said there needed to be “a united party in Parliament”.

The race began on Thursday after Liz Truss resigned as prime minister after 45 days in the job.

Nominations for the ballot close on Monday afternoon, and candidates need the support of at least 100 Conservative MPs to go forward.

The BBC’s latest tally of publicly declared backers puts Mr Sunak on 155 and Ms Mordaunt on 25.

Mr Johnson had 54, according to this tally – although he said he had 102. Not all of the 357 MPs have gone public with whom they are backing.

It is possible Mr Sunak could become prime minister by Monday, and there will definitely be a new prime minister by the end of the week.

Mr Johnson said he had been attracted by the race 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.”

The next general election needs to take place by January 2025 at the latest. But the new PM – the third this year – may come under increasing pressure from opposition parties to call one before then.

Johnson continued: “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.”

He said he had reached out to both Mr Sunak and Ms Mordaunt because he had “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.”


British Conservative Party politician Rishi Sunak is said to have amassed enough support to stand for the Tory leadership contest, as speculation grows that former Prime Minister Boris Johnson will join the race to succeed Liz Truss, who bowed out after six turbulent weeks, becoming the shortest-serving prime minister.

Supporters of Sunak, who served as chancellor under Johnson, said on Friday night he had received nominations from 100 Tory MPs to pass the threshold required way ahead of Monday’s deadline. There was no word from Sunak, who has yet to publicly declare his candidacy.

The United Kingdom’s ruling party has been racked by turmoil with two prime ministers resigning within a space of months, with Liz Truss dramatically announcing her resignation on Thursday after her tax cut plans and economic U-turns plunged the markets into chaos.

“Honoured to be the 100th Tory MP to support #Ready4Rishi,” senior backbencher Tobias Ellwood tweeted, as other backers of Sunak also said he had crossed the barrier.

Sunak will automatically become party leader and prime minister if his opponents fail also to win 100 nominations from their fellow Tory MPs.

Security minister Tom Tugendhat, who ran for the leadership himself after Johnson was toppled in July, also endorsed Sunak: “We need economic stability. That’s why I am backing Rishi Sunak,” he said on Twitter.

Neither Sunak nor Johnson has publicly declared they are running. But Johnson cut short a Caribbean holiday to take part in the accelerated contest, which will see Tory MPs hold a vote on Monday before a possible online ballot for party members next week.

British media reported that Johnson arrived back in the UK on Saturday. His flight landed at London’s Gatwick Airport.

James Duddridge, one of Johnson’s closest allies in parliament, said he had been in contact with his old boss via WhatsApp.

“He said … ‘We are going to do this. I’m up for it’,” the MP said, as a Sky News reporter posted a photograph apparently showing Johnson on a flight home from the Dominican Republic.

The Sunak and Johnson camps are reportedly seeking talks to see if there is scope for a unity deal, although there is plenty of bad blood since the former prime minister’s ouster in July.

Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker, reporting from Westminster, said that the Conservative Party is deeply divided over who the next prime minister should be.

“There is a real economic crisis in Britain, where people cannot make ends meet. Also there is an energy crisis going on with energy prices rising,” she said.

“Whoever becomes the new prime minister is going to have to tackle immediate extremely serious issues here,” Dekkers added.


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