Rishi Sunak appears set to become the new Prime Minister on Monday October 24, 2022 after Boris Johnson sensationally dropped out of the Tory leadership race this evening – with rival Penny Mordaunt short of the 100 backers threshold.
The former Chancellor, who officially launched his campaign this morning, had more than double the number of publicly-declared supporters than Mr Johnson.
As of Sunday evening, 228 out of 357 Tory MPs have gone public with their support.
Mr Sunak is understood to have 147 backers, Mr Johnson 57 public supporters and Penny Mordaunt just 24.
Mr Johnson, though, has claimed he in fact reached the ‘very high hurdle of 102 nominations’, but has bowed out of the race because it is ‘simply not the right thing to do’.
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.’
It comes after Ms Mordaunt, now Mr Sunak’s only rival in the leadership bid, was today claimed to have rebuffed attempts from the former Prime Minister to get her to drop out of the race 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.
WhatsApp messages sent to supporters of the former PM are understood to confirm that ‘all the paperwork’ has been completed to ensure he will appear on the ballot to replace the outgoing 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.