Truss replacement: Sunak, Johnson and Mordaunt attract early backing for new UK PM as Tory leadership race begins

Cabinet members Ben Wallace and Jacob Rees-Mogg back former PM Boris Johnson

Would-be candidates include cabinet member Penny Mordaunt; former prime minister Boris Johnson; former chancellor Rishi Sunak and recently resigned former home secretary Suella Braverman

Former UK prime minister Boris Johnson and former chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak are gathering early support among Tory MPs to succeed Liz Truss as party leader and prime minister.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace, who ruled himself out of the Conservative race, said he is “leaning towards” Mr Johnson.

Pointing to Mr Johnson’s record on defence spending and citing the mandate he achieved in 2019, Mr Wallace said it was important to think about “who could win the next election” for the Conservatives.

Earlier, business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg became the first Cabinet member to back Mr Johnson, tweeting a graphic that said “I’m Backing Boris” alongside the hashtag ‘#BORISorBUST’.


On Thursday, former culture secretary Nadine Dorries was among those who voiced support for Mr Johnson, both on television and on Twitter, where she said: “One person was elected by the British public with a manifesto and a mandate until January 25.”

However, veteran backbencher Roger Gale, a long-time critic of Mr Johnson, warned that if he succeeds he could be met with a wave of resignations by Tory MPs. “I think that there would be people, indeed like myself, who would find ourselves in the awful position of having to resign the Conservative whip,” he told Times Radio.

Two former Conservative cabinet ministers, Liam Fox and Gavin Williamson, tweeted their backing for Mr Sunak on Friday.

Several MPs declared their support for Mr Sunak’s potential candidacy to lead the Conservative party in a co-ordinated social media push on Thursday evening.

Among the MPs who voiced their support for Mr Sunak on Twitter were Simon Hart, Helen Whately, Huw Merriman and Nick Gibb. Mr Hart said that this was “no time for experiments; no time for frivolity ... this means choosing someone serious, tested, competent and kind”.

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Labour leader Keir Starmer said the potential return of Mr Johnson, a man deemed “unfit for office” by his own MPs, “adds insult to injury” for voters.

Various news outlets are keeping tallies of Mr Johnson’s backers, with “unnamed” supporters suggesting he has as many as 50 MPs behind him, with others putting the number closer to 38.

The founder of the ConservativeHome website, Tim Montgomerie, told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme on Friday that Mr Johnson could receive as many as 140 nominations to run for the leadership — surpassing the 100 threshold set by the party’s 1922 Committee.

“Boris Johnson is very popular amongst grassroots members and Rishi Sunak, the other leading contender for the crown, is much less popular,” Mr Montgomerie told Today. “I wouldn’t want to make any cast-iron prediction in this crazy world of politics at the moment but I think Boris Johnson returning is a very real possibility.”

West Cornwall MP Derek Thomas tweeted in support of Penny Mordaunt, who he said had been his first choice when he supported Ms Truss, noting that “although she wasn’t my first choice, I supported Liz Truss because I believed she would deliver the growth this country needs”.

No candidates have declared publicly yet that they are running, though Michael Gove and Jeremy Hunt have ruled themselves out.

Ms Truss resigned as the UK’s prime minister after just 45 days in office to become the shortest-serving prime minister in the country’s history. She said: “I recognise though given the situation I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative party.”

Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers that decides the rules of a leadership contest, said he hoped the process would be concluded by October 28th — next Friday. But the result could come much sooner — perhaps even by Monday night.

Nominations for the next PM opened on Thursday night and will close at 2pm on Monday. Candidates will need a minimum of 100 nominations to proceed to the ballot. There will be an indicative vote of MPs once there are two candidates. MPs will hear from the nominated candidates at a hustings behind closed doors.

The first ballot of MPs will be held between 3.30pm and 5.30pm on Monday. If there are three candidates, the candidate with the fewest number of votes will be eliminated. The result will be announced at 6pm on Monday.

If a second vote is needed (indicative), this will be held between 6.30pm and 8.30pm on Monday. The result will be announced at 9pm. If there are two candidates, the Tory membership will get to vote again, and a winner will be picked by Friday.

Mr Starmer said the Labour Party has a manifesto “ready to go” if there is an early election. He told the BBC if the Tories were to replace Ms Truss with Mr Johnson it would make the case for an early election even stronger. The Liberal Democrats say the Conservative party should block Mr Johnson from standing again. — Agencies