Tory leadership: Sunak gains support of 122 MPs as Johnson arrives back in UK

Commons leader Penny Mordaunt only candidate who has officially declared to run as Conservative newspapers warn against Boris’s return

Rishi Sunak has surpassed the threshold of support with 122 Conservative MPs backing him in the race to succeed Liz Truss as British prime minister as Boris Johnson arrived back in the United Kingdom.

Mr Sunak, the former chancellor, is set to launch a challenge for the leadership of the Tory party after shoring up sufficient support to be on the ballot for Monday’s vote.

Conservative former deputy prime minister Dominic Raab said he was “confident” Mr Sunak would run and was the “standout candidate” in the field.

Speaking to Sky News on Saturday, Mr Raab said Mr Sunak had been “consistently right” on the economy in the face of the “fundamental” economic challenges the country faces as well as the “crisis of confidence and trust” in the government.


Former cabinet minister David Frost also threw his backing behind Mr Sunak. Mr Johnson’s former Brexit negotiator said the Conservative party must “move on” and get behind a capable leader who can deliver.

Mr Johnson arrived back from his holiday in the Dominican Republic to London Gatwick this morning. His flight was tracked by around 7,000 users of the FlightRadar24 website.

Former home secretary Priti Patel on Saturday announced she is backing Mr Johnson for leader, tweeting: “Boris has the mandate to deliver our elected manifesto and a proven track record getting the big decisions right. I’m backing him in the leadership contest.”

Commons leader Penny Mordaunt is the only candidate who has officially declared she is running. Ms Mordaunt said she will be “a fresh voice and unite the party”.

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

Former Tory leader William Hague warned Mr Johnson’s resurrection would lead to a “death spiral” for the party.

Mr Hague said Mr Johnson returning is “possibly the worst idea I’ve heard of” during his 46-year party membership. “I think it’d be a very, very bad idea to bring Boris Johnson back,” he told Times Radio.

“This all started, this unravelling, because Boris Johnson was unable to run the government in the right way, to keep it together in the right way, to uphold the high standards of conduct that are necessary in the highest offices in the land.

“Him returning is the solution? That would be going round in circles and that could become a death spiral of the Conservative Party.”

Former minister Johnny Mercer said he could not put himself or his constituents through another Johnson administration after the “terrible” lows of the last time, as he backed Mr Sunak.

“Boris is a friend of mine, I love him to bits, he’s a great guy, but I just don’t think I can put myself through that again. I don’t think I can ask my constituents to, I don’t think I can ask my staff,” Mr Mercer told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.

Mr Johnson has secured the support of six Cabinet ministers: Ben Wallace, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Simon Clarke, Chris Heaton-Harris, Alok Sharma and Anne-Marie Trevelyan.

However, a return for Mr Johnson would be beset with challenges, not least the 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.

His popularity with the public has crashed, even if he still rides high with the Tory membership.

Some MPs have even suggested they could resign the party whip if he wins.

Rather than welcoming back a conquering hero, Tory newspapers have warned against the return of Mr Johnson.

The front page of the once-friendly Daily Mail suggested Johnson should humbly meet his former chancellor, Rishi Sunak, and cook up a plan to unite the riven Tory factions inside the House of Commons and across the country.

Conservative backbenchers, the Daily Mail’s chief political correspondent warned, would revolt and an unwelcome general election would become unavoidable.

The Daily Telegraph’s went with “Sunak races to secure majority of Tory MPs” as their headline and accompanied a photograph of the former chancellor striding forward purposefully.

The Times echoed the former Conservative leader William Hague. His threat that Johnson’s return to the role of PM would “prove fatal” and result in a “death spiral” for his parliamentary colleagues on government benches dominated its coverage.

The Financial Times also sounded a claxon. “Investors and MPs alarmed by idea of Mr Johnson’s return to No 10″ the front page boomed, adding that both gilts and sterling were “wobbling” at the prospect.

Meanwhile, Penny Mordaunt has released a new campaign video which she said represents “the real me”.

The Conservative leadership candidate, who was trailing Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson for MP nominations by a significant margin on Saturday, describes in a voiceover how she has spent her life in Portsmouth.

In a personal portrayal of the MP, the video describes how her mother died when she was 15. “From then on I looked after my family,” she says. “We relied on the NHS during that time and I will never forget it.”

When her family was short of money she worked in factories and pubs, she says, adding: “I know about the cost of living and how frightening it can be.”

Her home city, she says, is proud, patriotic and “likes a pie and a pint” ... “And quite frankly, so do I.” — Agencies