UK Prime Minister race narrows down to Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak

Saturday, October 22nd, 2022 13:23 | By
UK Prime Minister race narrows down to Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak
Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak. PHOTO/Courtesy.

Boris Johnson last night said he is “up for it” as he flew home from his Caribbean holiday to try to wrestle back the keys to No10.

Last-ditch talks with Rishi Sunak could be held today to avoid a clash for the Tory crown.

The former PM, on holiday in the Caribbean, told ex-aide James Duddridge: “I’m flying back, Dudders. We are going to do this. I’m up for it.”

Boris is more than half way to the crucial threshold of 100 Tory MPs needed to support his stand in a leadership contest, with 55, or 56 including himself.

But he trails rival Rishi Sunak, who last night had already secured the 100 supporters needed.

Penny Mordaunt is struggling to make Monday’s cut off, with just 22 MPs backing her.

In a bid to avert a bruising contest, allies of the frontrunners were organising talks.

Mr Sunak’s June resignation as Chancellor was the catalyst to end Mr Johnson’s premiership.

Boris backers said “they’d have a conversation” while those in Rishi’s camp reckoned: “Rishi wants to talk to all colleagues.”

But there was little hope of a deal as the pair are miles apart on big issues and both want the top job.

Popular Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has ruled himself out of the race and said he was “leaning towards” Boris — as four other top Cabinet ministers went public with their support.

The Sun can reveal ex-PM Liz Truss is set to return the favour Boris did for her and back him to take over after her bungled 44 days in the job.

Tory MP Dr Caroline Johnson and Education minister Jonathan Gullis, who both quit in July as part of the campaign against Mr Johnson, have backed his return,

Sacked Home Secretary Suella Braverman is also set to wade in this weekend — dangling her hard-right team of loyal supporters in return for the next PM sorting out the small boat migrants mess.

But she is not expected to have enough backers to run herself, having got just 27 votes last time.

Mr Johnson called supporters from his holiday, promising them a “new culture” in No10.

But allies said he would have to offer a full apology over Partygate.

They say only proven election-winner Boris can save the Tories from total extinction as they face their worst polling on record.

Yesterday one poll showed the Conservatives on 14 per cent, with Labour on 53 per cent.

Peterborough MP Paul Bristow, one of the first out of the blocks to back BoJo’s return, said Mr Johnson would stop the party being “completely wiped out”.

He told the BBC: “We’re facing a crisis. Boris Johnson has a mandate from the members of the party and from the electorate.

“We can avoid a general election, we can go out and put this band back together . . . and we can go on and win the next general election. I’m convinced of that”.

But a separate poll showed Mr Sunak had the best shot at winning an election if held tomorrow.

YouGov said he would scoop up 34 per cent of the vote to Sir Keir Starmer’s 43 per cent.

Mr Johnson would get 35 per cent, compared to Sir Keir’s 48 per cent, if the pair went head to head.

Boris retains a significant chunk of support among voters who handed him a majority in 2019.

Nearly three in four voters would prefer him to Sir Keir.

However half of the public (52 per cent) would be unhappy to see BoJo return.

And just a quarter (27 per cent) would like to see him make a stunning comeback.

Mr Johnson’s father Stanley last night said he was likely to back his son again if he went for PM — but wanted him to make key eco-promises first.

He told TalkTV’s Piers Morgan Uncensored: “I think he has a very strong record to be considered as a viable candidate and I very much hope he will let his name go forward.

"He’s going to be crucial in uniting these warring parts of the Tory party.”

Former Tory leader William Hague said bringing back Boris would lead to a “death spiral” for the beleaguered party.

He told Times Radio: “I think it’d be a very, very bad idea to bring Boris Johnson back.

“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.

“And I think it’s possibly the worst idea I’ve heard of in the 46 years I’ve been a member of the Conservative Party.”

Fishmonger Steve Waters, who works at Birmingham Indoor Market, told the BBC yesterday that the former PM had served his “yellow card” ban and the time had come for his comeback.

He said: “They want to see Boris Johnson return to where the British electorate put him. He was removed by MPs, he’s had his yellow card, he has done his time in the sin bin. It’s time for him to come back and put in the performance of his life.

“He will be giving the opposition sleepless nights. He is the one man who can turn it around for the Conservative Party and say, ‘that man has a mandate’. Boris, your country needs you.”

Who is backing Boris Johnson?

BORIS has the public backing of 55 MPs, including several party “big hitters”.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “I’m leaning towards Boris. We have to think about that legitimacy question that the public will be asking, and also about who could win the next election.”

Levelling Up boss Simon Clarke said: “Boris is the person to lead our country.”

Climate chief Alok Sharma said: “Boris won a mandate in 2019. We need to get back to delivering on our manifesto.”

Peterborough MP Paul Bristow said: “We can put this band back together.”

Business Sec Jacob Rees-Mogg tweeted: BorisorBust.

And former Home Secretary Priti Patel said on Twitter: "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."

Who is backing Rishi Sunak?

RISHI Sunak has the support of more than 100 Tory MPs — passing the threshold which secures a place in next week’s vote on the next PM.

Boris Johnson’s former Deputy PM Dominic Raab confirmed his backing for Sunak online.

He tweeted that the former Chancellor can “unite the Conservatives by bringing the best talent into govt for the British people”.

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