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Friday 8 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C
PA Former British prime minister Boris Johnson.
10 downing street

And they’re off: Who will win the race to be the next British prime minister?

Boris Johnson is said to be flying back to the UK amid rumours of a comeback.

LAST UPDATE | Oct 21st 2022, 9:20 AM

A RAPID LEADERSHIP campaign is due to get underway after Liz Truss stepped down as prime minister  just over six weeks after taking up the role.

Truss is the shortest serving prime minister in British history and now attention is quickly turning to who her replacement will be.

While the last campaign took place over 55 days, longer than Liz Truss’s premiership, Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee, expects this campaign to wrap up next Friday.

Nominations for replacing Liz Truss will have to be submitted by Monday, Brady said.

Speaking outside the Houses of Parliament yesterday, Brady added that candidates to replace Truss will need at least 100 nominations from Conservative MPs.

Supporters of Boris Johnson seem confident that the former prime minister could reach this threshold.

He left No 10 in September after he was forced out by his own MPs after one scandal too many, but allies are urging him to run again for a second shot at the Tory crown.

Diehard loyalist Nadine Dorries, the former culture secretary, said she had spoken to him following Truss’s resignation and hinted strongly that he was preparing to run.

“He is a known winner and that is certainly who I’m putting my name against because I want us to win the general election. Having a winner in place is what the party needs to survive,” she told Sky News.

There was no immediate word from Johnson – who was thought to be holidaying with his family in the Caribbean – on his intentions.

However, former press secretary to Boris Johnson, Will Walden, told Sky News that Johnson “is flying back and is clearly taking soundings”.

Walden said Johnson will feel that he has “done nothing wrong” and will run if he thinks he can win.

Walden also noted Rishi Sunak as an early front runner.

The former chancellor was a runner up to Truss in last month’s leadership election.

He was one of the Cabinet ministers who resigned during the effort to oust Johnson.

While he was favoured among MPs to become the next Tory leader, he was left as the underdog in the party membership vote.

He received 60,399 votes compared to Truss’s 81,326 amongst the party membership.

Tory MP Crispin Blunt has been quick to back Sunak while denouncing Johnson.

He told Sky News: “Boris Johnson has the most astonishing set of skills but there are one or two weaknesses kicking around in that personality and they were fairly brutally exposed.

“He is probably not the character to restore our reputation for the next two years because of that controversy.”

Blunt said a Johnson comeback would mean the party would be “probably straight back in the pickle we were in when he left office”.

He described Sunak as “head and shoulders rank above the rest of us in terms of his basic personal capabilities of being prime minister”, and added that Sunak is his choice.

Several other Tory MPs have also rowed in behind Sunak.

conservative-leadership-bid PA Rishi Sunak outside his home in London this morning. PA

Ministers Robert Jenrick and Claire Coutinho, as well as backbenchers Guy Opperman, Siobhan Baillie, Angela Richardson and Robin Walker have all said they believe the former chancellor is the right man for the job.

Jenrick said Sunak would “restore public confidence in our party”, while Opperman described him as a “serious person for serious times”.

Another potential candidate is Penny Mordaunt.

Currently Leader of the House of Commons, she also ran in the last leadership election and came third in the final round of MP voting with 105 votes.

While not currently working on a leadership bid, an ally told PA that she is “taking soundings” from colleagues on the prospect of standing to replace Liz Truss.

A source close to the former contender for the top job said: “It’s a testament to Penny’s campaign over the summer how many colleagues have already come out asking her to stand.

“At the moment there isn’t a campaign but Penny has always been the candidate that can unite the party, deliver and beat Labour.

“She’s been taking soundings from her colleagues and has been busy speaking to as many as she can.”

Scottish Tory MP John Lamont threw his support behind Mordaunt today, arguing she would bring together the “strongest” Government.

He tweeted: “I’m backing @PennyMordaunt to stand because she would bring together the strongest government with the best and brightest talents from across the Conservative party”.

Other names that have been floated include new British chancellor Jeremy Hunt, who tore up Truss’s mini-budget on Monday morning.

However, Sky News has reported that Hunt has ruled himself out of the contest.

Suella Braverman may also look to run for the top job again, following her damning criticism of Truss in her resignation letter yesterday evening.

She said that she was concerned about “the direction” of the British government.

The popular Defence Secretary Ben Wallace may also throw his hat into the ring.

At the very beginning of the previous leadership contest, Wallace had been the most popular candidate among the grassroot Tory members, but he quickly ruled himself out of the running.

With additional reporting from Press Association and Tadgh McNally

Press Association
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