Rishi Sunak prepares for 'coronation' as prime minister after Boris Johnson sensationally pulls out of race for No 10

22 October 2022, 15:24 | Updated: 23 October 2022, 22:40

Rishi Sunak, Penny Mordaunt and Boris Johnson are vying once again for No 10
Rishi Sunak, Penny Mordaunt and Boris Johnson are vying once again for No 10. Picture: Getty

By Adam Solomons and Fran Way

Rishi Sunak is set to become prime minister tomorrow after arch-rival Boris Johnson pulled out of the race for No 10 - with the ex-chancellor writing that he will "always be grateful" for Johnson's delivery of Brexit and the vaccine roll-out.

Ex-PM Johnson said he received 102 nominations from Tory MPs, but only 60 backers publicly came forward.

Sunak, meanwhile, is nearing 150.

Penny Mordaunt, Sunak's last rival in the race, has 25 MPs behind her. A source in her campaign told Bloomberg she will be staying in the contest.

Sunak responded to news of Johnson's exit with a pair of tweets stating that he will "always be grateful" for his ex-colleague's work.

Rishi wrote: "Boris Johnson delivered Brexit and the great vaccine roll-out. He led our country through some of the toughest challenges we have ever faced, and then took on Putin and his barbaric war in Ukraine. We will always be grateful to him for that.

"Although he has decided not to run for PM again, I truly hope he continues to contribute to public life at home and abroad."

LBC: Rachel Johnson reacts after Boris pulls out of Tory leadership race

In a message sent to journalists just after 9pm, Johnson announced: "I believe I am well placed to deliver a Conservative majority in 2024 - and tonight I can confirm I have cleared the very high hurdle of 102 nominations, including a proposer and seconder, and I could put my nomination in tomorrow.

READ MORE Rachel Johnson reacts to brother Boris pulling out of race for No 10: 'I feel sad for him'

"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 would come together in the national interest - we have simply not been able to work out a way of doing this.

"Therefore I am afraid that the best thing is that I do is not allow my nomination to go forward and commit my support to whoever succeeds.

"I believe I have much to offer but this is simply not the right time."

Nadine Dorries says Suank has no mandate at all to become PM

Ex-Chancellor Sunak this morning announced he was throwing his hat into the ring.

In a tweet today he vowed to 'fix the economy'.

He also promised to lead a Government with 'integrity, professionalism and accountability' if he enters No10.

Last night he entered talks with the ex-PM for three-hours in a bid to come to an agreement that is Boris Johnson was re-elected Sunak could lead in a senior role in his cabinet - avoiding a divisive battle.

But it was claimed this morning that they couldn't reach a deal and the meeting ended without a plan moving forward.

Johnson reportedly spoke with fellow rival Penny Mordaunt today, asking her to drop out of the race.

She is said to have refused - and advised him to do the same.

Nadine Dorries exclusively tells LBC Boris had the votes and would have won, but wouldn't have been able to unite the Tory Party

The former Chancellor of the Exchequer is well ahead among MPs and last night gained the support of trade minister Kemi Badenoch, who is on the right of the party.

Badenoch, the first Cabinet minister to weigh in on the race, has herself been touted as a potential future party leader.

Sunak reportedly met with ex-PM Boris Johnson tonight for dramatic talks amid fears the new Tory leadership contest could get ugly.

He has been publicly backed by 125 MPs, while Johnson enjoys the declared support of 57 Tory parliamentarians.

The ex-occupant of Number 11 became the first candidate to cross the threshold to reach a members' vote as decided by the 1922 Committee.

He was set to meet leadership rival Boris Johnson this afternoon but the planned conversation was postponed by Sunak's side. It reportedly went ahead this evening, with Tory grandees hoping for a grand alliance to be formed.

As there are currently 357 Tory MPs, a maximum of three candidates could possibly be nominated by 2pm on Monday.

If three candidates get 100 backers, there will be a vote by MPs, with the winning two put forward to the party membership.

Mr Sunak's endorsements, which have also included ministers Greg Hands, Chris Philip and Tom Tugendhat, come as a blow to Mr Johnson who landed back in the UK following his Caribbean holiday.

Badenoch wrote for The Sunday Times that her party must resist so-called "cakeism".

She warned: “We are not a fan club or organising a popularity contest. We are the strongest and longest-surviving political party in the world.

“We have survived by delivering what is right for the country and putting its interests above our own.”

Johnson's supporters have claimed he has received the backing of the 100 MPs. But latest figures from ConservativeHome have put Mr Sunak at 126 backers, Mr Johnson at 57 and Ms Mordaunt at 24.

Lord Frost, who led the UK's negotiations with the EU, said Mr Johnson will "always be a hero for delivering Brexit" but it is time to "move on".

The former Chief Negotiator for Exiting the European Union David Frost tweeted his support for Mr Sunak, arguing the Tory Party 'must get behind a capable leader'.

He said: "Boris Johnson will always be a hero for delivering Brexit. But we must move on.'It is simply not right to risk repeating the chaos & confusion of the last year.

"The Tory Party must get behind a capable leader who can deliver a Conservative programme. That is @RishiSunak."

He said Mr Sunak "understands the issues, can work the machine, and is a decent guy to boot", adding "that's what we need now".

This caller says Mordaunt is the best choice for PM

Lord Frost previously backed Liz Truss over Mr Sunak in the summer leadership contest.

Mr Johnson's former Chief of Staff Steve Barclay, who had three promotions underneath Mr Johnson, has also endorsed Mr Sunak, tweeting; 'I’m backing @RishiSunak to be leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister.'Our country faces significant economic challenges and Rishi is best placed to address this.'

Senior Tories are trying to broker a face-to-face meeting between Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak in a bid to end the bloodletting engulfing the party and create a 'dream ticket'.

Mr Johnson is understood to be willing to meet his estranged former chancellor in the hope of burying the hatchet and thrashing out a deal to govern together.

But there was support from Mr Johnson's long term ally Nadine Dorries, who tweeted "the boss is back."

READ MORE: Who's backing who in the race to be Tory leader and PM - live tracker

Sunak stayed silent as he was pictured leaving campaign HQ earlier this evening
Sunak stayed silent as he was pictured leaving campaign HQ earlier this evening. Picture: Getty
Boris Johnson is pictured arriving back at Gatwick yesterday
Boris Johnson is pictured arriving back at Gatwick yesterday. Picture: Alamy
Penny Mordaunt is behind in the contest, with 24 MPs on her side
Penny Mordaunt is behind in the contest, with 24 MPs on her side. Picture: Getty

Mr Johnson's ally Sir James Duddridge claimed he has the backing of the 100 MPs required to be on Monday's ballot but many of them have not publicly declared that support.

On Saturday morning former home secretary Priti Patel said she was backing Mr Johnson in the leadership race because he had a 'proven track record' tweeting that "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."

Jacob Rees-Mogg and Ben Wallace have also declared their support for Mr Johnson, giving the former premier the backing of three high-profile Tories.

But there are concerns that some centrist MPs could resign the Tory whip or even defect in protest as they regard him as unacceptable to lead.

An opinion poll today shows the Tories 39 points behind Labour, at their lowest ever rating.

READ MORE: Stanley Johnson said a general election would be 'political suicide' for the Conservative Party

Sunak leaving his west London home this morning
Sunak leaving his west London home this morning. Picture: Getty
Trade secretary Kemi Badenoch lent her support to Sunak last night
Trade secretary Kemi Badenoch lent her support to Sunak last night. Picture: Getty

Stanley Johnson says a General Election now would be 'political suicide' for the Tories

Stanley Johnson told Matt Frei: “I’m not taking a view on this one. The last thing anybody wants to do is take their parents advice.“My line has always been: whatever you decide to do, I will support you.”

Probing him further, Matt directly asked: “As a man who cares about policy and the future of the company, don’t you think the decent thing to do is to say ‘stop the physco drama, let’s have a general election’?”

Mr Johnson replied: “We don’t have rules that permit that. Suicide is pretty much illegal in most countries in the world. It’s not advisable."

Matt clarified: “You think if they went to general election they would commit political suicide?”

Mr Johnson replied: “I think they would, yeah.”

Stanley Johnson spoke to LBC as Mr Johnson arrived back in the UK following his holiday in the Dominican Republic with his wife Carrie, 34, plus children Wilfred, two and baby Romy.