Boris builds backing for shock comeback: Ex-PM 'to get backing from 100 Tory MPs' as he flies back to rally support

21 October 2022, 09:29 | Updated: 21 October 2022, 11:50

  • Boris Johnson is believed to be flying home from his Caribbean holiday to garner support in the Tory leadership race
  • He faces a fight against his ex-chancellor Rishi Sunak, whose resignation helped bring down his government
  • Penny Mordaunt has also won support
  • Candidates need 100 votes by Monday afternoon
  • Tory members may get a vote but remaining candidates could see one drop out to coronate a winner
Boris Johnson is looking to take on Rishi Sunak for the top job
Boris Johnson is looking to take on Rishi Sunak for the top job. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Tories have started picking their sides in the fresh battle for No10 as Boris Johnson sets his sights on a sensational and controversial comeback.

The contest looks to be shaping up to be a fight between Rishi Sunak and the former Prime Minister, who only left the role six weeks ago to be replaced by the disastrous Liz Truss.

Mr Sunak had 35 backers by Friday morning, including Mr Johnson's former deputy prime minister Dominic Raab.

But Mr Johnson, who is flying back from his Caribbean break amid belief he is preparing a second crack at PM after being ousted over a series of scandals, had garnered 20 backers, including his long-time fan Nadine Dorries and business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Penny Mordaunt, who also ran in the summer's leadership contest, has 11, according to Conservative Home.

Candidates need at least 100 MPs to support them out of 357.

It has been reported that Mr Johnson has privately urged Mr Sunak, his former Chancellor whose departure from Government precipitated his downfall, to join forces.

Read more: 'I can win us the election:' Boris jets back from holiday with olive branch to Rishi as Tories battle for No10

The ex-PM has told MPs only he can win the next election for the Conservatives after Liz Truss's dreadful few weeks in No10 saw the Tories crash in the polls.

Stanley Johnson, his father, said he is "on a plane, as I understand it".

His former press secretary Will Walden told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast: "For Boris, the calculation will be not what’s in the national interest it’ll be what’s in my interest?

"If he thinks he can win he will run.

"I would say at this stage, in spite of the fact he's jetting back from his holiday – I think that tells you a lot about where Boris stands that he's on holiday and the rest of the country is gripped in a crisis – he's flying back, he's not sure if he's got the hundred but in his mind if he can get to second place he knows he can probably win so why wouldn't you go for that?"

A return to Mr Johnson might prove popular with the Tory membership, having recently polled the best out of all potential replacements for Ms Truss.

But it would be highly contentious in the rest of the country with scandals like Partygate and his handling of allegations against Chris Pincher still fresh in many minds.

Speaking on Tonight with Andrew Marr on LBC on Wednesday, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer – who is demanding an election now the Tories are picking the UK's third PM in a year – said: "I would invite him to dust off and reread all the resignation letters that he received in July, because all of his colleagues wrote saying how unfit he was for office and they couldn't serve him any longer.

"And I think they should all dust them off and reread them as well."

There have also been rumours that Suella Braverman, who quit as home secretary on Wednesday, and Kemi Badenoch, the trade secretary, might have a crack at the job in the fast-tracked leadership contest.

They could be viewed as "stop Rishi" candidates, The Telegraph suggested.

Meanwhile, chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Michael Gove have ruled themselves out of going for the leadership.

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