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

20 October 2022, 22:59 | Updated: 21 October 2022, 05:38

Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt are the three frontrunners to succeed Liz Truss
Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt are the three frontrunners to succeed Liz Truss. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

Boris Johnson is flying back from a Caribbean holiday as he begins wooing Conservative MPs in a bid to become the next Prime Minister - just four months after he stepped down after the 'Partygate' scandal.

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Mr Johnson is telling his fellow MPs that only he can win the Conservatives the next election, with the Tories currently on track for a landslide defeat to Labour.

Aside from Mr Johnson, Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt appear to be the three frontrunners for the top job, for which they need the support of at least 100 MPs to be in with a chance.

The Conservatives have 360 MPs in total, meaning no more than three candidates can reach the threshold.

Mr Johnson has privately urged Mr Sunak to "join forces" with him rather than running himself, according to the Telegraph.

The former PM had 38 backers in the Commons as of Thursday night, his former chancellor Mr Sunak 27 and Penny Mordaunt 12, according to the Guido Fawkes political blog - although estimates of the candidates' tallies differ significantly. The Telegraph gave Mr Sunak 29 and Mr Johnson and Ms Mordaunt 11 each.

Read more: Tories need reminding that Boris Johnson is 'unfit for office,' Sir Keir Starmer tells LBC

Other possible candidates are Suella Braverman, whose resignation on Wednesday was a key moment in Ms Truss' downfall, and Kemi Badenoch, the secretary of state for international trade, who did well in the last leadership race and is tipped as one for the future.

Both Ms Braverman and Ms Badenoch are on the right of the party, and are being touted as possible candidates to block Mr Sunak, who came second to Ms Truss in July and is on the centre.

The Telegraph reported that both are possible 'stop Rishi' candidates, although MPs on the right of the party had yet to decide which to back as of Thursday night.

'Some of us love him, some of us feel very in his arms.' : Caller for Boris Johnson as PM

If only one MP garners the support of 100 colleagues, the UK could have its next Prime Minister by Monday evening.

If more than one leadership hopeful reaches the century, the candidates will be put to the Conservative members for an online vote, before the eventual winner is announced next Friday evening (October 28).

Mr Johnson is still thought to be very popular with the 180,000-strong membership despite the numerous gaffes and scandals that dogged his premiership and earlier career. Ms Mordaunt is also a popular candidate.

Lord Archer crunches the numbers of what may happen in the leadership

And key ally Nadine Dorries said publicly she was backing Mr Johnson to become PM on Thursday because she believes he is popular with the wider public.

"There is only one MP who has the mandate of the British public, who won a general election only three years ago with an 80-seat majority, and that was Boris Johnson," Ms Dorries told Sky News.

Read more: 'Wild horses won't stop Boris if he wants to run again': Rachel Johnson on former PM's possible plans to run for PM

"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.

"I am quite confident he will get the 100 signatures," she added.

Rishi Sunak earlier this month
Rishi Sunak earlier this month. Picture: Getty

Government minister Sir James Duddridge also said it was time for a comeback by Boris Johnson. Tweeting with the hashtag #bringbackboris, he said: "I hope you enjoyed your holiday boss. Time to come back. Few issues at the office that need addressing."

But Mr Johnson still faces an investigation into whether he misled Parliament over the 'partygate' affair, which could be a significant problem were he to become Prime Minister again, critics have warned.

Read more: Boris Johnson ‘plans to run for PM’ as Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt set to fight it out for No10

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer reminded Mr Johnson's former Cabinet members how many of them had submitted letters of resignation in July, because they no longer had confidence in him.

Sir Keir Starmer on Thursday
Sir Keir Starmer on Thursday. Picture: Getty

Sir Keir told LBC: “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.”

It is still unclear if Mr Johnson is running to replace Ms Truss, although the Times reported that he is planning to stand as he thinks it would be ‘in the national interest".

LBC presenter Rachel Johnson said she did not know if he would run, but that if he had decided to put himself forward "wild horses won't hold him back".

Penny Mordaunt this week
Penny Mordaunt this week. Picture: Getty

His father Stanley has said he hopes Mr Johnson will run, although he does not know for certain if he will.

Mr Johnson senior told TalkTV's Piers Morgan Uncensored on Thursday: "Frankly I have no idea whether Boris is going to be a candidate in this election, no idea at all, but 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."

Despite his son's divisive reputation, Mr Johnson insisted that he could be a unifying force within the Conservative Party if he won.

"Boris is my elder son. He's going to be crucial in uniting these warring parts of the Tory party," he said.

Liz Truss resigning as Prime Minister
Liz Truss resigning as Prime Minister. Picture: Getty

It comes after Liz Truss resigned as Prime Minister on Thursday after just six weeks in the job.

In a statement outside No10 after just 45 days in office, she said: "Our country has been held back for too long by low economic growth.

"We set out a vision for a low tax, high growth economy that would take advantage of the freedoms of Brexit.

"I have spoken to His Majesty the King to notify him I am resigning as leader of the Conservative Party.

"Her government was engulfed with political turmoil, losing first Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng off the back of the mini-budget that crashed the pound and sent household costs soaring.

"We've agreed that there will be a leadership election to be completed within the next week.

"This will ensure that we remain on a path to deliver our fiscal plan and maintain our country's economic stability and national security.

"I will remain as Prime Minister until a successor has been chosen." She said there would be a new leader elected within a week."

Labour leader Sir Keir called for an immediate general election after Ms Truss' resignation. He said: "The Conservative Party has shown it no longer has a mandate to govern.

"After 12 years of Tory failure, the British people deserve so much better than this revolving door of chaos. In the last few years, the Tories have set record-high taxation, trashed our institutions and created a cost-of-living crisis.

"Now, they have crashed the economy so badly that people are facing £500 a month extra on their mortgages. The damage they have done will take years to fix.

"Each one of these crises was made in Downing Street but paid for by the British public. Each one has left our country weaker and worse off.

"The Tories cannot respond to their latest shambles by yet again simply clicking their fingers and shuffling the people at the top without the consent of the British people. They do not have a mandate to put the country through yet another experiment; Britain is not their personal fiefdom to run how they wish.

"The British public deserve a proper say on the country's future. They must have the chance to compare the Tories' chaos with Labour's plans to sort out their mess, grow the economy for working people and rebuild the country for a fairer, greener future. We must have a chance at a fresh start. We need a general election - now."

Jeremy Hunt replaced Kwasi Kwarteng as chancellor
Jeremy Hunt replaced Kwasi Kwarteng as chancellor. Picture: Getty

It comes following 24 hours of chaos that saw the Home Secretary quit, confusion over whether the Chief Whip had also resigned, and MPs being ‘manhandled’ in Commons voting lobbies.

Last night Conservative MPs were confident that between 50 and 100 letters of no confidence had been submitted to 1922 chief Sir Graham Brady.

Under-fire Ms Truss - Charles's first PM - took on her role just two days before the death of the Queen, but her premiership has been as disastrous as it was record-breakingly brief.

After winning the Conservative Party leadership contest, she travelled to Balmoral in the Scottish Highlands, where the Queen had been staying, on September 6, and was asked to form a government by the 96-year-old monarch.\

The Queen died just two days later, with Charles becoming King.The nation was plunged into mourning for its longest reigning monarch for the next 12 days, amid a political pause for the new Prime Minister and Parliament.

Ms Truss had promised a "bold plan" to cut taxes and grow the economy and "deliver on the energy crisis", but the mini-budget, unveiled four days after the Queen's funeral, with its plans to abolish the top rate of income tax for the highest earners sent the markets into turmoil.

Ms Truss insisted she stood by the package but in the end sacked her chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, whose successor, Jeremy Hunt, ripped up the controversial budget by reversing most of the measures.

Ms Truss's stint as PM is set to be the shortest in British history, with a leadership election due to be completed within the next week.The previous record-holder was Tory statesman George Canning, who spent 118 days as prime minister in 1827 before dying in office from ill-health.

In her statement outside Downing Street, Ms Truss said she had spoken to the King on Thursday to notify Charles she was resigning as leader of the Conservative Party.