Boris won't 'ruin any candidate's chances' as 11 Tories line up in leadership battle

11 July 2022, 12:44 | Updated: 11 July 2022, 12:46

By Stephen Rigley

Outgoing PM Boris Johnson has refused to back any candidate as 11 senior Tories have entered the fight to become the next leader.

Speaking for the first time since his dramatic resignation last week Mr Johnson vowed to continue to "oversee the process" before a new Tory leader is elected in the coming weeks.

However, when asked who he will be backing as his successor, Mr Johnson said: "I wouldn't want to damage leadership candidates' chances by offering my support".

During a visit to the Francis Crick Institute in London, he said: "I'm determined to get on and deliver the mandate that was given to us, but my job is really just to oversee the process in the next few weeks, and I'm sure that the outcome will be good," he said during a visit to the Francis Crick Institute in London.

"We just need to get on and as I said I think before to you, the more we focus on the people, on the people who elect us, on their jobs, their hopes and what they can get out of investment in science and technology.

"The more we talk about the the future that we're trying to build, the less we talk about politics in Westminster, the generally happier we will all be."

Read more: Truss launches Tory leadership bid with pledge to cut taxes 'from day one'

Boris Johnson at the Francis Crick Insititute
Boris Johnson at the Francis Crick Insititute. Picture: Alamy
Boris Johnson during his resignation speech
Boris Johnson during his resignation speech. Picture: Alamy

Last Thursday, following weeks of Tory infighting about Mr Johnson's character, the PM resigned saying "them's the breaks."

Speaking from Downing Street, he thanked the millions of people who voted Conservative at the last election, and said the reason he fought so long to remain in office was because "I thought it was my job, my duty and my obligation to you".

He also said he had tried to persuade his cabinet it would be "eccentric" to change prime minister now, but added: "I regret not to have been successful in those arguments.

"At Westminster, the herd instinct is powerful and when the herd moves, it moves."

Today, when asked about the Tory party moves that had brought him down and his thoughts on a successor, he said: "There's a contest under way and it's happened, and, you know, I wouldn't want to damage anybody's chances by offering my support.

"I just have to get on and, in the last few days or weeks of the job, the constitutional function of the prime minister in this situation is to discharge the mandate, to continue to discharge the mandate, and that's what I'm doing."

Read More: Resigning as PM 'a huge loss' for Boris Johnson says Rachel Johnson

Read More: Truss launches Tory leadership bid with pledge to cut taxes 'from day one'

Earlier Foreign Secretary Liz Truss officially joined the race for the Tory leadership, with Home Secretary Priti Patel potentially set to announce her candidacy.

A surprise entry has also been made by Foreign Office minister Rehman Chishti, meaning 11 Conservatives are now fighting to replace Mr Johnson as prime minister.

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak. Picture: Alamy
Penny Morduant
Penny Morduant. Picture: Alamy

Currently, the former chancellor Mr Sunak has the highest number of backers, with Trade minister Penny Mordaunt also proving popular.

Later today, party elders on the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs will decide the rules under which the leadership contest will be held.

Prior to Mr Johnson's resignation, Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the Conservative backbench 1922 committee, has agreed that the new party leader will be in place by the party's conference in October.

But several MPs want him to go immediately saying that after so many resignations from his government he does not have the authority to lead.

Over the weekend, rumours swirled that Mr Johnson could himself stand in the upcoming Conservative leadership race.

However, this would be against the Conservative Party election rules which state: "A leader who resigns is not eligible to contest the subsequent leadership election."

Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has also threatened to call a vote of no confidence in the Commons, with the support of other opposition parties, if Tory MPs cannot oust him straight away.