Cabinet ministers come out in support for Boris as poll shows Rishi is the people's favourite

21 October 2022, 16:05 | Updated: 21 October 2022, 19:06

Cabinet ministers have come out in support of Boris.
Cabinet ministers have come out in support of Boris. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Cabinet ministers have begun coming out in support for Boris Johnson to return as Prime Minister, despite the latest polls showing Rishi Sunak is the people's favourite.

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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, is expected to take on Rishi Sunak - with the pair racking up most support from Tory MPs.

To be considered in the race, contestants need to have the backing of at least 100 MPs - meaning only three can go head-to-head in the fast-tracked race.

Trailing behind Mr Johnson (36 supporters) and Mr Sunak (58 supporters) is Penny Mordaunt, who, as of Friday afternoon, had the support of 16 MPs.

She became the first Conservative MP to say they will run to replace Liz Truss as prime minister, announcing her bid on Twitter, saying: "I’ve been encouraged by support from colleagues who want a fresh start, a united party and leadership in the national interest.

"I’m running to be the leader of the Conservative Party and your Prime Minister - to unite our country, deliver our pledges and win the next GE."

Among the first of Cabinet ministers to speak out in favour of Mr Johnson, however, was long-term loyalist Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg, who tweeted "I'm backing Boris", alongside the phrase #BorisOrBust.

However, not all Tories are in favour of the return of Mr Johnson's return to power, with a dozen believed to have privately said they intend to resign the whip if Boris Johnson wins the leadership race, according to reports

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

Read more: Labour MP Christian Matheson quits over ‘serious sexual misconduct’ allegations

He was followed by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace who confirmed he would not be running but did hint that he was swaying towards giving his support to Mr Johnson.

Asked if he was going to stand to be PM, the defence secretary said: "You have to really, really think it's the job for you. 

"For me, I feel that I can add the best value in keeping people safe at defence by being the defence secretary. 

"It's the job that I have been doing and it's the job I intend to stay doing. 

"So I am not going to be standing for prime minister."

The Cabinet minister said he also recognised the "issue" of the mandate, and that the Tories were on their third PM since the 2019 election.

As a result, he said: "At the moment I would lean towards Boris Johnson."

Rishi Sunak is currently leading in support over Boris Johnson.
Rishi Sunak is currently leading in support over Boris Johnson. Picture: Alamy

Levelling Up secretary Simon Clarke was third to reveal he would back Boris Johnson if he decides to run.

A statement from him and Ben Houchen read: "Boris is the person we need to lead our country and our party.

"He won the greatest election victory for years on a mandate to unite and level up the UK, and inspired millions of people who had never voted Conservative before to get behind a generous, optimistic vision of what Britain can be.  

"People on Teesside love Boris because he recognised that while talent is evenly distributed across the country, opportunity is not. Boris gave us that opportunity.

"People who have felt left behind from Governments of both colours want their Prime Minister to make a success of Brexit, control illegal immigration and invest in our communities.  

"That’s what Boris would do and it’s why he is so popular right across the Red Wall seats that will decide the next election.

"This is an immensely serious moment both at home and abroad.  We back Boris because when the chips are down, he gets the big decisions right."

Despite growing support, a recent poll from Opinium Research showed that a showdown between Mr Sunak and the former PM would see Mr Sunak come out on top.

An overnight poll showed that in a Rishi Sunak vs Boris Johnson run-off, the public would back Sunak 44% to 31%.

Mr Sunak would be the public's favourite in two of three 'final two' scenarios, with him also winning 45% of support over 23% for Mordaunt.

Boris Johnson is expected to run for PM again.
Boris Johnson is expected to run for PM again. Picture: Alamy

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.

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".

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.