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'Anyone but Sunak' Boris urges defeated Tory leadership candidates
15 July 2022, 06:21 | Updated: 15 July 2022, 08:54
Boris Johnson has urged Tory colleagues who have been defeated in the race for leader to back "anyone but Rishi".
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The Prime Minister has refused to intervene in the contest, quipping that he does not want to harm anyone's chances.
But it is reported he has told those who've been eliminated that he wants anyone except his former chancellor, whose resignation preceded a deluge of departures from government that led to his decision to quit No10.
The Times said Mr Johnson has spoken to defeated candidates to make his views on Mr Sunak clear.
"The whole No 10 team hates Rishi. It's personal. It's vitriolic," a Downing Street source said.
"They don't blame [Sajid Javid] for bringing him down. They blame Rishi. They think he was planning this for months."
It was also claimed that among Mr Johnson's criticism was his own private belief that Mr Sunak could be "soft" on Russia’s Vladimir Putin and relax sanctions on Moscow. That claim was rejected by an ally of Mr Sunak's, who said he led the way in enforcing punishments on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
The PM has been a staunch ally of Volodymyr Zelenskyy's and under his tenure Britain has supplied Kyiv with vital weaponry that blunted the Russian invasion.
A friend of Mr Johnson's said a claim he is in an "anyone but Rishi" mindset is wide of the mark, but added: "Of course he's disappointed, of course he's frustrated. He's been pushing Rishi for a compelling growth strategy for many months without success.
"So alongside the sense of betrayal is a sense of regret about what could have already been well under way.
"But he's very clear his commitment is overwhelmingly to the British people and that electing a leader who will deliver for them is paramount, even if personally painful for him."
Mr Johnson was said to be most keen on foreign secretary Liz Truss, backed by his allies like Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nadine Dorries, and is open to Penny Mordaunt.
The first ballot of Tory MPs on Thursday saw Rishi Sunak come out on top after a slick and professional campaign launch, taking 101 votes, while Ms Mordaunt solidified her position as a frontrunner by taking 83. The trade minister has gained momentum this week.
Ms Truss came third with 64 votes but has taken Suella Braverman's support after the attorney general was eliminated because she received the fewest votes, with 27.
Kemi Badenoch, who took 49, said she was disappointed with Ms Braverman’s decision to back Ms Truss – potentially migrating her supporters to that campaign – but told LBC: "We're all friends, so every time someone supports one person there's another person that's been let down.
"But I'm in it to win it."