Sunak favourite to be UK PM after Johnson drops comeback bid

  • Johnson withdraws from the contest
  • Sunak officially declares that he will run
  • The first vote will take place on Monday
  • Sunak clearly leads the other contender Mordaunt

LONDON, Oct 23 (Reuters) – Rishi Sunak looked set to become Britain’s next prime minister after Boris Johnson withdrew from the race on Sunday, saying that while he had enough support to make the final vote, he realized the country and The Conservative Party need unity. .

Johnson flew home from a Caribbean holiday to try to get the support of 100 MPs to run on Monday to replace Liz Truss, the woman who succeeded him in September after he was forced to step down from the cause of a series of scandals.

He said he had secured the support of 102 MPs and could have been “back in Downing Street” but had failed to convince either Sunak or fellow contender Penny Mordaunt to join “in the national interest “.

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“I think I have a lot to offer, but I’m afraid it’s just not the right time,” Johnson said Sunday night.

The former prime minister had secured the public support of just under 60 Conservative MPs by Sunday, well under half of the almost 150 support Sunak received.

The pound was up more than half a cent against the dollar in early Asian trade.

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Johnson’s statement likely paves the way for his rival, former finance minister Sunak, 42, to become prime minister, possibly as soon as Monday. If confirmed, he would replace Truss, who was forced to resign after she launched an economic program that sparked turmoil in financial markets.

Under the rules, if a single candidate gets the support of 100 Conservative MPs, they will be named prime minister on Monday.

If two candidates clear the threshold, they will go forward to a vote of party members, with the winner announced on Friday, just days before new Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt reveals the state of the country’s finances in a budget plan to be published. on October 31.

This raised concerns that Johnson would return to Downing Street with the support of party members rather than a majority of MPs in parliament, leaving the party deeply divided. Hunt declared his support for Sunak on Sunday night.

Some Johnson supporters might switch to Mordaunt, who presented himself as the unity candidate, but many immediately switched to Sunak. A source close to the Mordaunt campaign said the former defense minister would continue in the contest.

“She is the unifying candidate most likely to hold the wings of the Conservative Party together,” the source said.


Johnson has weighed in on British politics since he became London mayor in 2008 and became the face of the Brexit vote in 2016. While he led the Conservative Party to a landslide election in 2019, he was forced out for just three years. later through a rebellion of his ministers.

Sunak said he hoped Johnson would continue to contribute to public life “at home and abroad.”

A Sunak supporter, who asked not to be named, said his main reaction was relief because if Johnson had won, “the party would have fallen apart”.

Another Tory MP Lucy Allan said on Twitter: “I supported Boris for PM but I think he has done the right thing for the country.”

Other Johnson supporters immediately jumped on board.

Cabinet minister Nadhim Zahawi, who minutes earlier had published an article on the Daily Telegraph website praising Johnson, said “a day is a long time in politics”.

“Rishi is extraordinarily talented, will have a strong majority in the Parliamentary Conservative Party and will have my full support and loyalty,” he said.

Earlier, many Tory MPs, who normally back Johnson, switched their support to Sunak, saying the country needed a period of stability after months of turmoil that had sparked headlines – and raised alarm – in worldwide.

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Johnson also still faces a privilege committee inquiry into whether he misled parliament about Downing Street parties during the COVID-19 lockdown. He could be forced to resign or be suspended from office if found guilty.

Sunak first came to national attention when, aged 39, he became Chancellor of the Exchequer under Johnson just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the UK, developing a furlough scheme to support millions of people through several blockages.

“I was your chancellor, helping to steer our economy through the toughest of times,” Sunak said in a statement on Sunday. “The challenges we face now are even greater. But the opportunities – if we make the right choice – are phenomenal.”

If elected, Sunak would be the first Indian-origin Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

His family migrated to Britain in the 1960s, when many people from former British colonies arrived to help rebuild the country after World War II.

After graduating from Oxford University, he later went to Stanford University, where he met his wife Akshata Murthy, whose father is Indian billionaire NR Narayana Murthy, founder of outsourcing giant Infosys Ltd.

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Written by Kate Holton; Additional reporting by William Schomberg and Maria Ponnezhath; Editing by Toby Chopra and Daniel Wallis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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