Downing St leadership hopefuls are shoring up the support of MPs this weekend, ahead of a key Monday deadline, with Rishi Sunak passing to the next stage of the contest and Boris Johnson’s allies claiming he has also received enough support.
Potential candidates have until next week to secure the backing of 100 MPs, before a three candidate maximum leadership contest.
Prime Minister Liz Truss resigned last week, after a brief six-week stint holding the keys to Number 10, in the wake of a since botched mini-budget outlined in September.
A new Prime Minister is set to be announced on Friday 28 October, with party members having the deciding say in a vote between two candidates.
Former Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s supporters said he has enough votes to make it to the next stage of the race.
However, ex PM Boris Johnson is also reported to be planning a bid and is currently flying back to the U.K. from his Caribbean holiday.
Trade minister James Duddridge said Johnson, who was forced to quit just month ago following party unrest, had said he was “up for it”.
It has been reported that Johnson has also received support from the 100 MPs required.
Former home secretary Priti Patel also declared her support for Johnson on Saturday morning, stating he has “a proven track record getting the big decisions right.”
Penny Mordaunt, former defence minister and previous leadership hopeful, is the only candidate to officially declare their intention to run next week.
As of Saturday afternoon, Sunak had the public backing of 112 MPs, Johnson had 50, and Mordaunt had 21, according to the BBC.
Critics of Johnson have pointed out he is currently facing a parliamentary investigation into whether he misled MPs over the so-called “partygate” scandal, when Covid rules were breached.
Johnson’s former deputy PM Dominic Raab told BBC Breakfast that he was backing Sunak and the country “cannot go backwards.”
“There’s going to be oral testimony from people from No 10 and he’s going to have to give oral testimony; I just can’t see how the new PM could give the country the attention and focus that it needs,” he said.
“We cannot have another episode of the Groundhog Day of the soap opera of Partygate.”
William Hague, who led the Tory party in opposition between 1997 and 2001, has brandished the concept of Johnson’s return as the worst idea he had heard in 46 years being a Tory member.
Johnson’s return would be “going round in circles” and could lead to a “death spiral” for the Conservatives, Hague told Times Radio on Friday.