BORIS JOHNSON has sensationally ruled himself out of the running to become Conservative party leader, making Rishi Sunak the odds-on favourite to become the country’s next Prime Minister.
Johnson claimed he had secured the backing of more than 100 MPs – the threshold needed to get on the ballot to become Liz Truss’ replacement – but that he had decided “this would not be the right thing to do.”
“You can’t govern effectively unless you have a united party in parliament,” Johnson said.
Some Conservative MPs had made it known privately in recent days that they would not be able to stay in the party if Johnson, who left Number 10 after a string of scandals in September, returned to the top job.
Rishi Sunak, who had already secured more than 150 nominations to become leader, will now watch to see if his only remaining rival Penny Mordaunt can secure 100 backers by 2pm today.
She had around 30 declared backers last night, and would need a significant shift from Boris’ supporters to make up the ground. If Mordaunt does not make the threshold, Rishi Sunak will become Prime Minister this Friday.
“I am afraid the best thing is that I do not allow my nomination to go forward and commit my support to whoever succeeds,” Johnson said. Yesterday he had talks with both Sunak and Mordaunt in efforts to broker joint tickets but to no avail. Sunak formally launched his bid to become leader yesterday, saying “I served as your Chancellor, helping to steer our economy through the toughest of times.
“The challenges we face now are even greater. But the opportunities – if we make the right choice – are phenomenal.”
He lost to Liz Truss in the last Conservative leadership election, which ran over the summer.
Markets were choppy at the end of last week as Boris Johnson emerged in the competition to seize the keys to Number 10.
Bond yields fired higher, with rates on both the 10-year and 30-year gilt ending the week above four per cent.
Whoever wins the Tory leadership race will need to keep Jeremy Hunt as chancellor to appease the financial markets, analysts are urging.
“While a new PM would be within his or her rights to leave their stamp on the Budget, a departure from [last] week’s new course, or even the timetable, risks inflicting renewed damage to the UK’s credibility,” Philip Shaw, chief economist at Investec, said.