Former British Chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to formally enter the race to become Britain’s next Prime Minister after gaining the public backing of the 100 Tory MPs needed to take part in the vote .
Sunak had 111 declared donors on Saturday night; Conservative MPs have yet to decide whether to include former Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the ballot.
Johnson’s allies claimed the ex-Prime Minister, who resigned in July after a string of scandals and more than 60 ministerial resignations, had gained more than 100 MP supporters. Sunak supporters asked to see the evidence.
By 7 p.m. on Saturday, Johnson, who has just returned to Britain from a vacation in the Dominican Republic, had about 50 publicly declared donors, according to data collected by the FT.
His allies said the former prime minister sought a meeting with Sunak on the unlikely assumption that the frontrunner in the contest would capitulate.
“Rishi knows that if he takes on Boris in a vote of the members, he will lose,” said an ally, arguing that Johnson could strike a deal with Sunak and give him a prominent role in his government. to give.
Johnson has been backed by former Home Secretary Priti Patel and six current cabinet ministers, including Jacob Rees-Mogg, business secretary, and Simon Clarke, who is graduating secretary.
But many in the party believe he would be a hugely divisive choice and analysts have warned investors would react badly to the prospect of his return, saying it would risk further economic and political turmoil.
William Hague, former Conservative leader, said Johnson would lead the party into a “death spiral”. A number of Tory MPs have warned they could quit if he became prime minister, putting the majority of the Tories at risk.
Johnson’s allies said the former prime minister “could” enter the contest if he chose to. His friends have said they are sure he would participate if he was sure of the number of nominations needed.
Penny Mordaunt, the leader of the House of Commons, hopes to emerge as a compromise candidate, but has only 23 supporters so far. If Johnson withdraws from the competition, she would try to pick up his supporters.
Sunak is seen by some conservatives as a divisive figure for his role in overthrowing Johnson: his resignation as chancellor in July brought the leadership crisis to a head. Some on the Tory’s right also hate his record of raising taxes.
The last two selected by the MPs will be presented to the party members, who will make the final decision on Friday.
If both Sunak and Johnson make the shortlist when the nominations close on Monday, many Tory MPs believe Johnson would win, but the party would be seriously broken.
The former prime minister is still popular with party members and could claim he has a mandate, having secured an 80-seat majority in the 2019 election.
But the prospect of his return brings further turmoil in the market, not least because Johnson is known to be far less enthusiastic about fiscal discipline than Sunak, his former chancellor.
In his resignation letter to Johnson in July, Sunak said, “Our people know that if something is too good to be true, it isn’t true.”
Johnson is also facing a parliamentary inquiry into whether he lied to MPs about the “partygate affair”. If found guilty, he could be suspended from parliament and face by-election.
Health Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “We must not forget that 43 days ago the party expelled Boris Johnson as serious problems engulfed his premiership. . . Some of these are still unresolved.”
Kemi Badenoch, international trade secretary and candidate in this summer’s leadership contest, backed Sunak. She wrote in The Times that the country was beset with problems “so acute that just talking candidly about what is needed is enough”.