Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson will not be running in the Conservative Party leadership contest, leaving the race for Number 10 now between bookies favourite Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt. Johnson made his announcement late on Sunday evening, ahead of the 2pm deadline for candidates to get the support of 100 MPs later today (Monday).
Johnson released a statement, in which he thanked people for their resounding support at the prospect of becoming leader of the Conservative Party, and therefore Prime Minister of the UK and Northern Ireland. Though Johnson and several supporters had claimed he had enough backers to enter the final round of voting, only 54 of the 100 needed had publicly backed him.
But the backtrack on Sunday evening has now left the race in the leadership campaign down to Sunak, who lost to Liz Truss in the most recent leadership race, and Penny Mordaunt who was part of the initial field of nominees when Johnson resigned due to increasing pressure over breaking lockdown rules.
“In the course of the last days I have sadly come to the conclusion that this would simply not be the right thing to do. You can’t govern effectively unless you have a united party in parliament” Johnson wrote. “I have reached out to both Rishi (Sunak) and Penny (Mordaunt) - because I hoped that we could come together in the national interest - we have sadly not been able to work out a way of doing this.”
Should Penny Mordaunt drop out of the leadership race or should she not receive the backing of 100 MPs to move forward to the ballot, it means Rishi Sunak could be installed as Prime Minister as early as Monday evening. Though should the race continue and Mordaunt finds enough backers to make it into the next stage, the UK could still see a new prime minister as early as the end of the week.
Boris Johnson statement in full
In the last few days I have been overwhelmed by the number of people who suggested that I should once again contest the Conservative Party leadership, both among the public and among friends and colleagues in Parliament. I have been attracted because I led our party into a massive election victory less than three years ago - and I believe I am therefore uniquely placed to avert a general election now.
A general election would be a further disastrous distraction just when the Government must focus on the economic pressures faced by families across the country. I believe I am well placed to deliver a Conservative victory in 2024 - and tonight I can confirm that I have cleared the very high hurdle of 102 nominations, including a proposer and a seconder, and I could put my nomination in tomorrow.
There is a very good chance that I would be successful in the election with Conservative Party members - and that I could indeed be back in Downing Street on Friday. But in the course of the last days I have sadly come to the conclusion that this would simply not be the right thing to do. You can’t govern effectively unless you have a united party in parliament.
And though I have reached out to both Rishi (Sunak) and Penny (Mordaunt) - because I hoped that we could come together in the national interest - we have sadly not been able to work out a way of doing this.Therefore I am afraid the best thing is that I do not allow my nomination to go forward and commit my support to whoever succeeds.
I believe I have much to offer but I am afraid that this is simply not the right time.