Boris Johnson will not stand in the Conservative leadership race, leaving Rishi Sunak very likely to enter No 10.
The former prime minister had not formally declared but he had told supporters he wanted to run, drumming up backing from seven cabinet ministers – Jacob Rees-Mogg, James Cleverly, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Nadhim Zahawi, Alok Sharma, Simon Clarke and Chris-Heaton Harris.
Johnson has said he is not running after only making it to about 60 declared backers by Sunday evening – well short of the 100-MP threshold required to make it on to the ballot.
The former prime minister claimed that he did have the required support but had decided not to run as “this would simply not be the right thing to do” as “you can’t govern effectively unless you have a united party in Parliament”.
“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.”
Sunak has more than 140 declared supporters, while Mordaunt is lagging behind on 25.
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