Boris and Rishi ‘may meet TONIGHT to hash out deal to govern together’

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak will hold talks tonight as the battle to succeed Liz truss race intensifies before Britain’s new Prime Minister is chosen next week, with some suggesting the meeting could offer the best hope of healing the bitter divisions in Tory ranks.

The rivals were set to meet at 3.30pm but the meeting was delayed to this evening, after Mr Johnson cut his holiday to the Caribbean short to fly back to the UK this morning. He arrived with wife Carrie at Gatwick Airport at 10am before hitting the phones as he tried to win the backing of conservative MPs.

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Former allies of the ex-PM have thrown their support behind Mr Sunak, with Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch endorsing him earlier this evening. Former chief of staff Steve Barclay and Brexit guru Lord Frost have also publicly backed Rishi Sunak, along with Ministers Greg Hands, Chris Philip and Tom Tugendhat.

Mr Johnson’s camp claimed he had passed the crucial threshold of 100 MPs, required for candidates to get on the ballot to be the next Conservative leader. 

Many in Boris Johnson’s camp had expected Ms Badenoch to back him in his bid to return to Downing Street. Her endorsement is expected to help unite much of the Tory right behind Mr Sunak. 

However, Mr Sunak is so far the only candidate to be confirmed to have 100 Tory MPs backing him, and his allies challenged Johnson’s supporters to prove he had actually crossed the threshold. 

Latest figures from the BBC put Mr Sunak at 125 backers, Mr Johnson at 53 and Ms Mordaunt at 23. 

It is thought that Mr Sunak could announce a leadership bid this evening, with Mr Johnson throwing his hat into the ring as well, an insider told MailOnline.

As the race for the keys to No10 heats up:

  • Penny Mordaunt became the first candidate to officially enter the race;
  • Mr Sunak was targeting a knockout blow in the contest by gathering so many supporters that rivals have to drop out;
  • Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will warn Britain’s new prime minister that they need to squeeze defence spending and axe a prison building programme to help balance the books;
  • Bitter opponents of Mr Johnson warned they could resign the Tory whip and force by-elections if he wins, plunging the party into more chaos;
  • Former Tory leader William Hague said bringing back Mr Johnson was the worst idea he’d heard in 46 years as a party member;
  • Allies of Mr Johnson said Tory MPs could cancel Parliament’s controversial Partygate probe into his conduct if he returns as prime minister;
  • Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch and former home secretary Suella Braverman were under pressure to pull out of the race after receiving no public nominations;
  • A new poll put support for the Conservatives on a record low of 14 per cent – 39 points behind Labour;
  • In a sign of the rancour in the party, veteran MP Sir Christopher Chope branded colleagues who forced out Miss Truss ‘hyenas’.

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been hitting the phones trying to win the support of his fellow Tory MPs

Sources close to Mr Johnson claim he already has 100 endorsements but he is still far short when it comes to public backers

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been hitting the phones trying to win the support of his fellow Tory MPs. Sources close to Mr Johnson claim he already has 100 endorsements but he is still far short when it comes to public backers

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson waves as he arrives at Gatwick Airport in London, after travelling on a flight from the Caribbean

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson waves as he arrives at Gatwick Airport in London, after travelling on a flight from the Caribbean

Mr Johnson came straight off the BA flight into a waiting car at Gatwick Airport on Saturday morning

Mr Johnson came straight off the BA flight into a waiting car at Gatwick Airport on Saturday morning

The PM came down the stairs with wife Carrie and their children into a waiting car at the London airport

Mr Johnson and his family get into the waiting car

The PM came down the stairs with wife Carrie and their children into a waiting car at the London airport

Carrie Johnson is pictured in a car without Boris after landing in Gatwick following their flight back from the Dominican Republic

Carrie Johnson is pictured in a car without Boris after landing in Gatwick following their flight back from the Dominican Republic

Outgoing Prime Minister Truss, backed by Johnson for the top job, is said to be preparing to support him in a return to Downing Street. Pictured, Mr Johnson as he arrives in the UK

Outgoing Prime Minister Truss, backed by Johnson for the top job, is said to be preparing to support him in a return to Downing Street. Pictured, Mr Johnson as he arrives in the UK

Wearing a shirt and carrying a rucksack, the former PM waved to the cameras as he arrived back in the UK on Saturday

Wearing a shirt and carrying a rucksack, the former PM waved to the cameras as he arrived back in the UK on Saturday 

The couple left Gatwick separately as Carrie was seen with the children in a different car to Boris

The couple left Gatwick separately as Carrie was seen with the children in a different car to Boris

Mr Johnson walked straight to his waiting car as he disembarked the BA flight from the Dominican Republic

Mr Johnson walked straight to his waiting car as he disembarked the BA flight from the Dominican Republic 

Mr Johnson's flight was the most tracked in the world at one point, with more the 7,000 people watching for the former premier's arrival. Pictured at Gatwick Airport

Mr Johnson’s flight was the most tracked in the world at one point, with more the 7,000 people watching for the former premier’s arrival. Pictured at Gatwick Airport

The couple had been on holiday with their two children but flew back to the UK amid the Tory leadership election

The couple had been on holiday with their two children but flew back to the UK amid the Tory leadership election 

Sky News photographed the ex-PM and wife Carrie Johnson on an overnight British Airways flight back from the Dominican Republic with their children

Sky News photographed the ex-PM and wife Carrie Johnson on an overnight British Airways flight back from the Dominican Republic with their children

The former PM landed in the UK at 10.18am on Saturday morning after returning from holiday with his family in the Caribbean

The former PM landed in the UK at 10.18am on Saturday morning after returning from holiday with his family in the Caribbean 

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Boris Johnson’s BA flight from the Dominican Republic landed at Gatwick Airport on Saturday morning. It was the most tracked in the world at one point, with more the 4,000 people watching

Boris Johnson's plane took off from the Dominican Republic on Friday and stopped via Antigua (pictured) on its way to the UK

Boris Johnson’s plane took off from the Dominican Republic on Friday and stopped via Antigua (pictured) on its way to the UK 

Mr Johnson (pictured) is said to be willing to meet Sunak in the hope of burying the hatchet and thrashing out a deal to govern together

Mr Johnson (pictured) is said to be willing to meet Sunak in the hope of burying the hatchet and thrashing out a deal to govern together

Dressed in a grey Worley Weingart t-shirt Mr Johnson, 58, smiled and posed with his trademark thumbs up, as he sat next to wife Carrie with a group of friends, including adviser Henry Newman (right) on holiday in Greece in August

Dressed in a grey Worley Weingart t-shirt Mr Johnson, 58, smiled and posed with his trademark thumbs up, as he sat next to wife Carrie with a group of friends, including adviser Henry Newman (right) on holiday in Greece in August

Rishi Sunak is believed to have secured the backing of 100 MPs, shoring up support to be on the ballot

Pictured at his London home on Saturday morning

Rishi Sunak is believed to have secured the backing of 100 MPs, shoring up support to be on the ballot. Pictured at his London home on Saturday morning

One senior Tory source, said regarding the reunion of Johnson and Sunak:'It is something that has got to be tried. The party as it stands is fractured ¿ it is incumbent on the two greatest talents in the party to see if it can be healed'

One senior Tory source, said regarding the reunion of Johnson and Sunak: ‘It is something that has got to be tried. The party as it stands is fractured – it is incumbent on the two greatest talents in the party to see if it can be healed’

Outgoing Prime Minister Liz Truss was seen leaving Downing Street today following her resignation yesterday

Outgoing Prime Minister Liz Truss was seen leaving Downing Street today following her resignation yesterday 

On Friday current Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt (pictured) became the first candidate to officially enter the race to become the Conservative Party Leader

On Friday current Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt (pictured) became the first candidate to officially enter the race to become the Conservative Party Leader

Former home secretary Priti Patel said she was backing Boris Johnson in the leadership race because he had a'proven track record'

Former home secretary Priti Patel said she was backing Boris Johnson in the leadership race because he had a ‘proven track record’

Tory leadership race timeline  

Monday: Nominations for the race close, candidates making it through must have at least 100 Tory MPs backing them

Monday 3.30 pm: First round of voting (if more than one candidate gets through)

Monday 6pm: Result of first vote announced. If three make it through, the candidate with the fewest votes is be knocked out 

Monday 6.30pm: ‘Indicative’ ballot held if two candidates are left, one may drop out

Tuesday-Friday: If two candidates make it through, Conservative Party members have the chance to vote online

Friday: The final vote closes and Britain’s new Prime Minister is announced 

Ms Badenoch strongly endorsed Mr Sunak, comparing him to Margaret Thatcher and saying he was ‘the man for the job.’

She said in The Times: ‘I have, on occasion, been a member of the Boris Johnson fan club. Even when I resigned from his government, I acknowledged his many strengths. He has been an asset to the country during some very difficult times. 

‘However, I am an even bigger fan of Margaret Thatcher, a formidable politician who did not duck difficult decisions, was extremely prudent and successfully carried out major reforms by winning the argument and taking the public with her. 

‘Mrs Thatcher won the public’s trust and three elections in a row by making it about us, not about her. We need someone who can do the same. I believe that person is Rishi Sunak.’

The former PM’s father, Stanley Johnson, told GB News that his son has ‘unfinished business’, adding: ‘I think he will put his name forward and I think he will beat Rishi Sunak in a head to head.’ 

Mr Johnson now has ‘more than 100 backers’, according to The Times, Sky and BBC news, with the BBC’s Chris Mason Tweeting that the former premier ‘could be on the ballot if he chooses to be’. This number has not been seen in figures from Conservative Home.

Mr Johnson’s ally Sir James Duddridge claimed he has the backing of the 100 MPs required to be on Monday’s ballot but many of them have not publicly declared that support. 

Mr Mason added that the 100 figure is being branded as ‘hogwash’ and ‘absolute garbage’ by MPs backing other candidates.

There is speculation among backers of the old Downing Street neighbours that they could strike a deal to stand together, but this seems unlikely given how far apart the two are on key issues and how much they both want the top job.

Outgoing Prime Minister Truss, backed by Mr Johnson for the top job, is said to be preparing to support him in a return to Downing Street.

On Saturday morning former home secretary Priti Patel said she was backing Mr Johnson in the leadership race because he had a ‘proven track record’.

She tweeted: ‘Boris has the mandate to deliver our elected manifesto and a proven track record getting the big decisions right. I’m backing him in the leadership contest.’

Jacob Rees-Mogg and Ben Wallace have also declared their support for Mr Johnson, giving the former premier the backing of three high-profile Tories.

But there are concerns some centrist MPs could resign the Tory whip or even defect in protest as they regard him as unacceptable to lead. That could open the door for Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to force a snap election and trigger a Conservative wipeout.

A staggering poll today shows the Tories 39 points behind Labour – their lowest ever rating.

Former Cabinet minister David Gauke suggested Sir Keir should offer not to run candidates against Tory MPs who are willing to join a no-confidence vote.

Leadership hopeful Penny Mordaunt said the country faced ‘grave’ challenges as she made her case for a ‘fresh start’.

She tweeted: ‘The challenges facing the country are grave. Only with a fresh start, competent leadership, and a relentless focus on the people of the UK, can we address these issues head on.’

Ms Mordaunt, who kicked off her campaign with a video revealing ‘the real me’, has brought in Westminster digital strategy firm Millbank Creative to support on drumming up MP endorsements.

The move is being noticed by backbenchers, an insider told MailOnline.  

However Mr Johnson is said to have his eyes on No 10 again, as cabinet ministers Jacob Rees-Mogg and Simon Clarke also pledge their votes, while allies claimed MPs were ‘in tears’ in the Commons tea room as they realised his return is ‘almost unstoppable’. 

Lord Frost, who led the UK’s negotiations with the EU, said Mr Johnson will ‘always be a hero for delivering Brexit’ but it is time to ‘move on’.

The former Chief Negotiator for Exiting the European Union David Frost tweeted his support for Mr Sunak, arguing the Tory Party ‘must get behind a capable leader’.

Lord Frost said: ‘Boris Johnson will always be a hero for delivering Brexit. But we must move on.

‘It is simply not right to risk repeating the chaos & confusion of the last year.

‘The Tory Party must get behind a capable leader who can deliver a Conservative programme. That is @RishiSunak.’

He said Mr Sunak ‘understands the issues, can work the machine, and is a decent guy to boot’, adding ‘that’s what we need now’.

Lord Frost previously backed Liz Truss over Mr Sunak in the summer leadership contest.

Mr Johnson’s former Chief of Staff Steve Barclay, who had three promotions underneath Mr Johnson, has also endorsed Mr Sunak.

Mr Barclay, who became Secretary of State for Health and Social Care following the resignation of Sajid Javid in July, said Mr Sunak is best place to address the country’s economic challenges.

In a tweet the MP for North East Cambridgeshire said: ‘I’m backing @RishiSunak to be leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister.

‘Our country faces significant economic challenges and Rishi is best placed to address this.’

Mail on Sunday Commentator Dan Hodges said that their endorsement ‘has come as a significant blow’ to Mr Johnson.

He added: ‘Understand Boris is currently talking on the phone to key parliamentary allies.’

The former prime minister’s father, Mr Johnson, told GN News that his son ‘wants to finish unfinished business’.

‘I have no idea whether Boris is going to be a candidate, you perhaps know more than I do,’ he said. ‘But what I will say is that I am looking for a candidate who will be very strong on environmental issues, who will be very strong on the need to bring us back closer to Europe and who will also be strong on some of these international issues like Net Zero and so on and so forth.

‘These are the things I’m looking for and of course not everyone is going to meet all these requirements but I do believe Boris on his record meets a lot of those. I would very much like to see him moving closer now. He is perhaps uniquely qualified to bring us back into a proper relationship with the EU than others might be.’

Mr Johnson added:  ‘You take the energy issue, he was brilliant on Ukraine, that was about the biggest thing you can think of. Do that, get these international alliances going and you will bring down the cost of energy. 

‘If you get peace in Ukraine good heavens energy prices will drop immediately so I do think he is the man. Yes there might be all these other temptations but the test of the man here is that he’s willing to give those temptations up to endure the slings and arrows.’

Former home secretary Ms Patel said that she is backing Mr Johnson to be the next PM.

She said in a statement: ‘The Conservative Party is a great force for political good and events of recent weeks have been painful for us. We must unite behind the winner of this week’s leadership contest, restore our reputation for sound financial discipline, and deliver on our commitments to the British people we were elected to serve just three years ago with the biggest mandate in a generation. 

‘Boris has a proven track record getting the big decisions right, standing up for Ukraine and our values, and delivering on the people’s priorities. 

‘From the successful vaccine rollout to investing in levelling up, and from delivering more police on our streets to getting Brexit done, Boris has the leadership qualities, democratic mandate and optimism to get our country through these challenging times. I’m backing Boris to return as our Prime Minister, to bring together a united team to deliver our manifesto and lead Britain to a stronger and more prosperous future.’

Johnson would be ‘distracted by Partygate probe if he became PM again, says Dominic Raab 

Boris Johnson would be ‘distracted’ by the Commons partygate probe if he were to become prime minister again, a former ally has said.

Dominic Raab, who was deputy prime minister in Mr Johnson’s government, believes he would be ‘absorbed’ by the Privileges Committee investigation into his handling of partygate within days of returning to power.

It would pull the country into a ‘sort of Groundhog Day of partygate’ and make it difficult to move forward with a range of pressing issues, he suggested.

Mr Raab also told Times Radio: ‘The issue right now is that within days of us having a new prime minister, which is latest next Friday, the Committee on Privileges and Conduct is going to start taking oral testimony, including from Boris but also other witnesses.

‘And it doesn’t seem to me possible for anyone to be prime minister who is absorbed and has their focus distracted and is enmeshed in that next saga or episode of the soap opera that is partygate, and at the same time give the country the attention that it requires.

‘We’d be back in the sort of Groundhog Day of partygate, we’ve got to have the country and the government moving forward.

‘I’d like to hear the answer to how you can give evidence, how you can have these testimony hearings going on from the Committee on Privileges and Conduct, and at the same time be prime minister, giving the country, the economy, the NHS, the relentless laser-like focus it needs. I haven’t heard an answer to that question. If someone thinks that they can provide that then they need to explain it very clearly or Boris does.’

Mr Raab, who is backing former chancellor Rishi Sunak for the Tory leadership, told BBC Breakfast: ‘I think it is very clear that Rishi has the broadest appeal because, and this is critical, he can restore trust. I think he is best placed to restore that confidence that we sorely need.’

A return for Mr Johnson would be beset with challenges, not least the inquiry into whether he lied to the Commons over the partygate scandal, for which he was fined by police.

If found guilty by the Commons Privileges Committee, he could face recall proceedings that would leave him battling for his seat in the Commons if he receives a suspension of 10 days or more.

His popularity with the public has crashed, even if he still rides high with the Tory membership.

Some MPs have even suggested they could resign the party whip if he wins.

Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt is the only candidate who has so far officially declared she is running.

Dame Maria Miller, a Mordaunt supporter, believes that Mr Johnson must be thinking about whether it is ‘appropriate’ he should enter the leadership contest.

She told BBC Breakfast: ‘I certainly think that Boris Johnson would be thinking very long and hard as to whether it would be appropriate to put himself forward to lead our country at a time where… he is still subject to a very serious Privileges Committee investigation which could ultimately lead to him having to resign as minister.

‘I am sure he, who has put our country first in his life even when he was sick and in hospital during the pandemic, would not want to jeopardise the stability of our country – again that is why I am supporting Penny Mordaunt because I think she brings that stability.

‘She can reach out to people who really need to have knowledge that they have got somebody in 10 Downing Street who really understands the struggles of ordinary people in this country.’

 

Mr Johnson has been personally calling to woo colleagues and assuring them he will definitely be a candidate, and allies have been offering assurances that Jeremy Hunt will not be sacked as Chancellor. 

Meanwhile, Stanley Johnson said it could be his son’s ‘moment’ to make a comeback in the wake of the humiliating resignation by Liz Truss.  

Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and MP Andrew Stephenson said that Boris Johnson is ‘a tried and tested leader’ and it is time that the is back in power.

He told BBC Breakfast: ‘It will be the challenge for whoever is leader of the party to unite the party. I think it is important that all MPs respect the result of this election and unite behind our new leader.

‘I think what we have seen in the last few days is some of the MPs who resigned and called for Boris to go at the start of the summer have now said they would like to see him put himself forward. They’ve admitted they were wrong. I know that many others are waiting for him to make a decision before they go public.’

He told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I visited 80 different constituencies I attended all of the hustings, met thousands of party members, and a lot of them were saying to me ‘we want Boris on the ballot’. Now, constitutionally that couldn’t have happened, Boris had resigned, it was a contest between Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak. But there was a huge amount of support from party members still for Boris and they were quite upset that parliamentarians had got rid of him.

‘I am one of a number of MPs urging him now to put his name forward to think about putting his name forward, because he’s popular with party members, but also I think he’s got the big judgment calls right.

‘Not only did he deliver us that historic victory in the 2019 general election, but getting Brexit done, in delivering the fastest vaccine rollout in Europe, in standing shoulder to shoulder with our allies in Ukraine.’

Ms Johnson’s supporters have been boasting he could end up with more than 140 nominations, easily passing the 100 threshold needed to make the ballot on Monday afternoon. 

However, as infighting in the party intensified critics swiped that his fans are noisy rather than numerous, predicting he will fall short of the numbers – while Mr Sunak is already well on his way to cresting that total. A Rishi camp MP said there was ‘limited scope’ for Mr Johnson because the pool is ‘mostly his old guard and Red Wall who are inexperienced and petrified’.

Another Sunakite suggested that Mr Johnson’s campaign is stalling and he will not run if he only gets 105 nominations because he is ‘thin-skinned’ and ‘only plays games he knows he can win’.

‘He wants to be Frank Sinatra doing a comeback tour and all the theatres are sold out. He won’t do it if they are half-empty,’ the MP jibed.

Mr Johnson returning would be a ‘Bobby in the shower moment’, according to a Tory source horrified at the prospect. ‘They are expecting the Tory Party to wake up and say Boris, thank God it was a dream.’

Former Tory leader William Hague, a supporter of Mr Sunak, claimed Mr Johnson returning as leader would send the Conservatives into a ‘death spiral’.

‘Him returning is the ‘solution’?,’ Lord Hague told Times Radio. ‘That would be going round in circles and that could become a death spiral of the Conservative Party.

‘And I think it’s possibly the worst idea I’ve heard of in the 46 years I’ve been a member of the Conservative Party.’

Boris Johnson must be thinking about whether it is ‘appropriate’ he should enter the leadership contest as he still faces a Privilege Committee investigation on ‘partygate’, according to Conservative MP Dame Maria Miller.

She told BBC Breakfast that ‘I certainly think that Boris Johnson would be thinking very long and hard as to whether it would be appropriate to put himself forward to lead our country at a time where … he is still subject to a very serious Privileges Committee investigation which could ultimately lead to him having to resign as minister.

‘I am sure he, who has put our country first in his life even when he was sick and in hospital during the pandemic would not want to jeopardise the stability of our country, again that is why I am supporting Penny Mordaunt because I think she brings that stability.

‘She can reach out to people who really need to have knowledge that they have got somebody in 10 Downing Street who really understands the struggles or ordinary people in this country.’

The SNP is preparing to fight a general election, the party’s Westminster leader said, as he insisted Scots will be ‘appalled’ at the prospect of Boris Johnson making a dramatic comeback as prime minister.

Ian Blackford said that ‘given everything that happened’ when Mr Johnson was in charge at Downing Street, it would be ‘beyond the pale’ for him to return.

‘It is almost beyond belief that the Conservatives would even consider this,’ the SNP MP told BBC Radio Scotland.

Asked if his party was now preparing for a general election, Mr Blackford said: ‘Yes of course we are.

‘We believe there should be a general election, this is a Conservative Government that has run out of time.’

An election is in the ‘national interest’, he insisted, saying this would ‘mean people have their right to have their say on this issue’.

Mr Blackford argued: ‘It shouldn’t just be down to Tory MPs and Tory members to pick the next prime minister.

‘Time really needs to be up for this Conservative Government.’

Chris Bryant, a Labour MP for Rhondda and chairman of the Commons Committee on Standards, said that he believes the public want a general election to ‘press the reset button.’

Mr Bryant was part of the cross-party Privileges Committee which is currently investigating whether Boris Johnson deliberately misled Parliament about the parties held in Number 10. However, he withdrew himself from the committee’s inquiry as he had already publicly condemned Mr Johnson’s behaviour.

When asked about his opinion of Mr Johnson returning to high office, he said: ‘He’s disgraced. I mean, look, I’m a Labour MP, I don’t fancy any of the three of them. I think we’ve got to a stage now where the people of this country think the only way you can press the reset button is to have a general election.

‘Penny Mordaunt voted in Cabinet or allowed in Cabinet, never said a word in Cabinet against the whole of the mini-budget that led to the economic crash that we’ve had.

‘Rishi Sunak backs Boris Johnson all the way up until the very last moment, despite all the lies and of course was himself involved in ‘partygate’ and Boris Johnson is a disgraced prime minister. The biggest problem for Boris if he does get elected as leader, apart from I suspect that quite a few Conservative MPs will either cross the floor or abandon support for him.

Boris Johnson has been on holiday in the Dominican Republic but is returning ahead of the Conservative leadership contest

Boris Johnson has been on holiday in the Dominican Republic but is returning ahead of the Conservative leadership contest 

Dozens of Conservative MPs are backing Johnson's return to No 10 despite his resignation just weeks ago

Dozens of Conservative MPs are backing Johnson’s return to No 10 despite his resignation just weeks ago 

Senior Tory members are urging the former Prime Minister Boris Johnson to meet face-to-face with estranged former Chancellor Rishi Sunak to join forces to win the leadership contest and'heal' the party

Senior Tory members are urging the former Prime Minister Boris Johnson to meet face-to-face with estranged former Chancellor Rishi Sunak to join forces to win the leadership contest and ‘heal’ the party

‘Frankly, as I think William Hague said, he’s unfit for office. His biggest problem is, he will be spending probably the first two months of his of his second premiership, entirely focused on the privileges inquiry, and may, at the end of it, be found to have been in contempt of Parliament, suspended from the House of Commons and potentially facing a by-election in a seat which he would lose.’

Former Conservative foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind said reinstating Boris Johnson as prime minister would be the ‘worst example’ of putting the Tory party’s interest ahead of the public interest. 

He added: ‘Given that the vast majority of the public, including many Conservatives, are struggling with a cost-of-living increases that we’re all seeing and the problems of the economy, the prime minister must be somebody who’s economically coherent, who understands the economy, who has shown that he does understand it, and that he will be able to work closely with the chancellor in restoring our economic strength.

‘Now, in the case of Johnson, I’m afraid it’s not this. This is not a theoretical question. He was prime minister for two or three years, he showed no interest, never mind leadership on economic policy.’

He added that he is backing former chancellor Rishi Sunak because he is ‘by far the best’ of the contenders available.

Sir Peter Bottomley, who as Father of the House is the longest continuously serving MP, said he supported Rishi Sunak to be the next prime minister.

The in-tray of agonies for the next PM 

The in-tray awaiting the next PM is loaded with problems – and whoever takes on the daunting task must do so while piecing together a bitterly divided party. Here, CHRIS BROOKE looks at the challenges ahead.

TAX AND SPEND

After racking up a £400billion bill during the pandemic and with rising interest rates sending borrowing costs even higher, the Government faces the nightmare task of trying to balance its books.

How can the Tories raise sufficient tax revenue and control spending while boosting growth in the economy to show there is a road out of the debt quagmire the nation’s finances appear stuck in?

ENERGY

With warnings of winter blackouts, simply keeping the lights on will be an achievement. Even with government help, millions will struggle to pay their energy bills – and with the prospect of prices going even higher in April, the PM must work out what support to give when the energy price guarantee ends in spring. Energy costs are also putting a massive strain on businesses.

NHS

The health service appears stuck in a never-ending crisis.

There are seven million people on waiting lists, constant difficulties seeing a GP, problems with ambulance response times and a crisis in maternity care. Many more doctors and nurses are needed and many believe major reform of the NHS is the only solution. But with two years until the next election there is no time to implement major structural change.

UKRAINE

With Vladimir Putin increasingly cornered, fears are growing that there could be a nuclear escalation in the Ukraine war. Helping Ukraine to victory requires ever-increasing support from the UK and its Nato allies at no little cost.

IMMIGRATION

The Tory faithful have long demanded a clampdown on the flood of cross-Channel illegal immigrants but so far no solution has been found and the Rwanda removals scheme remains stuck in the courts.

At the same time, some sectors of the economy want more immigrants to stimulate growth, meaning the new PM faces another difficult balancing act.

BREXIT & NORTHERN IRELAND

Brexit might be done but making it work remains a big problem. Talks to find a compromise solution to the Northern Ireland protocol – designed to prevent a trade border with the Irish Republic by effectively keeping the Province in the EU’s single market for goods – are at a delicate stage. A decision on whether to trigger Article 16 emergency measures that could start an EU trade war may need to be made.

POLLS AND PARTY UNITY

With the Tories trailing up to 39 points behind Labour in the polls, the new PM will be anxious to avoid being forced into an early General Election.

That means the next premier must somehow hold together a party that is split apart by factions. Conservative unity has been an impossible goal since the Brexit referendum but must somehow be achieved to avoid an election wipeout in two years’ time.

 

Mr Rees-Mogg’s market prediction was contrary to that of some economists, with the head of currency strategy at Rabobank, Jane Foley, telling the Financial Times Mr Johnson’s time in office had been characterised by ‘a lack of leadership from a government very distracted by one scandal after another’, and ‘the chance that that could come back is not going to be welcomed by markets’.

Analysts at Berenberg Bank said there were greater market risks from a Johnson government, with FT reporting the bank told its clients: ‘Given that a majority of Conservative MPs probably do not want Johnson as their leader, the prospects of mass resignations and a further descent into chaos would loom large.’

The trio of Mr Johnson, Mr Sunak and Ms Mordaunt look best-placed to hit the high threshold of 100 nominations from the 357 MPs needed to feature on the Tory leadership ballot. But it is possible only one or two will make the numbers by the Monday 2pm deadline. 

Speaking on BBC Breakfast on Saturday morning, Dominic Raab said that he expects Mr Sunak to announce he is running ‘shortly, soon’. 

He said the case for Mr Sunak as PM has ‘grown and strengthened’, adding that ‘he is best placed to restore confidence’ and trust. 

‘Rishi had the right plan in the summer and I think it is the right plan now,’ he said.

‘I think he is the best placed candidate to provide some stability, to provide confidence for the millions of workers and businesses up and down the country – but I also think he is the right candidate to bring the party together with a government of all of the talents to just relentlessly deliver for the British people whether it is on the cost of living, crime, schools or NHS.’

He added that while he would love to see Mr Johnson return to ‘front line politics’, he said that the former premier would not be suited for PM in this leadership race. 

Mr Raab told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: ‘We cannot go backwards. We can’t have another episode of the Groundhog Day, of the soap opera, of Partygate. We must get the country and the government moving forward.’ 

In an acknowledgment that she has ground to make up on the top two, Ms Mordaunt became the first to declare formally this evening – saying Conservatives had been telling her they want a ‘fresh’ start. 

The latest tallies suggest Mr Sunak has 72 backers, while Mr Johnson is on 38 and Ms Mordaunt on 18. The former chancellor unveiled Sajid Javid, George Eustice, Chris Philp, Gavin Williamson and Liam Fox as his latest additions this afternoon.

Although Mr Johnson is still returning from the Dominican Republic, he has told allies he is definitely running. 

Interest costs on the £2.4trillion debt mountain hit a September record, as Chancellor Jeremy Hunt scrambles to put together £40billion of spending cuts for a Halloween Budget. 

Friends of Mr Johnson told MailOnline that Mr Hunt staying as Chancellor was ‘coded in’ if he becomes PM again. ‘He’d be absolutely bonkers to change Hunt,’ one said. ‘He has gone down well. Any change, even if it was to somebody more competent would just generate confusion.’  

A senior Tory source said: ‘It is something that has got to be tried. The party as it stands is fractured – it is incumbent on the two greatest talents in the party to see if it can be healed.’ They added: ‘The question the Conservative Party needs to ask itself is whether it wants to win another general election. If it does, then it needs to come together now.’

A source close to bookies’ favourite Mr Sunak last night played down the prospect of peace talks, saying that although he was ‘willing to talk to all colleagues’, there were ‘no plans’ for a meeting with Mr Johnson. But another senior Tory said there were signs that both camps were eager to heal the rift that otherwise threatens to undermine whoever succeeds Miss Truss. ‘On balance, I think it [a meeting] will happen,’ the source said. 

It came as Sky News photographed the ex-PM and wife Carrie Johnson on an overnight British Airways flight back from the Dominican Republic with their children and said the MP received ‘one or two boos’ as he boarded. 

Influential Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, who was a key Sunak backer in the last leadership race, said he now wanted to see Mr Johnson as PM with Mr Sunak alongside him again as chancellor.

Both men enjoyed a surge in support yesterday that threatened to make it impossible for rival candidates to get enough nominations to get on the ballot paper.

In a significant intervention, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said he was setting aside his own leadership chances – and suggested he would back Mr Johnson. He said it was important to think about ‘who could win the next election’ for the Conservatives.

Mr Johnson also received endorsements from five other Cabinet ministers, including Jacob Rees-Mogg, Levelling Up Secretary Simon Clarke and Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan.

Writing in the Daily Mail today, Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris describes Mr Johnson as the party’s ‘standout star’ who is best placed to ‘finish the job he started’.

Last night, Mr Johnson had the declared support of 43 MPs, although sources are confident he will get well over the 100 nominations needed to make the ballot paper on Monday.

Mr Sunak was out in front with backing from 83 MPs, including former chancellor Sajid Javid, who said it was ‘abundantly clear’ that he had the ‘values our party needs’ to ‘move on from the mistakes of the past’.

Mr Johnson is due to arrive back in the UK today following a holiday in the Caribbean. Although he has not formally confirmed his candidacy, former minister Sir James Duddridge revealed he had told him he was ‘up for it’.

Sir James said: ‘I’ve been in contact with the boss via WhatsApp. He’s going to fly back. He said, ‘I’m flying back, Dudders, we are going to do this. I’m up for it’.’

Allies of Mr Johnson suggested he would be willing to meet Mr Sunak as soon as this afternoon if the former chancellor agrees. The two men have not spoken since Mr Sunak quit the Cabinet in July, triggering Mr Johnson’s exit a few days later. The ‘backstabber’ narrative dogged Mr Sunak throughout the summer leadership campaign and is seen as one of the main reasons Tory members rejected him in favour of Miss Truss.

MPs on both sides of the Tory divide fear that neither man will be able to heal the deep divisions without the support of the other. Peterborough MP Paul Bristow said it was time to ‘put the band back together’.

He told the BBC: ‘Boris Johnson has a mandate from the members of the party and from the electorate. I’m sure my colleagues will reflect on that when they vote, and we can avoid a general election, we can go out and put this band back together, we can have political heavyweights around that Cabinet table and we can go on and win the next general election. I’m convinced of that.’

It remains unclear how any deal between the two leading contenders could work. Mr Sunak quit as chancellor in part because of differences over economic policy and it is difficult to see how he could take the role again.

Allies of Mr Johnson dismissed the suggestion he would consider a senior role such as home secretary in a Sunak administration.

Miss Truss’s abrupt resignation on Wednesday has triggered a breakneck race to succeed her.

Candidate need 100 nominations from Tory MPs by 2pm on Monday to make the ballot paper.

Tory MPs will vote that night to whittle down the field to two if necessary. If two candidates remain, Conservative Party members will be asked to decide the contest in an online vote, with the result revealed on Friday.

Miss Truss will stay in post as caretaker leader in the meantime, and could take part in a final session of Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

Now Tory big beasts line up to back Boris Johnson: Ex-Prime Minister sees dramatic surge in support with six Cabinet ministers leading clamour for a comeback

By Jason Groves, Political Editor for the Daily Mail 

Support for a Boris Johnson comeback surged yesterday as six Cabinet ministers threw their weight behind the former prime minister.

Writing in today’s Daily Mail, Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said Mr Johnson was the ‘standout star’ to replace Liz Truss after she resigned.

It came after Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said yesterday he was also ‘leaning towards’ backing Mr Johnson.

Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg, Levelling Up Secretary Simon Clarke and Cop26 president Alok Sharma also pledged their votes for the ex-PM.

Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan also backed a comeback.

She tweeted last night: ‘I have worked closely with Boris Johnson for many years. He can continue to deliver for the country and already has a mandate.’ 

She added that it was ‘time to bring back Boris’.

Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan backed a Johnson comeback. She Tweeted last night:'I have worked closely with Boris Johnson for many years. He can continue to deliver for the country and already has a mandate'

Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan backed a Johnson comeback. She Tweeted last night: ‘I have worked closely with Boris Johnson for many years. He can continue to deliver for the country and already has a mandate’

Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg Tweeted a graphic that read ¿I¿m backing Boris¿ alongside a ¿Boris or bust¿ logo.

Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg Tweeted a graphic that read ‘I’m backing Boris’ alongside a ‘Boris or bust’ logo.

Cop26 president Alok Sharma is among Tory Cabinet ministers backing Boris Johnson

Cop26 president Alok Sharma is among Tory Cabinet ministers backing Boris Johnson 

Mr Johnson went on a charm offensive yesterday, phoning MPs from the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean, where he has been on holiday, to shore up support for a leadership bid. He accepted mistakes had been made during his previous stint in No 10 and pledged ‘a different culture’ if he wins back the keys.

He was due to fly back to London overnight before weighing up whether to throw his hat in the ring for the Tory leadership.

Mr Heaton-Harris, Mr Johnson’s former chief whip, writes in the Mail today that ‘there is no politician more able to rise up to whatever challenge he faces’.

He added: ‘I would be the first to admit that my party has been through a turbulent time recently, but if he gets the call, I know Boris will finish the job he started and deliver on the promises he made to you in 2019.

‘At a time of economic and international uncertainty, we need a leader with a track record of delivering for the British people.

‘A leader who has the mandate of not only the Conservative Party membership, but also the country. 

A leader Labour fear the most because of his ability to win.’ 

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said he would be supporting Johnson because he would be the only candidate with a clear mandate from the public, having won the 2019 general election

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris Mr Johnson’s former chief whip, writes in the Mail today that ‘there is no politician more able to rise up to whatever challenge he faces’

Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Simon Clarke also pledged his allegiance to the former Prime Minister

Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Simon Clarke also pledged his allegiance to the former Prime Minister 

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris Mr Johnson¿s former chief whip, writes in the Mail today that ¿there is no politician more able to rise up to whatever challenge he faces¿

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris Mr Johnson’s former chief whip, writes in the Mail today that ‘there is no politician more able to rise up to whatever challenge he faces’

Mr Wallace said he was minded to support Mr Johnson because he would be the only candidate with a clear mandate from the public, having won the 2019 general election. He added: ‘This will be potentially our third prime minister since the general election of 2019.

‘That means we have to think about that legitimacy question that the public will be asking themselves, and also about who could win the next election – that’s obviously important for any political party at the time. So at the moment, I would lean towards Boris Johnson.’

In a joint statement with Ben Houchen, the Tory mayor of Tees Valley, Mr Clarke said: ‘Boris is the person we need to lead our country and our party.

‘He won the greatest election victory for years on a mandate to unite and level up the UK, and inspired millions of people who had never voted Conservative before to get behind a generous, optimistic vision of what Britain can be.

‘People who have felt left behind from governments of both colours want their prime minister to make a success of Brexit, control illegal immigration and invest in our communities.

‘That’s what Boris would do and it’s why he is so popular right across the Red Wall seats that will decide the next election.’

Mr Rees-Mogg reposted a graphic on Twitter saying ‘I’m backing Boris’ alongside a ‘Boris or bust’ logo.

Meanwhile, Mr Sharma tweeted: ‘I am backing Boris Johnson – he won a mandate from the electorate in 2019.

‘We need to get back to delivering on the Conservative manifesto we were elected on.’

It means the contest for the leadership is looking increasingly like a two-horse race between Mr Johnson and his former chancellor Rishi Sunak.

One tally yesterday afternoon had Mr Sunak on 80 MPs backing him, with Mr Johnson on 50 and Penny Mordaunt – the only Tory to announce officially that they are running so far – on 21.

Candidates must secure the backing of 100 MPs by Monday afternoon to make it on to the ballot paper.

But a YouGov poll yesterday found more than half of Britons (52 per cent) would be unhappy to see Mr Johnson return. Only 27 per cent would be happy to see a comeback.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11344021/Boris-Rishi-meet-TONIGHT-hash-deal-govern-together.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Boris and Rishi ‘may meet TONIGHT to hash out deal to govern together’