Rishi Sunak on the verge of being named the next PM TODAY

Rishi Sunak is on the verge of Downing Street today after Boris Johnson dramatically dropped his Tory leadership bid.

Mr Sunak could be named as the new PM as early as 2.15pm, with his sole remaining rival Penny Mordaunt   struggling to reach the threshold of 100 nominations needed to trigger a ballot.  

The former Chancellor, who officially launched his campaign yesterday morning, has received public backing of from more than 150 Tory MPs – and is racking up more numbers as prominent supporters of Mr Johnson jump on the bandwagon. He would be the country’s first non-white premier.

However, the challenge he faces has been laid bare as other Johnsonites warned that he will need to call a snap election because he does not have a mandate – while the ex-PM himself suggested in his bombshell concession last night that he is only standing aside until the ‘right time’.

Mr Johnson claimed he reached the ‘very high hurdle of 102 nominations’ and believed there was a ‘very good chance’ that he would have been successful in the leadership contest.

But the former PM added that continuing his bid for a return was ‘simply not the right thing to do’, citing the need to ‘unite’ the party.

Mr Johnson had been dealt a series of blows by big Tory players such as former Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Brexiteer Steve Baker pledging their support to Mr Sunak.

However, his decision took even his biggest champions by surprise. Cabinet minister Nadhim Zahawi was embarrassed as an article praising ‘Johnson 2.0’ was published minutes before the withdrawal. 

And one of Mr Johnson’s chief lieutenants, James Duddridge, tweeted to say ‘that was unexpected’. Both have now switched allegiances to Mr Sunak, along with a host of others. 

Michael Gove also lined up behind Mr Sunak, urging the party to unite and take the fight to Labour. 

Ms Mordaunt now has until 2pm to secure the 100 nominations and force the contest to the next stage, which looks unlikely. But her allies insist Mr Johnson’s decision to pull himself from the race can ‘propel her over the line’.

If Mr Sunak is declared the new Tory leader today he could be installed as PM as early as tomorrow.  

In other developments:

  • The Pound has surged as markets processed the news that Mr Johnson will not fight for a return to Downing Street just seven weeks after he was ousted in a massive Tory coup; 
  • Mr Sunak hinted that Mr Johnson could be given a major foreign policy job saying he still has a contribution to make including ‘abroad’; 
  • Ms Mordaunt is wooing Johnson supporters by heaping praise on the ex-PM, after rebuffing his attempts to get her to drop out of the race;
  • Mr Johnson only received public backing from 57 MPs, despite claiming that he was over the 100 threshold with MPs who wanted to keep their identity secret;
  • Former Chancellor George Osborne praised the ‘very welcome and sensible judgment call by Boris Johnson’;
  • Johnson loyalist Nadine Dorries warned that a general election was now inevitable as no other candidate has a mandate;
  • Frantic action comes after Liz Truss resigned after a disastrous 44 days in No10. 

Rishi Sunak appears set to become the new Prime Minister today after Boris Johnson sensationally dropped out of the Tory leadership race last night

Mr Johnson earlier said he had in fact reached the'very high hurdle of 102 nominations' and believed there was a'very good chance' that he would have been successful in the leadership contest

Mr Johnson earlier said he had in fact reached the ‘very high hurdle of 102 nominations’ and believed there was a ‘very good chance’ that he would have been successful in the leadership contest

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Now only Ms Mordaunt now stands in the way of Mr Sunak's leadership bid.'I¿m in this to win it,' the Leader of the House of Commons earlier declared

Now only Ms Mordaunt now stands in the way of Mr Sunak’s leadership bid. ‘I’m in this to win it,’ the Leader of the House of Commons earlier declared

The value of the pound soared after Boris Johnson's departure from the Tory leadership race left Rishi Sunak as the favourite to be the next Prime Minister

The value of the pound soared after Boris Johnson’s departure from the Tory leadership race left Rishi Sunak as the favourite to be the next Prime Minister

‘It is simply not the right thing to do’: Boris Johnson bows out of race to return as PM 

In statement this evening, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed he was bowing out of the race because it is ‘simply not the right thing to do’, despite claiming he had cleared the ‘very high hurdle of 102 nominations’.

He said: ‘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 and Penny – 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.’ 

Mr Sunak seems to have the upper hand in the battle to pick of Mr Johnson’s former supporters, despite Ms Mordaunt’s best efforts.   

Touring broadcast studios this morning, Sunak backer and Home Secretary Grant Shapps said Mr Johnson did the ‘right thing’ by ruling himself out of the contest for the next prime minister.

He said he thought it was probably ‘a bit too early’ for Mr Johnson to make a return to No 10.

Mr Shapps told Sky News: ‘I saw Boris Johnson’s statement last night, he said he had the numbers but in the interest of both party unity and the country he said he would withdraw. I have to say I think he did the right thing. I think that’s sensible under the circumstances.

‘I think Boris Johnson was actually in many ways a very impressive prime minister, what with his response to getting beyond the Brexit thing, the Covid vaccine rollout … I think he did a lot of good things.’

But Ms Mordaunt is fighting on for the time being, praising Mr Johnson for putting ‘country before party’.

She tweeted: ‘In taking this difficult decision last night Boris Johnson has put country before party, and party before self. He worked to secure the mandate and the majority we now enjoy.

‘We should put it to good use, and I know he will work with us to do so.’

Conservative MP Damian Green said he is confident Ms Mordaunt will reach the 100 threshold by 2pm.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘There are a lot of people who weren’t declaring publicly what they were doing, I mean, indeed, Penny’s numbers are well above the published figures already.’

He added: ‘It’s certainly way, way above the published number and we’re confident of getting to 100 before the deadline of 2pm and putting the case to colleagues that Penny is the person best positioned to unify the party, she’s got support from all wings of the party already and we can then get on with the important job for the country of the various serious problems we’re facing.’

Mr Sunak surged further ahead in the contest yesterday as he also secured the backing of Mr Shapps and Work and Pensions Secretary Chloe Smith.

Armed Forces Minister James Heappey also said Mr Sunak would ‘bring together our divided party and restore stability to our Government’.

Crucially Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, writing for The Telegraph, endorsed Mr Sunak in an article in which he compared him to Winston Churchill due to his willingness to speak the ‘truth’. 

Team Johnson had already indicated that they would keep Mr Hunt on as Chancellor.  

It has left Leader of the House of Commons Ms Mordaunt as the only leadership hopeful standing in his way. She declared yesterday that ‘I’m in this to win it’, but the determined statement came amid signs she is struggling to win backers.

However, a source from Ms Mordaunt’s campaign said last night: ‘Penny is still running to be the Leader of the Conservative Party. Penny is the unifying candidate who is most likely to keep the wings of the Conservative Party together and polling shows that she is the most likely candidate to hold onto the seats the Conservative Party gained in 2019.

‘Ed Balls, Shadow Cabinet ministers and Labour advisers have all said Penny is the candidate Keir Starmer fears the most.’

She is not seen as a candidate of the right, though, and so is believed to be unlikely to secure a significant number of Mr Johnson’s backers.

But despite being well below the threshold of 100 supporters, Ms Mordaunt’s team have insisted she had dozens of MPs who have not yet gone public with their support for her as she appeals to Mr Johnson’s backers to get behind her campaign instead.

In a statement last night, Mr Johnson said: ‘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 and Penny – 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.’

Following the statement, Mr Sunak said he hoped the former PM would contribute to ‘public life at home and abroad’.

He added: ‘Boris Johnson delivered Brexit and the great vaccine roll-out. He led our country through some of the toughest challenges we have ever faced, and then took on Putin and his barbaric war in Ukraine. We will always be grateful to him for that.

‘Although he has decided not to run for PM again, I truly hope he continues to contribute to public life at home and abroad. ‘

A jubilant Sunak-backing MP also told MailOnline: ‘I’ve known him since 1995: he never changes. He’s too thin skinned to be brave.’ Another Cabinet source said the ‘writing was on the wall’ for the ex-PM after a day of bluster.

Former Chancellor George Osborne added: ‘Very welcome and sensible judgement call by Boris Johnson – the country was heading for a constitutional crisis. Instead Rishi Sunak can now – with hard but necessary decisions – begin to restore Britain’s economic credibility and good governance.’ 

Mr Johnson’s hopes of a return had earlier gained traction when Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and Nadhim Zahawi, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, both declared their support. 

Mr Zahawi earlier claimed ‘Boris 2.0’ had ‘learned from those mistakes’ he made during his first spell in No10 and would lead the Tories to ‘victory and prosperity’.

He saw a piece backing his former boss go online just as Mr Johnson’s bombshell statement dropped. 

Mr Zahawi, who served as Chancellor in the final days of Mr Johnson’s premiership, is now backing Mr Sunak. He tweeted: ‘A day is a long time in politics… Given today’s news, it’s clear that we should turn to Rishi Sunak to become our next Prime Minister. 

‘Rishi is immensely talented, will command a strong majority in the parliamentary Conservative Party, and will have my full support & loyalty.’

Former Culture Secretary and Mr Johnson loyalist Nadine Dorries also revealed her disappointment that he has bowed out, saying that a general election was now inevitable.

She said: ‘Boris would have won members vote – already had a mandate from the people.

‘Rishi and Penny, despite requests from Boris refused to unite which would have made governing utterly impossible. Penny actually asked him to step aside for her. It will now be impossible to avoid a GE.’

Former Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, a Sunak supporter, said: ‘A thoughtful, wise and statesmanlike decision by Boris Johnson to withdraw, reflecting the qualities that made so many of us originally put our faith in him three years ago.’

As of last night, 155 MPs had said they are backing Mr Sunak, while just 25 had spoken out in support of Ms Mordaunt. But a further 54 who were hoping Mr Johnson would return to the premiership are yet to publicly reveal to whom they have switched allegiance

As of last night, 155 MPs had said they are backing Mr Sunak, while just 25 had spoken out in support of Ms Mordaunt. But a further 54 who were hoping Mr Johnson would return to the premiership are yet to publicly reveal to whom they have switched allegiance

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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 

It came after Mr Johnson unsuccessfully reached out to his two main rivals in an attempt to make a pact. 

Ms Mordaunt, now Mr Sunak’s only rival in the leadership bid, was claimed to have rebuffed attempts from the former Prime Minister to get her to drop out in a phone call.

She is reported to have told Mr Johnson that the majority of her supporters were more likely to have switched to Team Sunak, rather than backing his return to the premiership.

It also means Ms Mordaunt is likely to be short of the 100 backers needed to remain in contention. 

Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak, meanwhile, met at 8pm last night, where the ex-PM is said to have told his former Chancellor that – if he re-entered No10 with Mr Sunak in a senior role – it would avoid a divisive battle.

But it was subsequently claimed this morning that no agreement had been struck between the pair following negotiations that last around three hours.  

It comes as Mr Sunak appeared to be surging further ahead in the contest today as he moved near to 150 Tory MPs publicly supporting him today.

His leadership bid was further bolstered by the backing of former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who is popular on the Tory Right, and her close ally Steve Baker.

Grant Shapps, who replaced Ms Braverman as Home Secretary following her resignation this week, and Work and Pensions Secretary Chloe Smith also gave their support to Mr Sunak. 

And Armed Forces and Veterans Secretary James Heappey also this evening tweeted his support, saying: ‘I’ve been agonising all weekend knowing that our choice as next PM must bring together our divided party and restore stability to our Government. 

‘All wings of our party will need to work together after contest to achieve that but I’m supporting Rishi Sunak to lead us in doing so.’  

Earlier this evening, WhatsApp messages sent to supporters of the former PM are understood to have said that ‘all the paperwork’ had been completed to ensure he would appear on the ballot to replace Liz Truss.

Chris Heaton-Harris, Northern Ireland Secretary, wrote: ‘OK everyone! Some very good news!. Thanks to all your hard work I can confirm we have completed all the paperwork (verified all nominations, with proposer and seconder) to be on the ballot tomorrow.

‘Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! More to follow, but thank you!!!!’

The message, seen by the Sun and Bloomberg, came despite Mr Johnson only having had 57 publicly-declared backers.

Candidates need 100 nominations from Tory MPs by 2pm tomorrow if they are to remain in contention ahead of a final poll of party members.

Even last night, Mr Johnson’s campaign was sharing a memo outlining the results of five recent polls that suggested he has the best chance of saving the Tories from electoral wipe-out.

The four-page document listed the results of surveys by leading pollsters indicating he would narrow the gap between Labour and the Tories, compared to Mr Sunak. It was titled Five Polls In The Last Five Days That Show That Boris Johnson Is The Best Chance The Conservatives Have At Avoiding Electoral Wipe-out.

Mr Johnson loyalist Michael Fabricant also joined claims his support had met the threshold, adding: ‘Boris WILL go to the membership. He has exceeded the 100 certified supporters.’

But fellow Tory MP Richard Holden questioned the claims, tweeting: ‘Very odd to brief this out again… (2 days in a row) It’s what they briefed yesterday.

‘What a strange thing to do… Wonder why you’d do it… It’s almost as if they still need people and are desperate to show momentum, which they can’t because no-one will publicly come out.’

Mr Fabricant then followed up on his earlier tweet to reveal his disappointment at Mr Johnson’s decision to no longer run, adding that he is now backing Ms Mordaunt.

He said: ‘I am deeply disappointed that Boris has chosen not to stand. I shall now nominate #PM4PM to let the members of our great Party decide who should be our Leader and next Prime Minister. I abhor political coronations. They invariably get it wrong.’ 

Mr Sunak, meanwhile, has vowed to ‘work day in and day out to get the job done’ as as the UK faces a ‘profound economic crisis’.

He has also promised to lead a Government with ‘integrity, professionalism and accountability’ if he is confirmed as the new PM tomorrow.

Mr Sunak officially launched his PM bid in a Twitter post, as he promised to'fix our economy, unite our party and deliver for our country'

Mr Sunak officially launched his PM bid in a Twitter post, as he promised to ‘fix our economy, unite our party and deliver for our country’

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Rishi Sunak's campaign received a major boost when prominent Brexiteer Steve Baker gave his support to the former Chancellor

Rishi Sunak’s campaign received a major boost when prominent Brexiteer Steve Baker gave his support to the former Chancellor

It comes after Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak met at 8pm on Saturday night, where the ex-PM is said to have told his former Chancellor that – if he re-entered No10 with Mr Sunak in a senior role – it would avoid a divisive battle.

But it was subsequently claimed this morning that no agreement had been struck between the pair following negotiations that last around three hours.

Mr Johnson earlier claimed ‘Boris 2.0’ had ‘learned from those mistakes’ he made during his first spell in No10 and would lead the Tories to ‘victory and prosperity’. 

Allies revealed a ‘smartly dressed’ Mr Johnson was on ‘good form’ as he ploughed on with his comeback bid this morning in a meeting with supporters. 

His hopes of a return also gained further traction today when Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and Nadhim Zahawi, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, both declared their support.

But Mr Johnson suffered a blow when prominent Brexiteer Steve Baker gave his support to Mr Sunak and warned Tory MPs against putting the former premier back in Downing Street.

The Northern Ireland minister, who backed Ms Truss over Mr Sunak in this summer’s leadership contest, claimed a Boris comeback would be a ‘guaranteed disaster’.

‘This isn’t the time for Boris and his style,’ Mr Baker told Sky News, as he claimed the parliamentary Partygate probe hanging over Mr Johnson’s head would see his premiership ‘implode’.

He warned a ‘large number’ of Tories would refuse to ‘lay down their integrity to save’ Mr Johnson in a House of Commons vote over whether he misled MPs on Covid rule-breaking in No10, which is being investigated by the Privileges Committee.

Meanwhile, Mr Sunak officially confirmed his candidacy in a Twitter post yesterday morning, as he promised to ‘fix our economy, unite our party and deliver for our country’.

He wrote: ‘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.

‘I have the track record of delivery, a clear plan to fix the biggest problems we face and I will deliver on the promise of the 2019 manifesto.

‘There will be integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level of the government I lead and I will work day in and day out to get the job done.

‘I am asking you for the opportunity to help fix our problems. To lead our party and country forwards towards the next general election, confident in our record, firm in our convictions and ready to lead again.’

Mrs Braverman, who dramatically quit as Home Secretary the day before Ms Truss’s premiership collapsed, backed Mr Sunak as ‘a leader who will put our house in order and apply a steady, careful hand on the tiller’.

She wrote in the Telegraph: ‘I have backed Boris from the start. From running alongside him in London in 2012, to supporting him to be our leader in 2019 and willing him to succeed throughout the travails of this year. His resignation in July was a loss for our country.

‘But we are in dire straits now. We need unity, stability and efficiency. Rishi is the only candidate that fits the bill and I am proud to support him.’

And Mr Shapps added: ‘We need someone who can provide stability and proven economic competence in these challenging times, and Rishi Sunak is that person.’

DOMINIC LAWSON: The Tory faithful may prefer Boris Johnson – but Rishi Sunak is the real Right-winger

So Rishi Sunak has won the contest of unfeasible comebacks. Boris Johnson has abandoned his own remarkable attempt to return to 10 Downing Street within months of being booted out by his own MPs.

But it is a scarcely less improbable —and in this case, successful — comeback for Rishi Sunak, now set to be Prime Minister. It was only last month that he was rejected by the Conservative Party’s membership in favour of Liz Truss.

When I saw the former Chancellor at his small parliamentary office last Tuesday, he was trying to come to terms with the speed with which everything had fallen apart for the woman who beat him to the top job only last month. 

When it comes to the matter of lockdowns, it was Rishi Sunak who was, in the Cabinet, the most persistent in warning not to overdo it. His Eat Out To Help Out scheme was a manifestation of his desire to get the country back to normal life as soon as possible

When it comes to the matter of lockdowns, it was Rishi Sunak who was, in the Cabinet, the most persistent in warning not to overdo it. His Eat Out To Help Out scheme was a manifestation of his desire to get the country back to normal life as soon as possible

And he still did not know whether he would fight afresh for an opportunity which he never imagined would come again, or at least definitely not this side of a General Election.

He certainly wasn’t taking an ‘I told you so’ attitude — even though he had predicted exactly what would happen if a Tory Government adopted what, during that leadership election, he denounced as ‘fairytale economics’.

He warned presciently that a policy of massive unfunded tax cuts would cause interest rates to spike upwards, to the great cost of mortgage holders.

Jibe

Truss and Sunak had competed for the accolade of the ‘true Thatcherite’ — always the key to the good opinion of Tory Party members. Misleadingly, Truss’s gender made her seem the more plausible candidate for that honour.

But as I reminded readers last week, my father Nigel Lawson, Thatcher’s tax-cutting Chancellor, warned in July how his 1988 Budget had done that only after the Government had eradicated the public sector borrowing requirement and insisted: ‘Sunak is the only candidate who understands Thatcherite economics.’

For his pains, Sunak was described by Jacob Rees-Mogg, during a Cabinet meeting after he had quit No 11, as ‘the late lamented socialist Chancellor’.

Yet the principal reason for Sunak’s resignation was that he could not support Boris Johnson’s determination to embark on a version of what later became Truss’s fiscally incontinent strategy. This was clear from his resignation statement: ‘Our people know that if something is too good to be true, then it’s not true.’

I discussed Rees-Mogg’s jibe with a Treasury official, who was incredulous: ‘Rishi is seriously Right-wing.’ And then he added: ‘More than Boris Johnson.’

Truss and Sunak had competed for the accolade of the ¿true Thatcherite¿ ¿ always the key to the good opinion of Tory Party members. Misleadingly, Truss¿s gender made her seem the more plausible candidate for that honour

Truss and Sunak had competed for the accolade of the ‘true Thatcherite’ — always the key to the good opinion of Tory Party members. Misleadingly, Truss’s gender made her seem the more plausible candidate for that honour

Yet it seems to be Conservative members on what might loosely be described as on the Right of the party who appear to regard Sunak as ‘unsound’ but see Boris Johnson as a man after their own hearts.

Doubtless there are many such members of the party now furious that Rishi Sunak has, in effect, been forced on them by the decision of the Parliamentary party, which overwhelmingly backed the ex-Chancellor.

When you look at the long-term records of the two men, this view among party members doesn’t make sense. While he was at Oxford University, Johnson dallied with the then fashionable SDP (the new Social Democratic Party of Roy Jenkins and Shirley Williams, who abandoned Labour partly in protest at its advocacy of quitting the European Community).

Sunak was a precocious Tory who, in the wake of Tony Blair’s triumph in the 1997 General Election, complained in The Wykehamist (the magazine of his public school, Winchester): ‘He revels in the label of patriot, but has plans for the possible break-up of the United Kingdom and membership of an eventual European Superstate.’

As I reminded readers last week, my father Nigel Lawson, Thatcher¿s tax-cutting Chancellor, warned in July how his 1988 Budget had done that only after the Government had eradicated the public sector borrowing requirement and insisted: ¿Sunak is the only candidate who understands Thatcherite economics'

As I reminded readers last week, my father Nigel Lawson, Thatcher’s tax-cutting Chancellor, warned in July how his 1988 Budget had done that only after the Government had eradicated the public sector borrowing requirement and insisted: ‘Sunak is the only candidate who understands Thatcherite economics’

Sunak’s decision to campaign for Brexit as an MP was therefore entirely consistent with his long-held euroscepticism. And I noticed, while in his office last week, that prominent on one of its walls was a framed front page headline of a pro-Brexit newspaper from the first day of the referendum campaign: ‘Beleave in Britain’.

Sunak’s pioneering of the furlough scheme is one reason given by some in the party for regarding him as a socialist in Tory clothing.

Well, under Donald Trump the U.S. embarked on a far more costly scheme to protect the incomes of working people during the economic havoc caused by the first wave of Covid 19, and I don’t hear anyone describing The Donald as a leftie.

Lockdowns

When it comes to the matter of lockdowns, it was Rishi Sunak who was, in the Cabinet, the most persistent in warning not to overdo it. His Eat Out To Help Out scheme was a manifestation of his desire to get the country back to normal life as soon as possible. He declared that everyone ‘must learn to live with it and live without fear’.

And it was Sunak who broke off a long-delayed family holiday in December 2021, and flew 5,000 miles back from California, when he heard that Boris Johnson was set to impose a second Christmas lockdown.

This was after the outbreak of the Omicron variant, a much more transmissible form of the virus than any yet seen. The Government’s medical advisers were warning of the need to introduce another wave of mandatory restrictions on social life, and Johnson was leaning towards their view.

Sunak, as The Mail on Sunday reported a month later, ‘went straight [from the airport] to Number 10 to see the Prime Minister, who … was preparing to use a press conference that weekend to impose new restrictions on social interactions.

So, in the light of all these areas where Sunak appears to be more to the Right on the most pressing issues, why is it that many Tory Party members who would share his policy approach instead seem to think Boris Johnson more their sort of politician?

So, in the light of all these areas where Sunak appears to be more to the Right on the most pressing issues, why is it that many Tory Party members who would share his policy approach instead seem to think Boris Johnson more their sort of politician?

Sunak insisted that the data did not justify such draconian action. This was because he observed that the data from South Africa, where Omicron began, showed the mortality rate to be much lower than from previous variants.

This point hadn’t been taken in by Boris Johnson, whose many talents do not include a forensic attention to detail — the polar opposite of Sunak.

In this context, it is unsurprising that Lord (David) Frost, who supported the then Chancellor in that Cabinet debate on whether to reimpose Covid restrictions, last week backed Sunak and not Johnson.

Then there is the matter of net-zero carbon emissions and the speed with which the UK should ‘go Green’. While Boris Johnson was gung-ho for this — declaring that the UK would become ‘the Saudi Arabia of wind power’, Rishi Sunak was much less so. Indeed, after his last Tory Conference speech as Chancellor, as the Politico website observed: ‘He failed to mention climate once.’

Shameful

More recently, Sunak has advocated the removal of the moratorium on onshore gas exploration and production (‘fracking’). Whereas Johnson, in his final week as PM, before Liz Truss took over, pointedly criticised such a liberalisation: ‘Tell everyone who thinks … we should get fracking and all that: offshore wind is entirely Green and clean.’

So, in the light of all these areas where Sunak appears to be more to the Right on the most pressing issues, why is it that many Tory Party members who would share his policy approach instead seem to think Boris Johnson more their sort of politician?

Perhaps a clue came over the weekend on Sangita Myska’s LBC radio phone-in show. A man called Jerry, from Lowestoft, who claimed to be a Conservative Party member and the son of a former constituency party chairman, said he would ‘vote for Boris’ in any party ballot and added: ‘Rishi’s not going to win it. Rishi is not even British…He doesn’t love England like Boris does.’

Pressed by Ms Myska that Rishi Sunak was born and educated in this country, Jerry wasn’t having it: ‘Having a British passport doesn’t mean you are a true British patriot . . . 85 per cent of the English are white English people and they want a Prime Minister that reflects them.’

Your standard racist, in other words.

We don’t know if ‘Jerry’ from Lowestoft is, as he claimed, a Conservative Party member. But when I asked a friend who is a member and voted for Sunak in the last leadership election, he said he thought that ‘around 10 per cent’ of the membership might ‘be biased against Sunak’ on such grounds, even if they would never express it publicly.

The idea that Sunak may be Right enough, but not white enough, for some party members, is shameful.

Thank goodness it never came to that.

STEPHEN GLOVER: Britain is poised to get what it needs – a leader around whom warring Tory factions can settle and coalesce

So it has happened. After all the various claims from the Boris Johnson camp, their man has dropped out of the latest Tory leadership race. Rishi Sunak is effectively Prime Minister.

It is of course sad for Boris, but by a wide margin the best outcome for the country. The prospect of Rishi and Boris Johnson going down to the wire was a deeply alarming one.

Britain has got what it so sorely needs — a clear result, around which warring Tory factions can, with luck, settle and coalesce. A deal between the two candidates was never on the cards.

The danger was that Rishi would easily win the vote among Tory MPs but that the result would be reversed in the ballot of Conservative Party members. There could have been a stand-off in which some of Mr Sunak’s supporters refused to accept Mr Johnson as leader.

Now that Boris Johnson has dropped out of the latest Tory leadership race, Rishi Sunak is effectively Prime Minister

Now that Boris Johnson has dropped out of the latest Tory leadership race, Rishi Sunak is effectively Prime Minister

That would have led to chaos, and the inevitable fall of the Government — followed by a landslide Labour victory. The Tories might have been finished for a generation. Now there is some hope.

For all Boris’s qualities, the truth is that Rishi was the stronger of the two contestants. I discount Penny Mordaunt as being inexperienced, and very possibly (like Liz Truss) not up to the job.

In different, happier circumstances, Boris might have deserved another chance. He is a man of immense and unusual gifts — as well as considerable flaws — whom it is not easy to reject. Yet this turbulent and divisive man shouldn’t now be leader of our country.

Britain is in a mess. Putin has created an energy crisis. The pandemic has thrown the public finances into disarray. And for the past few weeks Liz Truss has taken us on a mad, and wholly unnecessary, white-knuckle ride on a big dipper that has further frayed our already jangled nerves.

What most of us long for, I submit, is calm, stability and competence — which is what Rishi Sunak offers. He understands numbers and economics — which Boris emphatically does not.

Somehow the sight on Saturday of the blond bombshell bounding off his aeroplane at Gatwick made me yearn for peace and quiet. So did that picture yesterday of the rather manic-looking ex-prime minister, with one thumb in the air and a pugnacious expression inviting us to join him on the next phase of his journey. Not for me, thank you. Not now.

The prospect of Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson going down to the wire was a deeply alarming one

The prospect of Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson going down to the wire was a deeply alarming one 

Whereas Rishi’s presence in No 10 will soothe the markets, the sight of the free-spending Boris back in his old job would have rattled them. Rishi offers us hope that this convulsive period in our national life — which has lasted pretty much since the 2016 EU Referendum — might not go on for ever.

To be specific: Mr Sunak has a chance of re-uniting the Tory Party, and healing some of its wounds, because, unlike Boris, he is not viscerally hated by a sizeable chunk of its MPs. This is a crucial point in his favour.

Moreover, although Rishi is often said, wrongly I think, to be on the Left of the party, he has attracted the support of several key figures on the Right, including rising star Kemi Badenoch, Steve Baker, Suella Braverman and Boris’s former chum, Lord Frost. All of them are solid Brexiteers.

Consider this point. If Rishi Sunak were the Establishment patsy that his detractors have alleged, I don’t believe he would have backed Brexit in 2016. As a young MP who had only been in Parliament a year, he had much to lose by offending the pro-Remain party hierarchy.

Naturally, I don’t think he’s perfect. As Chancellor during the pandemic, he was chiefly responsible for the furlough scheme, which covered 80 per cent of salaries up to a cap of £2,500 a month. It lasted too long and was too generous. Tens of billions were squandered on other ill-conceived Covid measures such as Test and Trace or lost to fraud.

Some of the £400 billion Covid debt that has been built up — in proportion to the size of Britain’s economy, one of the largest in the world — could have been avoided with more prudent management.

I discount Penny Mordaunt as being inexperienced, and very possibly (like Liz Truss) not up to the job

I discount Penny Mordaunt as being inexperienced, and very possibly (like Liz Truss) not up to the job

But as Prime Minister at the time, Boris Johnson should also accept responsibility for this extravagance. In fact, he was a more fervent evangeliser for lockdown than Mr Sunak, who resisted calls for a third misguided episode last December after the Omicron variant was detected.

Another error that can reasonably be laid at Rishi’s door is the rise earlier this year in National Insurance. Its recent reversal is virtually the only positive achievement of Liz Truss’s administration.

Britain was the only major economy to raise taxes in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic and with an energy crisis looming. That was Rishi’s decision, with Boris, despite some qualms, offering covering fire.

My argument is not that everything that Mr Sunak has touched has turned to gold. He was a competent rather than an outstanding Chancellor. But he has shown that he understands the markets, and correctly forecast their panicky reaction to Liz Truss’s unfunded tax cuts.

By the way, one argument sometimes deployed against Rishi — namely that he was Boris’s ruthless assassin — is overdone. Didn’t Margaret Thatcher connive in the removal of Ted Heath as PM, and indeed Boris Johnson in the defenestration of Theresa May?

It is admittedly true that Mr Sunak is an unknown quantity as the occupant of No 10, whereas Boris’s strengths and defects are known to all of us. The truth is that Rishi hasn’t been given the opportunity to show he can be an effective national leader. It is a risk we have to take, as we do with all new prime ministers.

For the past few weeks Liz Truss has taken us on a mad, and wholly unnecessary, white-knuckle ride on a big dipper

For the past few weeks Liz Truss has taken us on a mad, and wholly unnecessary, white-knuckle ride on a big dipper

Ah, I hear some Boris supporters say, what about the polls over the weekend suggesting that Boris would do better than Rishi against Sir Keir Starmer? My answer is that no one can know. How well Mr Sunak does in two years’ time will be determined by how successfully he grapples with the daunting economic problems that face us.

It was far too early for Boris Johnson to return, though his time could conceivably come again. His failings are fresh in the electorate’s mind, and his achievements not yet sufficiently treasured. The admittedly biased Commons committee investigating whether he misled the House has barely begun its inquiries.

At a moment when the country craves stability, the return of Boris Johnson would have brought more tumult and discord. I don’t doubt he would have done some things right if given the chance, but he was too divisive a figure to run this country in its present disrupted condition.

If he and Rishi had been able to make a deal and unite the Tory Party, that would obviously have been splendid. But it wasn’t realistic. Rishi couldn’t contemplate being subservient to Boris, and Boris was unable to imagine being inferior to Rishi.

Now that Rishi Sunak is on track to become the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, there is a hope — I put it no more strongly — of measured, stable government. The Conservative Party has an infinitely better chance of holding together than it would have done if Boris Johnson had won.

This country has been crying out for calm and competence. Rishi Sunak is the only person who can bring our long national nervous breakdown to an end.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11347765/Rishi-Sunak-verge-named-PM-TODAY.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Rishi Sunak on the verge of being named the next PM TODAY