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Rishi Sunak WILL be the next PM: Penny Mordaunt drops out of Tory race

Rishi Sunak is on the verge of getting the keys to Downing Street today after Penny Mordaunt followed Boris Johnson in dropping out of the  leadership race.

Mr Sunak has been named the new Tory chief – and the incoming PM – after his sole remaining rival Ms Mordaunt failed to make the threshold of 100 nominations needed to trigger a run-off.

To banging of desks in a Commons committee room, 1922 committee chair Sir Graham Brady said he had received one valid form. ‘Rishi Sunak is therefore elected as leader of the Conservative Party.’

The new premier will make a speech at Parliament at 2.30pm, and could be installed as PM as early as tomorrow – or possibly even tonight. 

Mr Sunak received public backing from over 190 Tory MPs – well over half the total – racking up more numbers as prominent supporters of Mr Johnson jumped on the bandwagon. They included senior figures such as James Cleverly, Brandon Lewis, Simon Clarke, Iain Duncan Smith, Priti Patel, and Nadhim Zahawi. 

Mr Sunak will be the country’s first non-white premier, and at 42 the youngest since the Napoleonic Wars.

Ms Mordaunt sounded defiance up until moments before the announcement, with allies claiming she had more than 90 supporters even though only 25 were publicly declared.

However, in a statement at 1.58pm Ms Mordaunt tweeted to admit she could not take the contest to the next phase. ‘Rishi has my full support,’ she posted.

Earlier, Tory MP George Freeman, a key figure in her campaign, broke ranks to make clear she should now stand aside.

‘Penny Mordaunt is a huge force for Conservatism; with the life-story, vision and courage to help lead a Conservative revival. I’m proud to support her,’ he tweeted.

‘But given the urgent need for Conservative stability and unity this week, I’m urging her to join and back Rishi Sunak today.’

A senior Conservative warned that Ms Mordaunt was running out of time to get leverage, saying she seemed to be demanding a key role for her campaign chief Andrea Leadsom. 

‘It’s insane. I know at the least one person has texted her and said ”for your own dignity withdraw”,’ the MP said.

‘I can only assume that Penny is trying to leverage a job not just for herself – which wouldn’t be a problem – but for Andrea Leadsom or someone else… She must owe someone.’  

Meanwhile, the Brexiteer ERG group and the moderate One Nation group have refused to endorse either candidate.    

The breakneck developments appear to have cooled the markets, in what is being branded a ‘dullness dividend’. Government borrowing costs have eased, the Pound has rallied, and expectations for interest rates are more than a percentage point lower than after the mini-Budget. 

However, the challenge Mr Sunak 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 drive 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 and Priti Patel have also lined up behind Mr Sunak, urging the party to unite and take the fight to Labour.  

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;
  • Keir Starmer has renewed his demand for a general election slamming the ‘chaotic, ridiculous circus’ at the top of the Tories, and goading Mr Johnson for failing to ‘get the numbers’ to stand;  
  • 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 has been named as the new Prime Minister today after Boris Johnson sensationally dropped out of the Tory leadership race last night

Ms Mordaunt sounded defiance up until moments before the announcement, with allies claiming she had more than 90 supporters even though only 25 were publicly declared

The Leader of the House of Commons was the final barrier to Mr Sunak getting the keys to No10

Ms Mordaunt sounded defiance up until moments before the announcement, with allies claiming she had more than 90 supporters even though only 25 were publicly declared

Graham Brady, the chair of the powerful backbench 1922 committee, made the announcement at Parliament today

Graham Brady, the chair of the powerful backbench 1922 committee, made the announcement at Parliament today 

Brandon Lewis backed Mr Sunak today

Cabinet minister Simon Clarke also lined up behind him

Brandon Lewis backed Mr Sunak today as fellow Cabinet minister Simon Clarke (right) also lined up behind him 

Mr Sunak was endorsed by another former Boris Johnson supporter, Priti Patel, today

Mr Sunak was endorsed by another former Boris Johnson supporter, Priti Patel, today

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 off 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.  

In his 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. ‘

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's statement conceding the leadership contest

Mr Johnson claimed he had reached the ‘very high hurdle of 102 nominations’ and believed there was a ‘very good chance’ he would have won the leadership contest – but pulled out anyway

A jubilant Sunak-backing MP told MailOnline: ‘I’ve known him since 1995: he never changes. He’s too thin skinned to be brave.’ 

There had been predictions that Mr Johnson would stand aside rather than be ‘Frank Sinatra on a comeback tour playing half-empty theatres’.   

A Cabinet source said the ‘writing was on the wall’ for the ex-PM after a day of bluster about his level of support.

Markets surge after Boris quits Tory leader race 

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

This morning, the value of Sterling climbed as high as $1.1401 against the dollar in early Asia trading, amid expectations the former Chancellor could become Prime Minister today. 

Meanwhile the gilt market cooled, making it cheaper for the Government to borrow money. The interest rate on a 30-year UK Treasury gilt fell by nearly 0.2 percentage points to about 3.9 per cent. 

Commenting on the pound’s rise after weeks of weakness against the dollar, experts said a government led by Mr Sunak seemed ‘more welcome for stability’.

Mr Johnson dramatically pulled out of the contest last night, saying that continuing his bid for a return was ‘simply not the right thing to do’, citing the need to ‘unite’ the party.

The only other candidate in the running is Penny Mordaunt, but the Commons Leader has only secured 26 backers and needs 100 MPs on her side by 2pm to continue in the race.   

One Tory veteran pointed to Mr Zahawi being hung out to dry by the withdrawal happening minutes after his article was published. ‘Boris and his team can’t see beyond Boris,’ they said. ‘No sense of wider team, strategy, long term objective. Pure narcissism.’ 

Within 20 minutes Mr Zahawi, who served as Chancellor in the final days of Mr Johnson’s premiership, was endorsing 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.’

Another gloomy Cabinet source told MailOnline the move meant the Tories might not disintegrate immediately, but the election would still be a disaster. ‘The party is still going to eat itself,’ they said. ‘We will be taking the pain for the ‘mini-budget’ for years.’ 

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.’ 

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.’

Keir Starmer said he put his head in his hands at the prospect of Boris Johnson running again for No 10.

The Labour leader said his ‘first sentiment’ on hearing Mr Johnson had ruled himself out of the race was that ‘he didn’t have the numbers’ required to secure a spot on the Tory ballot.

Mr Sunak hailed the departure of Mr Johnson from the leadership race last night - hinting that he could have a foreign policy job in future

Mr Sunak hailed the departure of Mr Johnson from the leadership race last night – hinting that he could have a foreign policy job in future

Nadhim Zahawi executed a bewilderingly fast switch to back Mr Sunak after Mr Johnson pulled out

Nadhim Zahawi executed a bewilderingly fast switch to back Mr Sunak after Mr Johnson pulled out 

Speaking to LBC, Sir Keir said he was dismayed when he heard of Mr Johnson’s ambitions to return to the frontline.

‘When he first said that he was going to run, and everybody was sort of rallying around, I did put my head in my hands and think, so, really, we’re going to go from the prime minister who’s just crashed the economy… back to the guy that only… months ago, most of us were saying was unfit for office,’ he said.

‘It was never going to work, I don’t think.’

He added: ‘The less time now spent on this sort of chaotic, ridiculous circus at the top of the Tory party, the better.’

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’

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.

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