Nadine Dorries warns ‘all hell will break loose’
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Backers warned they may not support the former premier again after he abandoned his bid to return to No10.
But ex-culture secretary Nadine Dorries said his withdrawal on Sunday “doesn’t mean it’s the end for Boris Johnson” and he stepped back “for the right reasons”.
She said his supporters were “very keen that we have unity in the party” and would be “very keen to back a candidate to make that happen”.
Home Secretary Grant Shapps said despite having been a “very impressive” PM, Mr Johnson “did the right thing” in pulling out of the race.
Following high-profile support for new PM Rishi Sunak from all Tory wings, Mr Johnson said he would not be able to unite the party enough to govern effectively.
Last night, former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said Mr Johnson had been “begging people for votes” in a “demeaning” leadership race before withdrawing.
But prominent Johnson ally Nigel Adams said 1922 Committee joint secretary Bob Blackman “confirmed” to him that the ex-PM was “above” the 100-MP vote threshold to run. Mr Adams added: “Therefore, Mr Johnson could have proceeded to the ballot had he chosen to do so.”
However, scores of backbenchers indicated they would not back Mr Johnson again.
MP Michael Fabricant said: “I feel bitterly disappointed. I know a number of people in his team not only feel disappointed, they feel betrayed. They feel they have been led to the top of a hill fighting for him, got that 100, and now he’s stood down.
“I understand his reasons, but this is the second time this has happened. I don’t know how many people would support him a third time. It is a great shame.”
Another MP said of Mr Johnson, who flew back from a Caribbean holiday to launch his challenge, said: “If I f****** see him, he better hope he’s got a quick flight back the Dominican Republic. What a s***.”
Mr Johnson informed MPs he was quitting the race in a Zoom video call late on Sunday. One said: “I didn’t [publicly endorse him], but the ones who did begged him to reconsider.
“Looking at the attendance on Zoom, he did have the numbers, but he believed he could not unite the party as he could not strike a deal with Rishi [Sunak] or Penny [Mordaunt].”
Mr Johnson’s former spokesman, Will Walden, said: “The only people he has let down this time are the 50 or so colleagues who went public and went over the top for him.
“A lot of them clearly are angry at meaningless promises.” Predicting Mr Johnson “won’t be back”, Mr Walden said he had “gone with very little grace”, having “further destabilised the party, albeit briefly”.
And he expressed sympathy for Mr Johnson’s leading supporter, MP Sir James Duddridge, who tweeted after he quit: “Well that was unexpected.”
Mr Walden said: “James Duddridge, poor guy…Boris was messaging him on the way back from the Caribbean, “Come on Dudders, let’s go for it”. All the usual nonsense. I thought from the beginning it was all rubbish.”
Ms Dorries said there were “hours of conversations” between Mr Johnson, Mr Sunak and Ms Mordaunt to agree on a unified solution.
But she said the remaining candidates “declined to come together” and chose to “go on their own path”.
Members of Mr Sunak’s campaign team said they convinced many MPs who had declared their support for Mr Johnson to back the ex-chancellor.
One Sunak supporter said: “There are people who feel they owe their career to Boris and are terrified of losing their seats.
“They felt they had to come out publicly for him, but privately said they would vote for Rishi.”
Sources said yesterday they were delighted Mr Sunak’s campaign picked off “Borisites” who had accepted now was not the right time for their political hero to return.
Ms Mordaunt said Mr Johnson had put “country before party” by deciding against running.
She said: “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.”
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