Former Boris allies throw their support behind Rishi – ‘our best bet’

Sunak will ‘need 150 votes’ says Lord Archer

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It came as a group of Tory MPs elected for the first time in 2019 declared that only Mr Sunak can save their seats, dismissing suggestions that only Mr Johnson is capable of winning in the so-called red wall areas.

Mr Sunak, who on Friday became the first candidate to receive the required 100 nominations from Tory MPs, last night won the backing of Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch.

She said: “Rishi Sunak is the man for the job. 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 chancellor also won the backing of ex-Brexit Minister Lord Frost, previously a staunch Johnson ally.

The Conservative peer 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 and confusion of the last year. The Tory Party must get behind a capable leader who can deliver a Conservative programme. That is Rishi Sunak.”

Lord Frost was the UK’s chief negotiator for exiting the EU during the Brexit negotiations in 2019, working hand in glove with Mr Johnson, and went on to lead negotiations on an EU free trade agreement.

Mr Sunak also gained the endorsement of Dominic Raab, who was Mr Johnson’s deputy prime minister and remained loyal when other Cabinet colleagues stormed out in a series of mass resignations in July. Mr Raab said: “Nobody stood by Boris more than me as his deputy. I’m fond of him personally.”

But he highlighted the ongoing inquiry by the House of Commons Privileges Committee into suggestions Mr Johnson lied to the Commons over Downing Street parties, saying: “He’s going to face the next stage of the committee on privileges and conduct hearing, oral testimony from him and from witnesses.

“I think the country needs a prime minister who is focused 100 percent on them. I don’t see, as a practical matter, that can be Boris if he is dealing with all those issues.”

David Davis, a former Brexit minister, also backed Mr Sunak, saying: “This is no time for experiments and wild gambles. I do not believe the next leader should be Boris Johnson. The last few months of his premiership were a total mess and caused great damage to the party and the country.”

Mr Johnson’s former Chief of Staff Steve Barclay has also endorsed Mr Sunak. In a tweet, the MP for North East Cambridgeshire said: “I’m backing Rishi Sunak to be leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister. Our country faces significant economic challenges and Rishi is best placed to address this.”

In another boost for Mr Sunak, Charles Moore, a friend and long-time supporter of Mr Johnson, urged the former Prime Minister to “sit this one out”.

He said in a newspaper column: “I don’t see it working right now.” And he pointed out that Mr Sunak had issued warnings about economic plans set out by former PM Liz Truss which had since been proved right.

Meanwhile, a group of MPs who entered Parliament for the first time in Mr Johnson’s 2019 landslide election victory issued a joint statement warning: “Only Rishi will win us back our seats in 2024.” They claimed constituents “simply won’t forgive us” if Mr Johnson returns as leader.

The former PM’s “Heineken” ability to appeal to voters that other Conservatives cannot reach was credited for his party’s election success three years ago, which delivered the Tories an 80-seat majority.

But critics claim he has lost his magic touch following claims he broke Covid rules with parties in Number 10 while the rest of the country endured lockdowns.

In a statement signed by five red wall MPs, they said: “We were all elected for the first time in the Conservative landslide of 2019 – which sent the Lib Dems and the Corbynista second referendum brigade packing. We supported – and still support now – that once-in-a-generation manifesto that pledged to transform our roads, railways, schools and hospitals.

“The right person to continue delivering on that agenda, and the person to ensure we return a Conservative majority at the next election, is Rishi Sunak.”

They warned: “Although it was Boris who helped us win that 2019 election, as a party and a country we have faced too much turbulence. Our constituents won’t put up with any more of the Westminster drama.

“And that is exactly what we’d get with the impending Privileges Committee investigation. It would feel like groundhog day.”

Those signing the statement included Richard Holden, MP for North West Durham, Miriam Cates, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, James Daly, who represents Bury North in Greater Manchester, Siobhan Baillie, MP for Stroud in Gloucestershire, and Fay Jones, MP for Brecon and Radnorshire.

However another prominent red wall politician, Lee Anderson, declared his support for Mr Johnson.

The Tory MP for Ashfield posted online: “My choice. Boris Johnson just called me. We have had a long chat about everything past and present. Boris has my support.”

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