Boris Johnson pulls out from UK Tory leadership race
Former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pulled out of the Tory party leadership race, thus paving a path to the UK premiership for his former chancellor Rishi Sunak, currently the contest’s favorite.
In a statement released on Sunday evening, Johnson said that he had cleared “the very high hurdle of 102 nominations” from MPs and could “indeed be back in Downing Street on Friday,” and would be “well placed” to bring his party a victory at the 2024 general election.
"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,” Johnson explained.
He revealed that he had reached out to both current leadership candidates – his former chancellor Rishi Sunak and his former defense secretary Penny Mordaunt – hoping to “come together in the national interest.” However, the former head of government explained, “a way of doing this” has not been found.
“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,” he announced.
Johnson’s statement came on a day when some of his long-time allies, including Suella Braverman, who'd served as an Attorney General in his government, backed Sunak.
The deadline for entering the Conservative Party leadership contest will pass at 2pm on Monday. Sunak is now leading, with more than 140 supporters publicly backing him, while Penny Mordaunt has just over 20 endorsements.
If Mordaunt or any other candidate also reaches the 100 votes threshold, the race will go to an electronic vote by Conservative Party members. If Sunak remains the only candidate to pass the benchmark, he will be declared the next Prime Minister on Monday.
Johnson’s decision to pull out from the race will apparently come as a disappointment for many members of the Tory party. A recent YouGov survey revealed that 32% of respondents would like Johnson to return as prime minister, despite a series of scandals and cabinet resignations that ultimately precipitated his departure.
Sunak, according to the poll, significantly lags his former boss in popularity: only 23% of 530 Tory respondents voiced support for him.