Boris takes early lead in race for Downing St
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Boris Johnson has taken an early lead among Tory MPs to replace Liz Truss as Prime minister following her humiliating resignation after just 44 days in power.
Tory MPs are declaring their support for a preferred candidate and Mr Johnson is on course for a spectacular return to Downing Street.
He has 62 backers, with main rival Rishi Sunak on 58 and Penny Mordaunt on 20, according to the political website Guido Fawkes.
The party requires candidates to secure nominations from 100 MPs to get on the ballot. It means that a maximum of three are likely to go forward.
Nominations will close at 2pm on Monday and the final two candidates will go head-to-head in an online vote by party members next Friday when the new leader will be announced.
Despite Mr Johnson’s early lead, there are doubts whether he will garner enough support to reach the threshold.
Supporters who are willing to forgive him the misdemeanours that forced him out of office say he has a mandate for government and is the Tories’ best hope of challenging Labour. Some have speculated that as many as 140 out of the 357 Conservative MPs could line up behind him – making him all-but unstoppable.
However, the prospect of Mr Johnson’s return is unlikely to help the Tories’ or unionists’ cause in Scotland where he was deeply unpopular.
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack initially appeared on the list backing Boris Johnson but his name was later removed. Scottish Tory leader, Douglas Ross, opposed him over the Dominic Cummings affair, then backed him in his campaign of support for Ukraine. Andrew Bowie is supporting Rishi Sunak, while John Lamont is behind Penny Mordaunt.
Opinion polls show the Scottish Tories on course to lose every seat in Scotland and there is concern within the party that if Mr Johnson does return to Downing Street it will seal their fate.
Former Chancellor Mr Sunak is expected to spend the weekend drumming up support. He also divides the party between those who see him as being wrongly denied by Ms Truss and others who will not forgive him for bringing down Mr Johnson.
Miss Mordaunt, the Leader of the Commons, came third in the summer leadership campaign and gave an assured performance at the despatch box on Monday when she stood in for the absent Prime Minister.
However, the former defence secretary previously faced criticism for her ‘woke’ views on trans rights, and was warned against running by colleagues.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and newly-appointed Home Secretary Grant Shapps have ruled themselves out of the race.
Amid calls from opposition leaders for an immediate general election, business leaders have warned that the situation has become untenable and is scaring off investors who are not prepared to put their money into such a feverish and unstable environment.
However, the pound rose slightly ahead of Ms Truss making her announcement and there were signs of greater calm in the markets whose response to the mini-budget prompted the crisis in Downing Street.
Tony Danker, CBI Director-General, said: “The politics of recent weeks have undermined the confidence of people, businesses, markets and global investors in Britain. That must now come to an end if we are to avoid yet more harm to households and firms.
“Stability is key. The next Prime Minister will need to act to restore confidence from day one.
“They will need to deliver a credible fiscal plan for the medium term as soon as possible, and a plan for the long-term growth of our economy.”
Ms Truss, who is just 47, will become the seventh living ex-PM to enjoy a payoff of £115,000 annually, alongside her £84,144 MP’s salary. She will also receive a pension and retain a chauffeur-driven car as well round-the-clock protection for life, the costs of which are undisclosed.
She made her resignation statement in Downing Street just six weeks after standing in the same spot after her election.
She said: “Our country has been held back for too long by low economic growth. I was elected by the Conservative party with a mandate to change this. We delivered on energy bills and on cutting national insurance.
“We set out a vision for a low tax, high growth economy that would take advantage of the freedoms of Brexit.
“I recognise though, given the situation, I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative Party.
“I have therefore spoken to His Majesty the King to notify him that I am resigning as leader of the Conservative Party.”