Tory leadership

Frost warns MPs to ‘think hard’ before backing Boris

Lord Frost
Lord Frost: ‘there was a reason why (Boris) left office’

Boris Johnson was facing a backlash from within the party if he officially declares his intention to stand in the leadership race.

Former Brexit minister Lord Frost has urged Tory MPs to “think quite hard” before re-electing Boris Johnson as Conservative leader and PM, saying “there was a reason why he left office”.

Speaking on a podcast, he said: “The problem was the sense of confusion and chaos that surrounded him.”

Tory MPs Sir Roger Gale and John Baron have even threatened to resign the whip if Mr Johnson returns and moves back into Number Ten.

Mr Johnson’s price has settled at around 2/1 second favourite with bookmakers, but that has put Britain’s bookmakers in a panic, having built up horrendous liabilities and facing multi-million-pound payouts should he return to Number 10.

Mr Johnson, who is believed to be flying back early from a family holiday in the Dominican Republic, is said to be ‘taking soundings’ on whether to stand.

Candidates are required 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. 

Although Mr Johnson took an early lead among Tory MPs, the news of his potential return has prompted growing concern that he may force a general election by splitting the party.

Boris Johnson
Seeking a return: Boris Johnson

Supporters who are willing to forgive Mr Johnson for 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, there are doubts whether he will garner enough support to reach the threshold and as the day wore on Rishi Sunak emerged as the most likely winner.

Furthermore, the prospect of Mr Johnson’s return is unlikely to help the Tories’ or unionists’ cause in Scotland where he was deeply unpopular.

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.

Leader of the House of Commons, Penny Mordaunt, is officially the first to declare her intention to stand. The Portsmouth North MP finished third in the summer campaign won by Liz Truss.

Peny Mordaunt
Penny Mordaunt: first to declare

Ms Mordaunt said in a Tweet: “I’m running to be the leader of the Conservative Party and your Prime Minister – to unite our country, deliver our pledges and win the next GE.”

Miss Mordaunt, the Leader of the Commons, is probably best known outside Westminster for taking part in ITV’s celebrity diving show Splash! in 2014.

She gave an assured performance at the despatch box on Monday when she stood in for the absent Prime Minister. She has held talks with Jeremy Hunt and assured him he would stay as chancellor if she became prime minister.

However, the former defence secretary previously faced criticism for her ‘woke’ views on trans rights, and was warned by some against running.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack initially appeared on a 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.

Comment: People power is no match for the markets – why a general election would be a bad move

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