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By Bishop of Leeds
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MPs Declaring Support For Possible Candidates Ahead Of Deadline

The new Conservative leader will be decided by next Friday (Alamy)

4 min read

Conservative MPs have been declaring their support for possible candidates to be the next Prime Minister, as the competition to succeed Liz Truss is set to be completed in just a week.

Following Truss’s resignation on Thursday after just 44 days in office, among the names being touted as those likely to be considering running for the leadership are former chancellor and previous runner-up Rishi Sunak, Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt, and Boris Johnson, who only left Number 10 last month having resigned following a series of scandals.  

They will need to gather the support of 100 of their parliamentary Conservative colleagues if they want to end up on the ballot, with a cut off of 2pm on Tuesday afternoon. Various estimates by journalists suggest that both Johnson and Sunak are closing in on around 50 potential backers at the time of writing, with Mordaunt closer to 20.

Chair of the 1922 committee of backbench Tory MPs Sir Graham Brady said yesterday that the contest will be all wrapped up by next Friday. As there are 357 Tory MPs, the new rules mean a maximum of three leadership candidates could go on the first ballot, with all MPs’ votes set to take place on Monday.

Whoever succeeds Truss in Downing Street will face on a daunting in-tray, with economic turmoil, war in Ukraine, and the Conservatives’ tumbling poll rankings to contend with. 

One Sunak supporter has said  “the whole country is crying out for some stability,” and he believes “that's what Rishi can bring.”

Kevin Hollinrake told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday that Sunak “brings that calm competence in everything he does.

“He's been tested in the highest office of state or the second highest office of state as chancellor, and I think he'll bring the same calm competence to the job as prime minister.” 

A number of MPs have also come out in their support for Johnson, including former Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, who has told Sky: "There is only one MP who has the mandate of the British public, who won a general election only three years ago with an 80-seat majority and that was Boris Johnson."

However, one of Johnson’s former advisers suggested that his considerations on whether or not he should run again are “not a case of the national interest – it's a case of Boris's interest”. 

Will Walden, who worked with Johnson at City Hall and then into No 10, told Sky News that he thinks his former boss will run if he thinks he could come top in the MPs ballot. 

"I suspect that if [Johnson] doesn't think he can get to 100 - or more importantly - he can come second in this vote, because I think Sunak is clearly the frontrunner, then he won't run, he said. 

"And I'm sure he will, because in his mind he's done nothing wrong - he's been unfairly defenestrated.

"Whether you think that's true or not, it doesn't matter to Boris.

"And it's not a case of the national interest – it's a case of Boris's interest.

"So if he thinks that he has a chance of winning with the members' vote next week, then he'll run."

Meanwhile, one former leader is calling for party unity after a bruising few weeks. 

Iain Duncan Smith said the party is currently in a “terrible situation”, writing in the Telegraph that  "no government in modern times has faced such a cataclysmic nightmare, fuelled by the cost of lockdowns and a war in Europe."

He added:  "As we gaze at the runners and riders in the next regicidal race, I hope my colleagues understand that the only hope we have of turning this terrible situation around is if the parliamentary party rallies behind the victor – once and for all.

"What do we prefer, friends? An eternal argument, or the restoration of our great country? The choice is yours."

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