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By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
Defence
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Tory MP Denies Rishi Sunak Plotted Leadership Bid Before Resigning As Chancellor

3 min read

Conservative MP Andrew Bowie has said there is "nothing wrong" with planning ahead, but denied Sunak had discussed his plans before resigning.

The former chancellor has been facing accusations that his slick leadership bid had been planned well in advance of his resignation from Boris Johnson's cabinet last week.

Sunak's team have denied claims they had registered his campaign website in December, just days before the first Partygate pictures were leaked, claiming the domain had been passed over to them since the campaign began.

Sunak also published a professional campaign video as part of his bid which has seen him win the backing of a significant number of MPs.

But speaking to Sky News on Tuesday, Scottish Conservative MP Andrew Bowie, who is backing Sunak's campaign, suggested the video had not been made ahead of time.

"He was able to develop the furlough scheme in a matter of days in the heat of the battle against Covid, he is able to produce a video, I am sure, within the same period of time," he said.

Asked whether he was aware of the claims that Sunak had been planning his leadership bid for many weeks, Bowie added: "That is a matter of opinion, I have no evidence that is the truth, he only spoke to me about his leadership ambitions after he resigned as Chancellor."

Sunak dramatically quit as Chancellor last week, just minutes after Sajid Javid's resignation as health secretary, prompting speculation the pair had planned the move – which has been denied by both camps.

Asked whether there was anything wrong with planning leadership bids ahead of time, Bowie added: "There is absolutely nothing wrong with it and I think the outgoing Prime Minister [Boris Johnson] was planning to become Prime Minister long before he left office as Foreign Secretary.

"There is absolutely nothing wrong with planning to become Prime Minister, I dare say there are people in the House of Commons who are looking in the far future about their ambitions to become leader of this party.

"But I didn't speak to Rishi Sunak about his leadership ambitions until after he resigned as Chancellor."

Sunak is currently leading the pack among the Conservative leadership candidates, with nearly 40 MPs expressing their support for Sunak as of early Tuesday morning.

Under the rules set out by the party, MPs wishing to make it to the voting stages of the contest will need to secure the support of 20 MPs by today's 6pm deadline when nominations will close.

Currently, just two candidates have met the threshold in addition to Sunak, with Penny Mordaunt sitting in second place, and Tom Tugendhat a close third. But almost half of all Tory MPs are yet to announce their intentions, meaning more of candidates are likely to move into the next stages of the contest.

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