Sir Lynton Crosby to advise Boris Johnson campaign to be PM as top Tories back ex-mayor
Election campaign guru Sir Lynton Crosby has been lined up to steer Boris Johnson’s bid to replace David Cameron as leader of the Conservatives.
The political strategist, who ran Mr Johnson’s successful mayoral campaign in 2008 and spearheaded last year's Tory general election campaign, apparently met Mr Johnson and Michael Gove today.
The report in the Sun comes as high-profile Tory MPs throw their weight behind Mr Johnson’s hopes to lead the country as it negotiates its EU exit.
Environment Secretary Liz Truss will back him, the paper claims, while his bid for No 10 will be chaired by Mr Gove.
Veteran MP and former minister Nicholas Soames publicly backed Mr Johnson, after he told PoliticsHome recently the pair had “fist-bumped” despite disagreements over the EU.
Brexit-backing Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said that after leading the Leave campaign, Mr Johnson was “best placed” to negotiate the UK’s departure from the bloc.
“His calm response in the face of hostile verbal attack in the referendum debates showed his statesman-like qualities and mastery of the detail,” Mr Rees-Mogg said in a statement.
“In addition he has the verve and energy to be a great Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative party.
“He has the sense to be a unifier and the charisma to be an effective representative of the nation on the world stage.”
Michael Fabricant, Oliver Dowden and Kwasi Kwarteng are also reportedly among the Tory MPs backing Mr Johnson.
But campaign sources told The Sun they feared a plot was afoot by those loyal to David Cameron to try to block Mr Johnson’s bid for the top job
“Downing Street loyalists are trying to run an establishment stitch-up to keep him off the ballot paper,” an MP said.
“They are appealing to people’s loyalty to Dave and painting it as a revenge mission against Boris for what he’s done.”
According to Sky News Mr Johnson has about 100 supporters in the House of Commons, while Home Secretary Theresa May, who has not yet declared her bid, has about 80.
The chair of the Health Select Committee, Sarah Wollaston, has publicly announced her backing for Ms May.
Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb, who launched his bid today, has about 20, the broadcaster reports.
The executive of the backbench 1922 Committee approved the contest rules that see nominations open on Wednesday evening before closing at midday on Thursday.
Conservative MPs will then vote every Tuesday and Thursday until the number of candidates standing has been whittled down to two, with party members then selecting their preferred leader.
After a slight change in procedure, the winner will be announced on 9 September.