Boris Johnson will not stand in the Conservative leadership race, leaving Rishi Sunak very likely to enter No 10.
The former prime minister had not formally declared but he had told supporters he wanted to run, drumming up backing from seven cabinet ministers – Jacob Rees-Mogg, James Cleverly, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Nadhim Zahawi, Alok Sharma, Simon Clarke and Chris-Heaton Harris.
After cutting short a Caribbean holiday, Johnson spoke to rivals Sunak and Penny Mordaunt in an attempt to persuade them to get on board with his attempted political comeback.
However, Johnson has said he is not running after only making it to about 60 declared backers by Sunday evening – well short of the 100-MP threshold required to make it on to the ballot.
The former prime minister claimed that he did have the required support but had decided not to run as “this would simply not be the right thing to do” as “you can’t govern effectively unless you have a united party in parliament”.
He said that due to the failure to reach a deal with Sunak and Mordaunt, “I am afraid the best thing is that I do not allow my nomination to go forward and commit my support to whoever succeeds.”
“I believe I have much to offer but I am afraid that this is simply not the right time,” the former prime minister said.
His statement released on Sunday night added that he had 102 backers. “I believe I am well placed to deliver a Conservative victory in 2024 – and tonight I can confirm that I have cleared the very high hurdle of 102 nominations, including a proposer and a seconder, and I could put my nomination in tomorrow. There is a very good chance that I would be successful in the election with Conservative party members. But in the course of the last days I have sadly come to the conclusion that this would simply not be the right thing to do.”
Sunak has more than 140 declared supporters, while Mordaunt is lagging behind on 25.