As we approach midnight in the UK, here’s a roundup of today’s developments in the Conservative party leadership contest.
Rishi Sunak reportedly has the backing of the 100 MPs needed to go through in the race. He is yet to formally declare his candidacy, and the Guardian’s count has him on 88 MPs, but Tobias Ellwood claimed that he had helped the former chancellor cross the threshold.
Boris Johnson is on his way back from a holiday in the Dominican Republic, as he trails Sunak. The former prime minister has already secured the backing of six cabinet ministers, including Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Johnson was reportedly booed as he boarded the plane home, according to Sky News. He will land at London Gatwick at 9.30am on Saturday.
A Johnson-supporting MP has said Johnson told him he is “up for it” and will fly back to the UK from his Caribbean holiday to stand in the Tory leadership contest.
Lord William Hague, the former Conservative party leader, has said that Johnson’s election would send the party into a “death spiral”.
Former Daily Telegraph editor and biographer of Margaret Thatcher, Lord Charles Moore, who is an ally of Johnson has urged him not to run in the contest and “sit this one out”.
Penny Mordaunt officially launched her leadership bid, saying she had been “encouraged by support from colleagues who want a fresh start, a united party and leadership in the national interest.”
Polling by Opinium suggests that Sunak will beat Mordaunt and Johnson in a leadership contest, and that Mordaunt will also beat Johnson.
Here’s our night lead – as Johnson heads back to the UK and momentum continues to build behind Sunak. If you’re struggling to sleep in the small hours of the morning, you can always follow Johnson’s British Airways flight home.
Johnson booed by passengers as he gets on plane to return to UK
It seems that Boris Johnson has been spotted on the British Airways flight from the Dominican Republic to London Gatwick by a Sky News journalist.
He’s reportedly sitting in economy class with his wife Carrie and their children, on the flight with the callsign BA2156. It is due to land at 9.30am on Saturday.
Mark Stone, the Sky News reporter, said Johnson was booed by other passengers. “He boarded before everybody else, on his own with his wife and two children. There was a mixed reaction, he was behind a glass area, as we were waiting inside the gate, we saw him the other side of the glass, there was a few boos, a few people looking slightly bewildered.
“I think there was an expectation of some of the holidaymakers here that he would be on the plane, but there was one or two boos, he wouldn’t have heard them because he was on the other side of the glass.”
Johnson 'standout star' says Northern Ireland secretary
A sixth cabinet minister has come out in support of Boris Johnson, as Chris Heaton-Harris has written in the Daily Mail that the former prime minister is the “standout star” of the leadership contest.
Heaton-Harris, who was Johnson’s chief whip, said “there is no politician more able to rise up to whatever challenge he faces”.
He adds: “I would be the first to admit that my party has been through a turbulent time recently, but if he gets the call, I know Boris will finish the job he started and deliver on the promises he made to you in 2019.”
Another big article in conservative circles this evening in the Daily Telegraph (paywall), as former Telegraph editor and close Boris Johnson ally Lord Charles Moore has suggested that the former prime minister should “sit out” the leadership contest.
As seen in our newspaper round-up (see 10:06pm), it’s something the newspaper has displayed prominently on its front page.
It’s worth reading in full, but here’s some select extracts as he argues that Johnson would be best placed not to run in the contest.
When he fell, I was frequently asked on air whether he could ever stage a comeback. Yes, I said: it was not impossible at all. But I did add that it would be unwise for him to try too soon.
I would suggest it is too soon. There are second-order reasons why this is so – the imminent proceedings of the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee which is desperate to suspend him for allegedly misleading the House, the explosion of rage from numerous quarters which would almost paralyse public life if he were back in Downing Street. But these storms would be worth enduring if Boris Johnson were the answer to the economic perils our country faces.
He ends by saying:
I can see Boris storming back in different circumstances, with a Labour government in disarray and a lack-lustre Tory opposition seeking renewal. I don’t see it working right now. True Boris fans will have the courage to tell him to sit this one out.
Saturday's newspaper frontpage round-up
The front pages of Saturday’s newspapers are starting to be published, with most focusing on Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak both picking up nominations to become the next prime minister.
The Daily Telegraph, one of Johnson’s biggest backers during his time as prime minister, leads on Sunak edging closer to having the support of the majority of MPs. This is interesting as Johnson spent most of his career as a journalist at the Telegraph, and continued to write columns for them regularly until he became prime minister.
The Daily Mail asks whether Johnson and Sunak could team up to run on a joint-ticket and bring the Conservative party together.
The Sun leads with Johnson flying back from the Caribbean and the potential for him to have talks with Sunak this weekend.
The Daily Express quotes Sir James Duddridge who reported his phone conversation with Johnson earlier, who said he was coming back to the UK to run for the leadership.
The Guardian has the story of the Conservative party’s bitter splits over who should be its next leader.
The Financial Times’ weekend edition says that the markets and MPs have been spooked by the prospect of Johnson becoming PM again.
There’s an air of despair to the Daily Mirror’s headline, as it has a photo of Johnson and his wife Carrie on holiday in the Caribbean, with the words “Surely .. not again”.
And finally, fresh from its stunt involving a lettuce having a longer shelf life than Liz Truss, the Daily Star describes Johnson as “The Aubergine”. It reports that its now-rotting salad vegetable is 500/1 to become the next prime minister.
Flurry of late evening support for Sunak
There seems to have been a number of MPs who have come out with their declarations of support for Rishi Sunak as we approach 10pm.
Following Matt Hancock, Tom Tugendhat and Alan Mak is Tobias Ellwood. The chair of the defence select committee claims he is the 100th MP to support Sunak.
The Guardian’s count only gives him 87 backers, inching him closer to the 100 he needs, but this is based on MPs who have publicly confirmed themselves who they would support, rather than any private declarations.
Ellwood supported Penny Mordaunt in the leadership election in the summer, but is not doing so this time despite her being the only MP to publicly declare her candidacy so far.
On Twitter he said a Sunak administration would be “a centrist, stable, fiscally responsible government offering credible domestic and international leadership”.
Former treasury minister Alan Mak has said he will vote for Rishi Sunak if he stands in the leadership election.
Former leadership candidate Tugendhat backs Sunak
Another big name out to support the former chancellor tonight, as unsuccessful leadership candidate Tom Tugendhat has said he will back Rishi Sunak.
Tugendhat, a security minister, said the former chancellor will bring “economic stability”. He himself stood for the leadership this summer, but was knocked out before the members’ vote after not getting the support of enough MPs.
Tugendhat said: “[We need] … to put the country before party or personal gain. That is what the public rightly expects. That is our duty.
“That is why I will support Rishi Sunak, whose competence and experience is needed in these challenging times.”
Matt Hancock has said he is going to support Rishi Sunak for the leadership, saying he will “restore authoritative leadership”.
In a statement on Twitter the former health secretary said: “Rishi has been proved right on the economy, and has the experience to deliver. It’s not good enough to say you want to deliver: you have to know now.”
Oliver Dowden, the former culture secretary, who backed Rishi Sunak this summer said he is supporting Sunak again if he stands to become leader.
Dowden said the former chancellor was “clearly the best person to lead our country through these difficult and turbulent times”.
Paul Goodman, the editor of Conservative Home – the website for news and opinion on the Conservative party – has written an interesting op ed this evening where he says that Boris Johnson becoming party leader again would cause the public to “run screaming” after Truss turned the party into a laughing stock.
The three paragraphs towards the end captures the essence of his article. It features the German Totentanz – similar to Lord Hague’s “death spiral” from his interview on Times Radio earlier (see: 6.19pm).
The thought occurs that maybe the Conservative party no longer cares. Perhaps the sum of its ambition is to become the provisional wing of the rightwing entertainment industry: happy to preach to a diminishing band of true believers, and good for a newspaper column or fringe TV turn, while Keir Starmer gets on with the tiresome business of actually running the country.
If so, it can look forward to a prime minister staffing his government with fifth raters, since the bulk of the 66 ministers who resigned in the summer will refuse to serve. If a by-election forced by a Commons suspension doesn’t get him first. If the Tory benches don’t first vote down the report into his conduct that would trigger it, thus speeding the spiral of decline.
The Germans have a word for it: Totentanz – a dance of death. Conservative MPs, peers, donors, hacks and activists caper onwards an open grave, with Death himself – sorry, Johnson – leading the procession. The dance possesses them; it has a momentum of its own; they are powerless to stop.
Further declarations of support have emerged, with Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson both getting another publicly declared backer each.
Veteran Tory Brexiter Bill Cash has said that he will vote for Johnson, saying: “Action this day!”
Meanwhile, Jamie Wallis, the MP for Bridgend and Porthcawl, has said he would vote for Sunak.
According to the Guardian’s tally of MPs who have declared their intentions publicly, it leaves Sunak within 20 MPs of meeting the threshold of 100.
Two more Conservative MPs have come out in support of candidates.
Rebecca Pow, who resigned from Boris Johnson’s government earlier this year as a Defra minister, has said she will be supporting Rishi Sunak, saying “it’s time for sense”.
Meanwhile, Antony Higginbotham, who became the first Conservative MP in more than 100 years to represent Burnley in 2019, has said he is backing Boris Johnson.
Here’s a roundup of the latest nominations by my colleagues Rowena Mason and Peter Walker, as Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt emerge as the frontrunners.
Boris Johnson is gaining ground in his audacious bid to return to Downing Street despite critics warning he risks plunging the Conservatives into fresh chaos over the impending parliamentary inquiry into the Partygate scandal.
As the former prime minister raced back from his Caribbean holiday to drum up support among MPs, Rishi Sunak remained ahead and the favourite to win with nearly 80 publicly declared backers, including Dominic Raab and Sajid Javid.
However, Johnson won the support of five current cabinet ministers – Ben Wallace, Simon Clarke, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Alok Sharma and Anne-Marie Trevelyan – while the former home secretary Priti Patel is believed to be considering coming out in his favour.
Business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg has said that Conservative party members should vote on the next leader, and that a candidate should not drop out to lead to a coronation.
Rees-Mogg, who served under both Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, said that there should not be a deal to stop the contest going to a vote of the membership.
He told the Telegraph’s Christopher Hope: “I’m always in favour of the members deciding the leadership – I think that’s the right place for it to go. And I think the 1922 Committee and the board of the Tory party have done really well to get it to a position where that can be done swiftly. I’m in favour of it going to the membership.”
Transport secretary backs Boris Johnson
Anne-Marie Trevelyan has come out this evening to say she will be supporting Boris Johnson if he puts himself forward in the party’s leadership contest.
The transport secretary served in four roles when Johnson was prime minister, including trade secretary.
Marcus Fysh, a minister during Liz Truss’s short time in Downing Street, has come out in support of Penny Mordaunt.
He said that she will “appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds, and deliver on the crucial work we must do to build a great future for people in all parts of our country”.
The former culture secretary John Whittingdale, who served as a minister under Boris Johnson, has told the Sun’s political editor, Harry Cole, that he is backing Johnson to become leader of the party again.
Boris Johnson’s former Brexit negotiator David Frost has advised MPs to “think quite hard” before they back the former prime minister to return as Conservative party leader.
Speaking to Nick Robinson, the presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and the Political Thinking podcast, Lord Frost said of Johnson: “There was a reason he left office.”
“The problem was the sense of confusion and chaos that surrounded him.
“What people probably want to see is the sense that he can run a government, he can organise things, he has a set of things he wants to deliver, can take decisions, can get things to happen.”
Frost, who is seen to be on the right of the party, said one of Johnson’s problems was his inability to show he could change, after shortcomings were pointed out while he was prime minister. “That’s what we didn’t quite see I think,” he said.
A Boris Johnson-supporting MP has said the former prime minister told him he is “up for it” and will fly back to the UK from his Caribbean holiday to stand in the Tory leadership contest.
Sir James Duddridge told PA Media: “I’ve been in contact with the boss via WhatsApp.
“He’s going to fly back. He said: ‘I’m flying back, Dudders, we are going to do this. I’m up for it.’”
Hague: Johnson returning as PM would spell 'death spiral' for Tories
The former Conservative party leader William Hague has said it would be a “very very bad idea” for Boris Johnson to return as leader and become prime minister again.
In an interview with Times Radio, Lord Hague, who was leader from 1997 to 2001, before becoming foreign secretary under David Cameron said: “This all started, this unravelling, because Boris Johnson was unable to run the government in the right way, to keep it together in the right way, and to uphold the high standards of conduct in the highest offices in the land.
“The idea of him returning as the solution, that would be going around in circles, circles that become the death spiral of the Conservative party, and I think it’s the worst idea I’ve heard in the 46 years I’ve been a member of the Conservative party.”
Hague has said he will back Rishi Sunak, who he also supported during the summer’s leadership contest.
If you’re still trying to get to grips with how the Conservative party leadership contest will pan out over the next week, here are three likely scenarios.
A somewhat optimistic idea here from the Tees Valley mayor, Ben Houchen, who earlier issued a joint statement alongside the levelling up secretary, Simon Clarke, supporting Boris Johnson’s candidacy, if he decides to stand.
He suggests that Johnson should appoint Rishi Sunak as his chancellor, if he wins, both resuming roles they had until Sunak’s resignation.
It’s unlikely, as many Johnson supporters blame Sunak for the former’s departure from Downing Street. It’s thought to have affected Sunak’s performance in the subsequent leadership election, with claims he “knifed” Johnson in the back.
As the political story for the coming couple of days is who will get on the ballot to become the next Conservative party leader and prime minister, the Spectator’s deputy political editor, Katy Balls, has written an opinion piece about the “shock and awe” campaign to get Boris Johnson back in Downing Street, and how he will probably have to overcome Rishi Sunak.
The main talk among MPs is about a Sunak v Johnson playoff. Up until today, Sunak was widely regarded as the frontrunner. His warnings on the economy during the leadership campaign have been proved right. He could also go some way to calming the markets. He leads on MP nominations. However, there are still plenty of Tories who dislike him. “Rishi can’t unite the party,” says one MP in the centre. Though it’s not clear at this point that anyone could.
Others fear a revolt from Tory members if he is pushed through. “They did have the option of Rishi and they said no. I like him; I’d vote for him – but I’m not sure it works with the grassroots,” says a member of the 2015 intake.
What’s more, he now faces an insurgent campaign from his former boss. The former prime minister had stayed silent as Truss fought to cling on to power. It led to talk that Johnson may not even want to return. But, while he is yet to say so publicly, it’s clear he is testing the water about a return. “He’ll only want to announce if it’s clear he will win – and that the party needs him,” says a former cabinet colleague.
Alok Sharma to back Boris Johnson
The Cop26 president, Alok Sharma, has said he will back Boris Johnson if he stands.
Sharma was appointed to the climate role by Johnson after serving as his business secretary. He tweeted: “I am backing Boris Johnson - he won a mandate from the electorate in 2019.
“We need to get back to delivering on the Conservatives manifesto we were elected on.”
Another MP has announced his support for Rishi Sunak if he decides to run in the race to become the next prime minister: Johnny Mercer, who has been speaking to BBC Radio 4.
Mercer told the PM programme that Sunak, who lost to Truss in this summer’s leadership contest, was “capable, professional, calm and competent”.
He said: “I think now we need to clearly come behind someone who is capable, professional, calm, competent and will deliver government in a way people expect.”
Mercer, who served as a minister under Johnson, said that while Boris Johnson was a friend, he could not put himself, his constituents or his staff through having him as leader again.
“I love Boris to bits and he’s got amazing qualities for this country but it is now time for serious, competent, straightforward and values-based governance,” he said.
“It’s been a pretty terrible time throughout January/February, he had 60 ministers resign, 140 MPs voted against him.”
Sajid Javid backs Rishi Sunak
Boris Johnson’s former chancellor and health secretary Sajid Javid has come out to back Rishi Sunak in the leadership contest, should he announce he is standing.
Javid resigned as health secretary earlier this year and gave a critical speech in the Commons in which he questioned Johnson’s credibility, and called on others to resign.
He posted on Twitter today that the country “desperately needs economic stability, hard-headed decision making and strong leadership”.
Javid said: “ It is abundantly clear that Rishi Sunak has what it takes to match the challenges we face – he is the right person to lead our party and take the country forward.
“I also believe it is in the national interest to have a strong Conservative party. The only way for our party to reclaim our values and recover our reputation for stewardship is to move on from mistakes of the past and come together to focus on the future.”
More Tory MPs have declared their support for Penny Mordaunt.
More than half of Britons would be unhappy to see Boris Johnson return as prime minister, according to a poll.
The YouGov survey of 3,429 adults on Friday suggested 27% would be happy to see him return to office, compared with 52% who did not like the idea. Conservative voters were more favourable, with 25% saying they would be happy and 31% very happy. However, 13% of Tory voters said they would be very unhappy and 8% fairly unhappy.
The Conservative MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, Jonathan Gullis, resigned from his role as principal private secretary on 5 July. Today he revealed in a Facebook post that he would support Johnson if he decided to stand.
I have had lots of people from across Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke telling me to bring Boris back. They voted for him and for his 2019 manifesto.
Gullis, who backed Liz Truss in both the first and second round of the last Conservative leadership vote this summer, said in his resignation letter to Johnson he felt that “for too long, we have been more focused on dealing with reputational damage rather than delivering for the people of this country”.
The MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham, Dr Caroline Jonson, told the Guardian she was also backing Johnson as new PM. This is three months after quitting as vice-chair of the party.
In her resignation letter she told Johnson the “cumulative effect of your errors of judgment and domestic actions have squandered the goodwill of our great party, Conservative colleagues, and many of my constituents”.
Proposals to protect service industry staff and NHS workers from harassment by customers or clients have cleared their first step to becoming law.
The Commons backed legislation aimed at putting the onus on employers to protect their workers from harassment by third parties, such as customers. The Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse told the Commons:
An unacceptable number of nurses, paramedics, people who were keyworkers during the pandemic, and everyone in between are being subject to a form of harassment which causes a variety of harms, including psychological, physical and economic harm.
Employers should be required both morally and legally to take all reasonable steps to stop sexual harassment from occurring. The fact that the law of this country does not compel them to do this is a concern.
Under the Bath MP’s worker protection (amendment of Equality Act 2010) bill, if a member of staff is harassed at work by a customer or client, their employer would be considered responsible for the action if they fail to take “all reasonable steps” to prevent it.
According to PA, Penny Mordaunt’s announcement came after she held talks with the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, in which she assured him he could stay on in No 11 if she won. Sources close to Mordaunt said she had made clear she would proceed with his budget plan, which is due to be announced on 31 October.
Mary Lou McDonald said that, were a fresh assembly election to be called, her party would go out and contest it.
We had the election last May, we had an historic outcome to that, Michelle O’Neill is the first minister designate.
If there is an election, we will go and we will contest that election. We will set out our stall again. Again, we will say to people what we need is good government, we need a first minister for all, we need to manage the change that is happening right across Ireland and I think that there is an appetite for that, I think people are up for that.
But the truth is that we need the DUP to participate in power sharing and we need the results of elections to be respected, the democratic will of the people to be respected, and we need a functioning executive.
If devolution collapses, there will be no return to direct rule from London for Northern Ireland, the Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald has insisted.
There won’t be a return to direct rule. If political unionism believes that, by boycotting and wrecking the institutions of government here, that there will be a return to direct rule they are sadly mistaken.
The only alternative to the executive in Belfast working and power sharing working will be a joint arrangement between the Irish and the British state. There should be no doubt on that score.
Within moments of Mordaunt’s announcement, Andrea Leadsom, Harriet Baldwin and John Lamont have publicly voiced their support:
Penny Mordaunt announces run for Tory leadership
The Commons leader, Penny Mordaunt, is running to replace Liz Truss as Tory leader and prime minister.
Plans to boost workplace protections for pregnant women and new parents have received the backing of ministers, PA reports.
The Labour MP Dan Jarvis’s Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill cleared its first parliamentary hurdle after receiving an unopposed second reading and support from across the House of Commons.
The bill aims to strengthen employment rights for new mothers and expectant mothers by protecting them against redundancy for longer. The Barnsley Central MP told the Commons around 54,000 women lose their jobs each year after becoming pregnant.
Despite its importance, raising a family has never been more challenging. Scarcity of affordable housing, sky-high childcare costs and now soaring inflation has made the decision to start or grow a family simply unaffordable for many.
This bill seeks to alleviate some of that hardship by increasing security in the workplace for both pregnant women and new parents by extending redundancy protections, and I am proud to be bringing it forward to the house today.
Jarvis told the Commons the bill would create new powers to protect women from redundancy during and after pregnancy and also amend existing regulations to protect from redundancy “on return to work from maternity, adoption or shared parental leave”.
The Conservative MP for Beckenham, Bob Stewart, sparked humour in the chamber as he backed the bill. He told MPs:
I don’t consider women to be equal to men. Please don’t just quote that. Listen to the second half. I think women are at a higher level than men ... but it’s absolutely true. Women, actually, without what they do we would have no future, and we should recognise that and so should employers.
Tory MP Nigel Mills says it was a “mistake” for him not to back Rishi Sunak during the summer’s leadership contest.
Sunak is “clearly” the prime minister the country needs to “restore stability and tackle the many serious challenges facing the country”, he writes.
The suspension of one of Liz Truss’s key advisers has ended after an investigation into a hostile briefing against Sajid Javid, Downing Street has said.
Jason Stein had been suspended from his job pending an investigation into insulting briefings about MPs, including one over the weekend accusing Sajid Javid of being “shit”.
A No 10 press secretary has now said:
The investigation has concluded and the suspension has ended.
The public would vote for Rishi Sunak over Boris Johnson in a head-to-head race, a new poll shows.
The Opinium study, conducted overnight, found that 44% of British adults would vote for Sunak, compared with 31% for Johnson.
In a run-off between Sunak and Penny Mordaunt, 45% of people said Sunak should be the next prime minister, compared with 23% for Mordaunt.
And in a Mordaunt v Johnson run-off, 36% of the public would vote for Mordaunt to 33% for Johnson.
Of course, it won’t be up to the general British public who out of these three will end up being leader.
Around a dozen Tory MPs will resign the whip if Boris Johnson wins the leadership race, Rachel Wearmouth from the New Statesman writes.
The international trade secretary, Kemi Badenoch, has told allies that she is “very unlikely” to run for leadership, the Telegraph’s Camilla Turner reports.
Badenoch has been speaking with Tory colleagues about whether she should stand but those close to her believe she will “struggle to get the numbers”.
“This isn’t her moment,” one said. “She is young enough. It’s not her time.
Second cabinet minister backs Boris Johnson for leader
The levelling up secretary, Simon Clarke, has become the second cabinet minister to unequivocally back Boris Johnson, the Telegraph reports.
In a joint statement with the Tees Valley mayor, Ben Houchen, Clarke said Johnson would lead “a broad-based, inclusive government drawing on talent from right across the Conservative party, driven by a disciplined Downing Street”.
The pair said:
Boris is the person we need to lead our country and our party.
He won the greatest election victory for years on a mandate to unite and level up the UK, and inspired millions of people who had never voted Conservative before to get behind a generous, optimistic vision of what Britain can be.
People on Teesside love Boris because he recognised that while talent is evenly distributed across the country, opportunity is not. Boris gave us that opportunity.
People who have felt left behind from governments of both colours want their prime minister to make a success of Brexit, control illegal immigration and invest in our communities.
That’s what Boris would do and it’s why he is so popular right across the Red Wall seats that will decide the next election.
The business secretary, Jacob Rees-Mogg, tweeted this morning that he is backing Johnson for leader.
The defence secretary, Ben Wallace, ruled himself out of the race this afternoon and said he would “lean towards” supporting Johnson.
The Guardian’s Peter Walker writes that we should brace for more chaos as it appears increasingly likely that Boris Johnson will receive the 100 nominations he needs, especially in light of Ben Wallace’s recent statement.
May Blood, trade unionist and the first woman from Northern Ireland to be elevated to the Lords, has died aged 84.
Lady Blood was the president of the Labour party in Northern Ireland and was a founding member of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition. She represented Labour until she stepped down from the House of Lords in 2018.
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said Blood was a “fearless and tireless campaigner to make Northern Ireland a better and more peaceful place”.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood described her as a “tireless community activist and advocate for workers to her core”.
The Telegraph previously reported that Boris Johnson has been privately urging Rishi Sunak to reach out and “get back together”, despite the pair’s falling out earlier this year.
The paper is now reporting that Sunak backers have floated the idea of offering Johnson the position of home secretary in a bid to win the Tory leadership and unite the party.
Two of the first 50 Tory MPs to endorse the former chancellor have expressed support for the idea. One Sunak backer said:
The next Conservative leader needs a team from the top of cabinet right down that reflects the breadth of talent and of views in the Conservative party.
Personally, I think that means that Rishi should offer both Penny [Mordaunt] and Boris positions in that team. Boris would be a great home secretary - able to finally deal with the issue of illegal cross-Channel migration he’s been talking about getting a grip on for years.”
A second, asked about the idea of Johnson being offered the home secretary role, said:
I think we need to do anything to keep the party together. I’d countenance anything.
Former environment secretary endorses Sunak
The Tory MP and former environment secretary George Eustice said he will be backing Rishi Sunak to become the next leader.
I’m going to be backing Rishi Sunak in this contest. I think in the leadership campaign over the summer, he won in all of the exchanges that took place in hustings.
As far as I can see, he had the biggest base of support within the parliamentary party, and we really need someone now who can unite the party, pull it together, but crucially, [someone] who’s got the judgment to be a good prime minister, to get those key decisions right, so that we can deal with some of the great challenges that the world faces.
Who will be next UK prime minister? Odds tracker
Boris Johnson is said to be keen to succeed his successor, Liz Truss. Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt are also understood to be in the running.
Find out what odds bookmakers are giving on each candidate:
The former government minister Greg Clarke has revealed he’s backing Rishi Sunak for the party leadership:
Selecting Boris Johnson as Tory leader would be “absolutely catastrophic”, the Foreign Office minister Jesse Norman has said.
The defence secretary, Ben Wallace, has now confirmed on Twitter that he will not be standing for leader.
Ben Wallace rules himself out of leadership race
The defence secretary, Ben Wallace, has ruled himself out of the Conservative leadership race.
I think you really have to want it as prime minister to do that job, you have to really think it’s the job for you.
For me, I feel that I can have the best value in keeping people safe at defence by being the defence secretary. It’s the job that I have been doing and it’s the goal I intend to stay doing, so I’m not going to be standing for prime minister this time.
He did not publicly back anyone for leader but said he is “leaning towards” Boris Johnson. He said:
I have to recognise the issue of the mandate. This will be potentially our third prime minister since a general election 2019. That means we have to think about that legitimacy question that the public will be asking themselves, but also about who could win the next election. That’s obviously important for any political party at the time.
So at the moment, I would lean towards Boris Johnson.
The first Downing Street briefing since Liz Truss announced her departure has confirmed that she will not make any major decisions while she minds the shop for her successor, as happened not very long ago with Boris Johnson.
Asked about Truss’s final days, her deputy spokeswoman said:
As you’ll remember from the process previously, the work of government continues until the new leader is in place with the support of the civil service in the usual way. We will also be following that same convention whereby the government will not seek to implement new policies, unpick existing policy or make any major changes of direction. And major fiscal decisions will be for the next prime minister.
Truss will be spending her final weekend in the job at Chequers, the official prime ministerial country retreat.
Work is going on ahead of the 31 October economic and fiscal plan – although the date for this is up to the new PM – and is being led by Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, with Truss being “updated and consulted”, the spokeswoman said.
We do not yet know when Truss will formally step down after a successor is picked, which will be no later than Friday, but again as with Johnson, we expect this to be a day or so later.
Finally: has Truss even properly unpacked in the No 10 flat? The spokeswoman would not comment. Did she, like Johnson, redecorate?
It’s not something I’m aware of.
The European Research Group (ERG) of Tory MPs will convene a full plenary meeting on Monday morning to discuss who it should back in the leadership contest, the Telegraph reports.
The discussions will begin at 10.30am on Monday and will play a key part in whether Boris Johnson can win the necessary 100 MPs to face the members in the round of ballot.
The Observer’s Michael Savage writes that members of the group are divided, with some going for Johnson but others refusing.
Tory MP Tim Loughton has criticised the business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg for his #BorisorBust slogan.
Loughton – who mistakenly wrote that Rees-Mogg had tweeted #BorisandBust instead of #BorisorBust –warned he should “really think this through properly” if he has “any interest in party unity”.
Edwin Poots, who lasted 21 days as leader of the Democratic Unionist party (DUP) before a humiliating defenestration, has some counsel for Liz Truss.
She just needs to dust herself down, pick herself up and move on. My strongest piece of advice I would give to her is to not become bitter about it.
DUP colleagues unhappy over a deal to revive the Northern Ireland assembly forced Poots to quit in June 2021 just three weeks after he was supposed to lead them to a new era, giving him a perspective on fiasco and thwarted ambition.
“A political career is what you achieve over whatever time you’re in politics. What has happened is hugely unfortunate for Liz Truss, but that’s not to say her career is over,” he said.
I would advise that she just gets on with things, and if there’s something different out there for her, then go for it.
I’d also advise her not to dwell on what has happened over the course of the last number of weeks. It’s just been a perfect storm for her — but that’s politics for you.
The next prime minister will decide whether to go ahead with the government’s spending plan on 31 October, Downing Street has said.
A No 10 spokesperson said:
Major fiscal decisions will be for the next prime minister.
We are working in preparation for the 31st. Obviously a decision for proceeding on that will be for the next prime minister.
Downing Street also said Liz Truss would spend her last weekend at Chequers.
If Truss is still prime minister next Wednesday, she will take part in PMQs, they added.
Two Conservative former cabinet ministers have tweeted their backing for Rishi Sunak in the last hour: Liam Fox and Gavin Williamson.
When Boris Johnson resigned as prime minister, just three and a half months ago, some naively believed the most chaotic days of Conservative government were over. Compared with the six white-knuckle weeks of the Liz Truss project, however, the Johnson years may start to feel like the good old days of calm and order.
That’s what the former prime minister seems to be hoping, at least, as he scrambles home from holidaying in the Caribbean, apparently in an attempt to reclaim the keys to Downing Street.
So it may be worth recalling the reasons why no fewer than 57 of Johnson’s ministers resigned from his government in July to force him out of Downing Street, believing his leadership no longer tenable. Here is a reminder.
A charter airline hired to remove people seeking refuge in the UK to Rwanda has pulled out of the scheme after pressure from campaigners.
A plane operated by Privilege Style first attempted to fly asylum seekers to the east African country in June but was grounded by an 11th hour ruling by the European court of human rights.
The Mallorca-based carrier had become known as the UK government’s “airline of last resort” for its willingness to conduct deportation flights that other airlines refused.
But after an email campaign by torture survivors and refugee organisations, Privilege Style has said it will no longer operate flights to Rwanda.
The development will leave the UK government in a fix. Two other charter airlines that previously conducted deportation flights, Titan Airways and AirTanker, have already ruled themselves out of the scheme.
Earlier we discussed why the Privileges Committee investigation into Boris Johnson still matters. Noa Hoffman from the Sun reports that some MPs have been privately talking about ways to kill off the Committee to stop it from causing trouble for Johnson.
Some MPs have suggested to ITV News’ Anushka Asthana that they are considering asking the House to vote on rescinding the original motion.
The Labour MP Chris Bryant says it’s “highly unlikely” such a motion would carry and that he expects the Committee could report its findings in January.
Witnesses working with the Committee have told Paul Brand from ITV that there is no shortage of people willing to testify against Johnson.
Christian Matheson has posted a resignation statement as Labour MP for the City of Chester on his website.
His statement comes after the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards upheld two allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
I have today, with great sadness, tendered my resignation as Member of Parliament for the City of Chester.
This follows publication of a report which had found me guilty of sexual misconduct.
From the start I accepted I had committed a minor breach of the code and had hoped that an honest and open approach would stand me in a fair light. This has proven not to be the case and I am dismayed that I have been found guilty of several allegations that I know to be untrue.
Indeed my insistence on what I know to be true - that I had no sexual motivation in this matter - was held against me as a refusal to accept my guilt, and caused an increased sanction which I felt was disproportionate.
Despite provable factual inaccuracies in the sanctions report, my appeal against sanction was not even considered, for the same reason.
Therefore, I faced a suspension from the House of four weeks. Whilst I believe that this is an excessive and unfair penalty, I cannot challenge the process further. I believe that the honourable and right thing to do now is to resign my seat and seek to rebuild my life elsewhere. I would ask for privacy for my family. This matter has also caused a great toll on my health, requiring my hospitalisation, and I ask that my privacy is respected while I recover.
I will forever be grateful to my constituency, and my party, for giving me the honour to serve, and I apologise to the people of Chester, and to the House of Commons, for the disrepute I have brought. I once again apologise to the complainant in my case, for the hurt I have caused.
Foreign secretary James Cleverly has described an EU database and webpage listing laws Brussels believes are applicable to Northern Ireland under the Brexit trading arrangements as “unilaterally operated”.
In a letter to Sir Bill Cash, the chair of the EU scrutiny committee, he said the UK did not endorse the webpage.
“The government’s position remains that we reserve our right to consider, and, if necessary to set out our view as to which pieces of legislation apply within Northern Ireland, and under what legal basis,” he said, adding that disagreements would be raised through the joint consultative working group, a dispute mechanism set up under the withdrawal agreement.
Labour MP Chris Matheson resigns after being suspended over 'unwanted sexual advances'
Labour MP Chris Matheson has resigned after an independent conduct panel recommended he is suspended for “serious sexual misconduct”.
The Labour party is understood to have suspended the whip from Matheson and asked him to stand down as an MP after the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards upheld two allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
A Labour spokesperson said:
This is an incredibly serious case. There must be a zero tolerance for sexual harassment and the Labour party has acted immediately following the ICGS (Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme) findings. We will now select a candidate that the people of Chester can be proud to vote for.
Labour MP Chris Matheson recommended to be suspended after 'unwanted and unwelcome sexual advances'
An independent conduct panel has recommended Labour MP Christian Matheson is suspended for four weeks for “serious sexual misconduct”.
The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards upheld two allegations of sexual misconduct against Matheson by a former member of his staff.
The MP for the city of Chester allegedly invited her on a private trip abroad and “the invitation was sexually motivated, unwanted, and had placed the complainant under pressure and intimidated her”, according to the report.
The report writes:
On 21 May 2021 the complainant, a young woman and junior member of the respondent MP’s Parliamentary team, made a complaint under the House of Commons Independent Complaints Grievance Scheme (ICGS). She alleged that the respondent had behaved inappropriately towards her on a number of occasions, each involving sexual misconduct.
This case involves a serious breach of the Sexual Misconduct Policy, with several aggravating factors. The impact of the misconduct has been significant.
We recommend that the respondent is suspended from the service of the House for four weeks. The period of suspension should not run over a period when the House is expected to be adjourned for more than four days.
Boris Johnson is privately urging Rishi Sunak to reach out and “get back together” in an olive branch after their public falling out, Ben Riley-Smith from the Telegraph writes.
Johnson has put his ability to win elections at the heart of his pitch to Tory MPs. One ally told the paper:
If the Tories are serious about winning in 2024 and want to stop a general election before then they need to revert to the guy with a mandate who is a seasoned campaigner.
They need someone to take the fight to Labour. There’s no point going to a yellow box junction without knowing how you are going to get out of it. Rishi should make contact and work out how the two of them can get back together.
The Lib Dems have tabled a motion in parliament to block Boris Johnson from becoming prime minister again.
The motion seeks to stop MPs who were found to have broken the law – as Johnson and Rishi Sunak were – while in government from becoming prime minister.
The Lib Dem deputy leader, Daisy Cooper, described Johnson as “Britain’s Berlusconi” and said he is not fit to govern Britain.
The Times’ Steven Swinford has been tracking the Tory MPs who have publicly declared their support in the leadership race.
Candidates need nominations from at least 100 MPs by 2pm on Monday to enter the race.
The Labour leader Keir Starmer said he was “rather surprised” by a now-deleted tweet by the Ukrainian government that appeared to support Boris Johnson in the Conservative party leadership race.
The official Ukrainian government tweeted “Better Call Boris” on Thursday evening, with the former PM’s face edited on to one of the promotional posters for the hit Netflix series, Better Call Saul.
Shortly afterwards, the tweet was deleted.
Asked on Sky News what he made of the tweet, Starmer said:
I saw that tweet and was rather surprised by it, but as far as Ukraine is concerned, my absolute imperative is to make sure that we’re all supporting Ukraine in the face of aggression from Putin.
I was surprised by the tweet but in the circumstances they face my absolute focus is on giving Ukraine all the support we possibly can.
The chair of the powerful 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady, has confirmed there will be a hustings for MPs before they begin voting in the Tory leadership contest on Monday.
Why Privileges Committee investigation into Boris Johnson still matters
While Boris Johnson is reportedly jetting back from his Caribbean holiday, it’s worth remembering that the former prime minister is still under investigation by a Commons committee after being accused of misleading MPs about parties held in Downing Street during lockdown.
Johnson told MPs in December 2021 that “all guidance was followed completely in No 10”, six months before Scotland Yard issued more than 100 fines, including to the then prime minister personally, for law-breaking Covid parties.
If he is found to have been in contempt of parliament, Johnson could face suspension from the House of Commons or even lose his seat.
The ministerial code, the rule book for government ministers, says:
Ministers who knowingly mislead parliament will be expected to offer their resignation.
The veteran Tory MP Sir Roger Gale said yesterday:
We need to remember that Mr Johnson is still under investigation by the privileges committee for potentially misleading the House. Until that investigation is complete and he is found guilty or cleared, there should be no possibility of him returning to government.
The veteran Tory MP Sir Christopher Chope says he’s “really excited” about the prospect of Boris Johnson “riding to the rescue of the country”.
Speaking on Sky News, he described the former PM as “the great hope” for the nation and party. He said:
I think that the news that Boris Johnson might be riding to the rescue of the country and the Conservative party is really a great tonic. I’m really excited about that prospect because I didn’t want him to be deposed in the first place. I said we’d rue the day that he was deposed. Sadly, I’ve been proved right on that.
He called for any new leader, if it’s not Johnson, to hold a general election. He said:
I think there should be a general election because we need whoever becomes the leader – if it’s not Boris Johnson – we need to have the proper mandate. And the only way to get a proper mandate is to go to the people. I’m not pessimistic about the outcome of a general election.
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen says he thinks Boris Johnson will get 100 backers, Michael Savage from the Observer writes.
A Johnson supporter has told Cat Neilan from Tortoise that they have the 100 to nominate.
The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford said there will be a “wave of revulsion” across Scotland if Boris Johnson becomes prime minister again.
He reiterated his party’s calls for an early general election, describing the Tories as “out of touch” and “out of time”.
Blackford told BBC Radio Scotland:
As we are discussing this this morning there’s real concern that the Tories might want to foist Boris Johnson back onto us again - I think there will be a wave of revulsion throughout Scotland.
You really have to think that the Conservatives have learned nothing as to what we’ve gone through and the reason why Boris Johnson had to be swept from office.
We can’t continue to see Parliament as a personal plaything of those on the Tory right that want to enact the policies that they’ve been doing.
Speaking on Sky News, he said Liz Truss’s premiership was “one big financial experiment” that went “horribly wrong”. He said:
I’m relieved that she’s gone, it’s been a challenging few weeks. It’s been one big financial experiment, and it’s one that’s gone horribly wrong.
Liz Truss had known “since the mini-budget there was no way back” and felt “relieved” as she resigned yesterday, according to a source.
The Times reports Truss had wanted to sack the chief whip, Wendy Morton, after being told repeatedly that she was not up to the job but was unable to do so. The paper quotes a friend to the PM as saying:
She was not in a good place. She just couldn’t see a way through. She’s known since the mini-budget there was no way back.
During their meeting in Downing Street yesterday, Sir Graham Brady told her he had received “too many letters” for her to stay in office, and that she could not carry on, one Tory grandee said.
Shortly after 1pm, Truss gathered her closest aides and told them of her decision before she announced it to the public. While some in the room were crying, Truss was said to be stoical. One ally said:
She’s relieved if anything. She won’t stand down as an MP but she needs a holiday.
First cabinet minister comes out for Boris Johnson
The business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg has tweeted that he is backing Boris Johnson for leader.
The Guardian’s Peter Walker writes that Tory MPs face a choice of re-electing Boris Johnson and losing a couple of dozens of seats to the Lib Dems.
The prospect of Boris Johnson returning to Downing Street is dominating debate at the start of the second Conservative party leadership contest of the year amid fevered speculation the former premier is plotting a comeback.
Just six weeks after he left No 10, forced out by his own MPs after a slew of scandals, supporters are calling on him to return from holiday in the Dominican Republic and run again for a second shot at leading the country.
Various outlets are keeping tallies of Johnson’s backers, with those including “unnamed” supporters suggesting he has as many as 50, with others putting the number closer to 38.
A Conservative MP and member of the powerful 1922 Committee, Karl McCartney, said he is “quite confident” Boris Johnson can win if he stands.
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, he said Johnson as PM dealt with a range of difficult issues in a “credible” way and “made the right call on a number of things” from the Ukraine war to the pandemic.
He accused Labour and sections of the media of carrying out a “credible hatchet job” on Johnson which ultimately led to his resignation, rather than being a reflection of discontent among his own MPs and the party.
Suella Braverman will be “making a statement in due course”, Sky News is reporting.
The former home secretary did not confirm or deny if she will be making a run.
The Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, has joined calls for Liz Truss to decline the allowance of up to £115,000 a year she will be entitled to as a former prime minister.
He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain:
She should turn it down. I think that’s the right thing to do. She’s done 44 days in office, she’s not really entitled to it, she should turn it down and not take it.
He said a Labour government would not “want to cut public spending” but would make “prudent” choices on the economy. He said:
A month ago we weren’t even having a discussion about spending cuts … We’re discussing that question because this government crashed the economy with their kamikaze mini-budget.
But the contrast really is this – carry on with this utter chaos or have stability under a Labour government and I think that’s a choice that ought to be put to the British public, because they’ve been damaged by this – we’ve got this ridiculous situation now of yet another prime minister coming to try their hand.
Asked how he would fund public spending, he said:
If you take the energy price freeze, we all agree those prices have got to be frozen over the winter. What we’ve said is those oil and gas companies that have been making excess profits – profits they didn’t expect to make – should pay their fair way.
Penny Mordaunt 'taking soundings from colleagues'
An ally of Penny Mordaunt said she is not currently working on a leadership bid but is “taking soundings” from colleagues.
A source told the PA news agency:
It’s a testament to Penny’s campaign over the summer how many colleagues have already come out asking her to stand.
At the moment there isn’t a campaign but Penny has always been the candidate that can unite the party, deliver and beat Labour.
At the moment she’s been taking soundings from her colleagues and has been busy speaking to as many as she can.
Rishi Sunak has been photographed leaving his home this morning. He did not answer questions from reporters as he walked a few yards from his front door to a waiting black Mercedes.
Boris Johnson’s father Stanley says he thinks his son is currently on a plane returning to the UK from his Caribbean holiday.
Speaking on ITV Good Morning Britain, Johnson said:
I think he’s on a plane back, as I understand it. He’s coming back.
The Conservative former education secretary Nicky Morgan said the feeling in the party is that it is “even worse than the Brexit years”.
Speaking on Times Radio, she said:
It’s one thing to be making difficult decisions that are unpopular, but you know they are right. I’ve been there, 2010, after the election and all the rest of it. But the Brexit years were pretty miserable divided party, everything else.
A very senior MP said to me earlier this week, she said it’s even worse than the Brexit years. That is not what people stand for election for, you know, you’re getting at the net, your inboxes are full of people rightly complaining, you go back to constituency, more people complaining. That’s what this new leader has got to get us all over.
Conservative MPs should not be thinking about “survival” and the roles they might get when they choose the next leader, she continued.
Without endorsing a specific person, she said she hoped one candidate made it to more than 100 MPs. She added:
I would also totally disagree with the calls for a general election. I think that is the last thing that the country needs.
The shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, is also calling for a general election.
The Tories have caused a “huge amount of damage” and the longer they are in power, “the less fit they are to govern”, she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
She urges Tory MPs to join calls for an election to prevent the UK from “looking like a laughing stock” around the world. She said:
The Conservatives have the majority of 80 seats in the House of Commons, but I know that there are many Conservative MPs who will also be desperately worried about the place we find ourselves in as a country.
The job of PM and chancellor is not “a game of pass the parcel” and No 10 and 11 are not an “Airbnb”, she continues.
We cannot go on like this, just passing around the top jobs with the idea that that might somehow change things. We need a fresh general election to give a new government a chance with a mandate from the British people.
Liz Truss has arrived at Downing Street.
The shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, has accused the Conservative party of playing a “game of pass the parcel” with the country’s most important political positions.
Any new Tory leader would have “no mandate” to rule, she told Sky News.
The longer the Conservatives are in power, the less fit they are to govern. They can’t just pass around being prime minister and being chancellor like it is some sort of game of pass the parcel.
They have done huge damage now to our economy, to our global standing in the world and it is time for a general election to choose a government who can provide the stability and the leadership that the country desperately needs.
Here’s more from that poll from PeoplePolling, commissioned by GB News, which showed the Conservatives falling to the lowest level of support in British history.
They’ve also published a word cloud from the survey showing people most associate the words “shambles”, “incompetent”, and “useless” with the Tories.
Tories 'fall to lowest level of support in British polling history'
A new survey finds that the Labour party now has a 39-point poll lead over the Tories.
Just 14% of people would vote for the Conservative party if there was an election tomorrow, compared with 53% for Labour.
According to pollster Matt Goodwin, this morning’s polling results show the Tories falling to their lowest level of support in British polling history. He writes that he has never seen this in his lifetime.
The former Tory Cabinet office minister Sir David Lidington says Boris Johnson should not be looking to make a political comeback because “he has had his chance”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:
We do need competence now at a time of great economic challenge for this country.
Boris Johnson has always been somebody who has focused on the big picture, not on detail. He is not really interested in the detail of governing and nor when he was prime minister did he appoint a couple of ministers with delegated authority on his behalf to get things done, instead we had bunches of aides in Number 10 busy briefing the media and shouting at each other most of the time.
Even on top of the fact that he is still being investigated by Parliament on allegations of deliberately lying to MPs, I think he has had his chance and the Conservative parliamentary party concluded just a few months ago this could not go on and it would not be right for him to continue as prime minister - that, after all, is why he resigned.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey has urged Tory MPs to do their “patriotic duty” and call for a general election so the country can have a “fresh start”.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, he said the Tories had shown they were unfit to govern. He said:
We don’t need another Conservative prime minister lurching from crisis to crisis. We need to get rid of them. That has to mean a general election.
Boris Johnson ‘not the character to restore our reputation’, says Tory MP
Conservative MP Crispin Blunt says Boris Johnson is “not the character” to restore the party’s reputation right now – but that he could return in the future.
Johnson has “the most astonishing set of skills”, Blunt told Sky News. “There are one or two weaknesses kicking around in that personality,” he added.
Blunt, who is standing down at the next election, said he doesn’t think “we can go back there for the next two years”. He said:
[Johnson] is probably not the character to restore our reputation for the next two years ... however, in the future, beyond the next stage general election, as far as I’m concerned, the question entirely open.
Now we need someone who has got the proven personal capabilities of being prime minister, as well as then delivering the kind of administration which, in two years time, the country can make a decision on having seen the values and qualities of the Conservative party at their best in action.
Blunt said he was backing Rishi Sunak to be the next leader, after having “wavered in the course of the last week” between Sunak and Jeremy Hunt.
The former Conservative party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith has called for his party to unite behind whoever becomes the new PM.
The “depressing reality” is that the Conservative party is becoming “ungovernable”, he writes in an article in the Telegraph published last night. He said:
Rather than grasping the prospect of changing things while in power, it is now more concerned about what it stands against than what it stands for. Small wonder we have completed three regicides and four leadership elections in the space of five years. This is a totally unsustainable way to behave.
Without endorsing anyone in particular for leader, he calls on Tory MPs to “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”.
The founder of the ConservativeHome website Tim Montgomerie says the prospect of Boris Johnson making it into the final stage of the Tory party leadership race should be taken “very” seriously.
Johnson could receive “close to 140” nominations from Tory MPs, Montgomerie told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Boris Johnson is very popular amongst grassroots members and Rishi Sunak, the other leading contender for the crown, is much less popular. So I wouldn’t want to make any cast iron prediction in this crazy world of politics at the moment but I think Boris Johnson returning is a very real possibility.
He added that there are many Tories who “hate the idea of Johnson becoming leader” again, with talk of MPs potentially resigning the whip if he succeeds.
What’s coming up today
Here’s the agenda for the day:
Lib Dem leader Ed Davey will be doing a broadcast round this morning.
6.30am: Scottish Tory MP John Lamont, who is supporting Penny Mordaunt, was on BBC Breakfast, followed by Tory MPs Crispin Blunt at 7:30am and Paul Bristow at 8.05am. The shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves will speak at 8.30am followed by the SNP Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, at 9.05am.
7am: Borrowing data for September from the Office for National Statistics.
7:15am. Tory MP Crispin Blunt will be on Sky News at 7.15am, followed by the shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, at 7.20am. Chatham House’s director Bronwen Maddox is on at 7.40am, then the former adviser to Boris Johnson, Will Walden, at 7.45am. Tory MP Christopher Chope is on at 8.20am followed by the SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford at 8.45am.
7.20am: The former education minister Nicky Morgan will be speaking on Times radio, followed by Conservative MP Richard Graham and Jill Rutter of the UK in a Changing Europe think tank at 7:40am. The former Truss adviser Kirsty Buchanan will be on at 8.20am), then the Tory MP Bob Seely, supporting Mordaunt, at 9.05am.
7.32am: Sir Christopher Chope, supporting Boris Johnson, will be on TalkTV followed by Steve Double, supporting Rishi Sunak, at 8.05am.
9.30am: HMRC releases house sales figures.
9:30am: Sits in the House of Commons for Private Members’ bills.
2:45pm. Plaid Cymru’s leader, Adam Price, will address the party’s conference in Llandudno.
That’s it from me, Helen Sullivan, for today. My colleague Léonie Chao-Fong will see you through the next few hours, come what may.
Boris Johnson's allies say he is considering running – but could he win?
Boris Johnson is considering running again to be UK prime minister, with rightwing Conservative MPs and party donors already backing his nascent campaign – but as Pippa Crerar and Jessica Elgot report, he is a deeply divisive figure within the parliamentary party, and has an inquiry into the Partygate affair still hanging over him.
Nonetheless, Johnson remains popular with the Tory grassroots, who could get a say in the process of choosing a new leader. A YouGov poll earlier this week found 32% put him as their top candidate, ahead of Sunak at 23%.
MPs said they believed the influence of the rightwing ERG faction of the party, which previously backed Johnson, was “greatly diminished” by the collapse of Truss.
“It is very hard to see how anyone on the right of the party comes through now,” one long-serving Tory said. “But you will need people like Priti [Patel] in cabinet. If it’s all one nation types it collapses again in six months.”
The prospect of Johnson bidding for the top job sent many moderate Tory MPs into paroxysms of despair, and polling showed he remained unpopular with huge swaths of the public.
In an interview with LBC’s Andrew Marr, the former cabinet minister David Davis told Johnson “Go back to the beach”, while other Conservatives variously described the former prime minister as “electorally toxic”, “dangerous for democracy” and “Labour’s secret weapon”.
If a cabinet reshuffle follows when a new PM is elected, the UK could get its sixth education secretary in just over a year:
That’s more, the New Statesman’s Jeremy Cliffe points out, than Germany has had in the last 24 years:
What happens next?
Liz Truss has resigned as prime minister, saying she expects a replacement to be in place by the end of next week. Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers that decides the rules of a leadership contest, set out the rules on Thursday evening as follows:
When will there be a new prime minister?
Brady said he hoped the process would be concluded by 28 October – next Friday. But the result could come much sooner – perhaps even by Monday night.
What do candidates need to do?
Candidates will need a minimum of 100 nominations to proceed to the ballot, according to new rules decided by a committee of MPs. Nominations start on Thursday night and close at 2pm on Monday.
If two or three candidates reach the threshold – which is possible – then there will be two rounds of voting from MPs. The first vote will take place on Monday at 3.30pm with results announced at 6pm and an indicative round, if needed, would take place that evening, with the final result at 9pm.
MPs will hear from the nominated candidates at a hustings – but it will be behind closed doors.
Will the wider Tory membership be consulted?
Yes – despite the wishes of many Tory MPs. But they will not get to vote unless more than one candidate receives 100 or more nominations. A ballot of members will be conducted via “secure online voting” – according to the party.
The ballot will close at 11am on Friday 28 October and the result will be announced later that day. Only qualifying members, who have been a member for at least three months, can vote.
There will be at least one hustings between the final two candidates, via a broadcaster which is likely to be the BBC.
China’s state-run Global Times has also responded to the turmoil in the UK, saying it could “be seen as a microcosm of failing Western politics,” and that “the long-term practice of Western democracy cannot solve emerging new problems”.
Former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Friday that the UK “looks like a shambles”.
“At the moment the place looks like a shambles. It is very sad,” he said at a conference in Sydney on Friday. “I think what she did was so mad,” Turnbull added in reference to Truss’s mini-budget that crashed the markets and triggered a domestic financial crisis.
“I was just staggered. I knew Boris was wild and woolly but Liz Truss appeared to be a more sensible person, but turned out to be even crazier.”
Meanwhile, two out of five maternity units in England are providing substandard care to mothers and babies, the NHS watchdog has warned.
“The quality of maternity care is not good enough,” the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said in its annual assessment of how health and social care services are performing.
It published new figures showing it rated 39% of maternity units it inspected in the year to 31 July to “require improvement” or be “inadequate” – the highest proportion on record.
Ian Trenholm, the CQC’s chief executive, said maternity services were deteriorating, substandard care was unacceptably common and failings were “systemic” across the NHS.
Its latest state of care report said: “Our ratings as of 31 July 2022 show that the quality of maternity services is getting worse, with 6% of NHS services (nine out of 139) now rated as inadequate and 32% (45 services) rated as require improvement.
“This means that the care in almost two out of every five maternity units is not good enough”:
Liz Truss ignored economists’ stark warnings over mini-budget
Liz Truss ignored stark warnings from economists sympathetic to her growth strategy that the mini-budget that ultimately led to her downfall risked triggering a financial markets meltdown, the Guardian has learned.
Truss announced her resignation on Thursday after just 44 days in Downing Street, after a package of tax cuts and spending increases on 23 September rattled the markets, prompted a run on pension funds and sent the cost of mortgages spiralling.
But days before the start of her premiership, she was told by the economists Gerard Lyons and Julian Jessop that the markets were highly nervous and that she could face a crash if her policy changes were not handled with care:
With that, let us take a moment to simmer down and acknowledge the sound tracks chosen by evening news producers in the UK last night. The variety of sonic themes included newsnight’s choice of Rihanna’s “Take a Bow”, with the clip selected to include the lines “How a’bout a round of applause, yeah, standing ovation” – which accompanied a painful amount of footage of the crowd clapping at the 2022 Conservative Party Conference where Truss vowed to “Get Britain Moving” – as well as the line “You look so dumb right now”:
Also on the BBC, Ros Atkins leaned into the camera and gave us the précis of the last six years over the dramatic plucking of various string instruments.
Channel 4 used Liz Truss’s alleged favourite song, Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” to brutal effect, possibly ruining it for her forever.
Liz Truss’s entitlement to ex-PMs’ £115,000 annual grant sparks anger
Anger has been sparked at rules that mean Liz Truss will be entitled to an annual office allowance of up to £115,000 after serving as prime minister for a matter of weeks.
Amid calls for her to forgo the allowance, a trade union representing civil servants hit out at her entitlement to the perk amid a mounting squeeze on public services and the cost of living crisis.
Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, said: “At a time when one in five civil servants are using food banks and 35% have skipped meals because they have no food, it’s grotesque that Liz Truss can walk away with what is effectively a £115,000 bonus.
“The next prime minister must give civil servants, who work hard on essential services, an above-inflation pay rise.”
Friday's front pages
The resignation of Liz Truss after 45 chaotic days as prime minister leads the front page of every major newspaper in the UK on Friday. Here’s a roundup of the headlines:
Australian PM: 'My government is stable, is orderly. The adults are in charge'
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has expressed concern the political turmoil in the UK could delay a long-awaited free trade agreement between Australia and Britain.
“I’m concerned about any delay that would occur to the Australia-UK free trade agreement,” he told reporters in Perth on Friday.
“I had discussed with Prime Minister Truss the fast tracking of that. We discussed trying to get it concluded before the end of this year, to make sure that the appropriate parliamentary processes went through our respective parliament.”
The deal was set to be one of the first new trade deals signed by the British government in the wake of the UK leaving the European Union.
But following political chaos in Westminster, Mr Albanese has sought to emphasise stability in his federal government.
“My government is stable, is orderly. The adults are in charge,” he said.
“I’ve been in office for five months. I’ve met the two British prime ministers, so far, and I obviously will have contact with a third at some time when those issues are concluded.”
The MPs who could be PM
So here we are again. Less than two months after Conservative party members chose Liz Truss to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister, the party’s MPs – and, in some way, the members again – will select a successor to Truss in an accelerated week-long contest. Here are some of the contenders who could stand. They have all either indicated they may stand, or at least not ruled it out.
The (unlikely) pathways to a general election before 2025
So, could there be a general election?
In short, to the consternation of the opposition, and despite the government cycling through four chancellors, three home secretaries, and now three prime ministers this year: no. The next election is likely to be at the start of 2025, and changing that timeline is very hard to do.
Because the UK is a parliamentary democracy, elections are for individual local candidates – not prime ministers. So, in theory, the constant hokey-cokey of the last nine months has no bearing on the mandate of the particular MPs in place, and the only way to force an election is for a majority of the House of Commons to back a vote of no confidence.
As things stand, 40 Tory backbenchers would have to vote for an election that they would have every chance of losing, given Labour’s 30 point lead in the polls. If whoever the next prime minister is also fails, some of them might be despairing and exhausted and embarrassed enough to do so – but even then, and however dysfunctional it might seem, it’s a tall order.
MPs have started declaring their support for Sunak, Johnson and Mordaunt
After spending Liz Truss’s premiership keeping an extremely low profile, Rishi Sunak is firmly back on the scene this morning, with several MPs declaring their support in a coordinated social media push last night.
Sunak’s deepest appeal to MPs is his promise of absolution: if you think the voters’ distaste for Boris Johnson is only outdone by their disgust at everything that has happened since, Sunak allows you to rewind the clock, but not too far.
Hart said that this was “no time for experiments; no time for frivolity…this means choosing someone serious, tested, competent and kind.”
While Sunak beats the other plausible candidates, apart from Johnson, in recent membership polls, it is easy to see the former PM’s hardcore in the rank and file coalescing around Penny Mordaunt instead. So Sunak would certainly rather have the race sewn up early. But given the deep divides in the party over economic policy, as well as whether he should be held personally responsible for Johnson’s demise, any impression of unity is likely to be only a superficial effect.
Former culture secretary and current member for Mid Bedfordshire Nadine Dorries was among those who voiced support for Boris Johnson on Thursday, both on television and on Twitter, where she said, “One person was elected by the British public with a manifesto and a mandate until January 25”:
Member for West Cornwall Derek Thomas tweeted in support of Mordaunt, who he said had been his first choice when he supported Truss:
Welcome and summary
As people in the UK wake up knowing they will soon have their 5th Conservative prime minister in six years – or their third in just eight weeks – the race is on to discover who the winner of a fresh leadership contest will be. The lettuce, as far as we know, is not running.
On Thursday night, MPs were tweeting their support for various candidates ahead of a ballot on Monday afternoon. No candidates have declared publicly yet that they are running, though Michael Gove and Jeremy Hunt have ruled themselves out.
More on the likely candidates shortly. In the meantime, Here is where things stood on Thursday evening:
Liz Truss resigned as prime minister after just 45 days in office. Truss will be the shortest-serving prime minister in UK history. She said: “I recognise though given the situation I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative party.”
Nominations for the next PM opened on Thursday night and will close at 2pm on Monday. Candidates will need a minimum of 100 nominations to proceed to the ballot. There will be an indicative vote of MPs once there are two candidates.
The first ballot of MPs will be held between 3.30pm and 5.30pm on Monday. If there are three candidates, the candidate with the fewest number of votes will be eliminated.
The result will be announced at 6pm on Monday. If a second vote is needed (indicative), this will be held between 6.30-8.30pm on Monday. The result will be announced at 9pm.
If there are two candidates, the Tory membership will get to vote again and a winner will be picked by Friday.
Labour leader Keir Starmer said his party has a manifesto “ready to go” if there is an early election. He told the BBC if the Tories were to replace Liz Truss with Boris Johnson it would make the case for an early election even stronger. The Liberal Democrats say the Conservative party should block Boris Johnson from standing again.
A senior MP in Rishi Sunak’s previous leadership campaign said they expect him to stand again, according to the Guardian’s Jessica Elgot.
Kemi Badenoch and Penny Mordaunt are also expected to stand as leadership candidates.