Boris cuts holiday short and catches overnight flight to fend off Rishi in race for No10
Senior Tories are trying to broker a face-to-face meeting between Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak in a bid to end the bloodletting engulfing the party – as the former Prime Minister ended his holiday in the Dominican Republic and took an overnight flight back to London in the race for the keys to No10.
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Mr Johnson is understood to be willing to meet his estranged former chancellor in the hope of burying the hatchet and thrashing out a deal to govern together.
With the battle to succeed Liz Truss fast becoming a two-horse race, a deal between the pair could end the contest immediately, and may offer the best hope of healing the bitter divisions in Tory ranks.
There is speculation among backers of the old Downing Street neighbours that they could strike a deal to stand together, but this seems unlikely given how far apart the two are on key issues and how much they both want the top job.
Outgoing Prime Minister Truss, backed by Johnson for the top job, is said to be preparing to support him in a return to Downing Street.
Kemi Badenoch is also reported to be moving to back Johnson, as is former Home Secretary Suella Braverman. An endorsement from both could help to solidify the support of the party’s right wing behind him.
But there are concerns that some centrist MPs could resign the Tory whip or even defect in protest as they regard him as unacceptable to lead. That could open the door for Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to force a snap election and trigger a Conservative wipeout.
A staggering poll today shows the Tories 39 points behind Labour, at their lowest ever rating.
Former Cabinet minister David Gauke suggested Sir Keir should offer not to run candidates against Tory MPs who are willing to join a no-confidence vote.
With Mr Johnson flying home from holiday in the Caribbean, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is among the senior figures lined up behind his shock return – just six weeks after he was ousted from power amid a flood of resignations over Partygate and sleaze.
A Boris Johnson-supporting MP 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 said: ‘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’.
As Mr Johnson boarded a flight home, he was met with a ‘mixed reaction’ from passengers, with some booing the former PM, a Sky News reporter on the flight said.
As the race for the keys to No10 heats up:
Penny Mordaunt became the first candidate to officially enter the race;
Mr Sunak was targeting a knockout blow in the contest by gathering so many supporters that rivals have to drop out;
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will warn Britain’s new prime minister that they need to squeeze defence spending and axe a prison building programme to help balance the books;
Bitter opponents of Mr Johnson warned they could resign the Tory whip and force by-elections if he wins, plunging the party into more chaos;
Former Tory leader William Hague said bringing back Mr Johnson was the worst idea he’d heard in 46 years as a party member;
Allies of Mr Johnson said Tory MPs could cancel Parliament’s controversial Partygate probe into his conduct if he returns as prime minister;
Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch and former home secretary Suella Braverman were under pressure to pull out of the race after receiving no public nominations;
A new poll put support for the Conservatives on a record low of 14 per cent – 39 points behind Labour;
In a sign of the rancour in the party, veteran MP Sir Christopher Chope branded colleagues who forced out Miss Truss ‘hyenas’.
Sky News photographed the ex-PM and wife Carrie Johnson on an overnight British Airways flight back from the Dominican Republic with their children
Boris Johnson’s BA flight from the Dominican Republic is due to land in Gatwick Airport on Saturday morning
Boris Johnson’s plane took off from the Dominican Republic on Friday and is on its way to the UK
Dressed in a grey Worley Weingart t-shirt Mr Johnson, 58, smiled and posed with his trademark thumbs up, as he sat next to wife Carrie with a group of friends, including adviser Henry Newman (right) on holiday in Greece in August
Senior Tory members are urging the former Prime Minister Boris Johnson to meet face-to-face with estranged former Chancellor Rishi Sunak to join forces to win the leadership contest and ‘heal’ the party
Mr Johnson (pictured) is said to be willing to meet Sunak in the hope of burying the hatchet and thrashing out a deal to govern together
One senior Tory source, said regarding the reunion of Johnson and Sunak: ‘It is something that has got to be tried. The party as it stands is fractured – it is incumbent on the two greatest talents in the party to see if it can be healed’
Outgoing Prime Minister Liz Truss was seen leaving Downing Street today following her resignation yesterday
On Friday current Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt (pictured) became the first candidate to officially enter the race to become the Conservative Party Leader
Tory leadership race timeline
Monday: Nominations for the race close, candidates making it through must have at least 100 Tory MPs backing them
Monday 3.30 pm: First round of voting (if more than one candidate gets through)
Monday 6pm: Result of first vote announced. If three make it through, the candidate with the fewest votes is be knocked out
Monday 6.30pm: ‘Indicative’ ballot held if two candidates are left, one may drop out
Tuesday-Friday: If two candidates make it through, Conservative Party members have the chance to vote online
Friday: The final vote closes and Britain’s new Prime Minister is announced
The former PM, who was seen boarding a BA flight back to the UK with his wife Carrie, 34, plus children Wilfred, two and baby Romy, has told an ally that he will run in the leadership contest.
Sky News reporter Mark Stone said that passengers on the flight looked ‘slightly bewildered’ to see the former PM.
While they boarded the plane at Punta Cana International Airport separate from the public, the family sat in economy, the former PM in seat 34K.
‘Mr Johnson is sitting in economy, quite near the back of the plane, with his wife and children – one of his children climbing on top of him,’ he said.
‘He’s in a suit, his head forward, deep in thought, but moments before that one of his children was climbing on top of him – a family coming back from their holidays.’
The former PM’s plane is due to land at Gatwick Airport on Saturday morning from the Dominican Republic.
His travels follow two trips in August, when the then outgoing PM holidayed with Carrie for a belayed honeymoon in Slovenia, and then took a trip to Greece for a family holiday near Horto where his father Stanley has a house.
Following his resignation, Mr Johnson set up a company to channel millions in earnings that he could generate on the lucrative speaking circuit.
Earlier this month, he registered the company The Office of Boris Johnson Limited with Companies House.
The ex Premier, who stood down last month, had been predicted to earn around £5million a year after quitting Downing Street.
However Mr Johnson is said to have his eyes on No 10 again, as cabinet ministers Jacob Rees-Mogg and Simon Clarke also pledge their votes, while allies claimed MPs were ‘in tears’ in the Commons tea room as they realised his return is ‘almost unstoppable’.
Mr Johnson has been personally calling to woo colleagues and assuring them he will definitely be a candidate, and allies have been offering assurances that Jeremy Hunt will not be sacked as Chancellor.
Meanwhile, Stanley Johnson said it could be his son’s ‘moment’ to make a comeback in the wake of the humiliating resignation by Liz Truss.
Ms Johnson’s supporters have been boasting he could end up with more than 140 nominations, easily passing the 100 threshold needed to make the ballot on Monday afternoon.
However, as infighting in the party intensified critics swiped that his fans are noisy rather than numerous, predicting he will fall short of the numbers – while Mr Sunak is already well on his way to cresting that total. A Rishi camp MP said there was ‘limited scope’ for Mr Johnson because the pool is ‘mostly his old guard and Red Wall who are inexperienced and petrified’.
Another Sunakite suggested that Mr Johnson’s campaign is stalling and he will not run if he only gets 105 nominations because he is ‘thin-skinned’ and ‘only plays games he knows he can win’.
‘He wants to be Frank Sinatra doing a comeback tour and all the theatres are sold out. He won’t do it if they are half-empty,’ the MP jibed.
Mr Johnson returning would be a ‘Bobby in the shower moment’, according to a Tory source horrified at the prospect. ‘They are expecting the Tory Party to wake up and say Boris, thank God it was a dream.’
Former Tory leader William Hague, a supporter of Mr Sunak, claimed Mr Johnson returning as leader would send the Conservatives into a ‘death spiral’.
‘Him returning is the ‘solution’?,’ Lord Hague told Times Radio. ‘That would be going round in circles and that could become a death spiral of the Conservative Party.
‘And I think it’s possibly the worst idea I’ve heard of in the 46 years I’ve been a member of the Conservative Party.’
The trio of Mr Johnson, Mr Sunak and Ms Mordaunt look best-placed to hit the high threshold of 100 nominations from the 357 MPs needed to feature on the Tory leadership ballot. But it is possible only one or two will make the numbers by the Monday 2pm deadline.
Boris Johnson has been on holiday in the Dominican Republic but is returning ahead of the Conservative leadership contest
Dozens of Conservative MPs are backing Johnson’s return to No 10 despite his resignation just weeks ago
In an acknowledgment that she has ground to make up on the top two, Ms Mordaunt became the first to declare formally this evening – saying Conservatives had been telling her they want a ‘fresh’ start.
The in-tray of agonies for the next PM
The in-tray awaiting the next PM is loaded with problems – and whoever takes on the daunting task must do so while piecing together a bitterly divided party. Here, CHRIS BROOKE looks at the challenges ahead.
TAX AND SPEND
After racking up a £400billion bill during the pandemic and with rising interest rates sending borrowing costs even higher, the Government faces the nightmare task of trying to balance its books.
How can the Tories raise sufficient tax revenue and control spending while boosting growth in the economy to show there is a road out of the debt quagmire the nation’s finances appear stuck in?
With warnings of winter blackouts, simply keeping the lights on will be an achievement. Even with government help, millions will struggle to pay their energy bills – and with the prospect of prices going even higher in April, the PM must work out what support to give when the energy price guarantee ends in spring. Energy costs are also putting a massive strain on businesses.
The health service appears stuck in a never-ending crisis.
There are seven million people on waiting lists, constant difficulties seeing a GP, problems with ambulance response times and a crisis in maternity care. Many more doctors and nurses are needed and many believe major reform of the NHS is the only solution. But with two years until the next election there is no time to implement major structural change.
With Vladimir Putin increasingly cornered, fears are growing that there could be a nuclear escalation in the Ukraine war. Helping Ukraine to victory requires ever-increasing support from the UK and its Nato allies at no little cost.
The Tory faithful have long demanded a clampdown on the flood of cross-Channel illegal immigrants but so far no solution has been found and the Rwanda removals scheme remains stuck in the courts.
At the same time, some sectors of the economy want more immigrants to stimulate growth, meaning the new PM faces another difficult balancing act.
BREXIT & NORTHERN IRELAND
Brexit might be done but making it work remains a big problem. Talks to find a compromise solution to the Northern Ireland protocol – designed to prevent a trade border with the Irish Republic by effectively keeping the Province in the EU’s single market for goods – are at a delicate stage. A decision on whether to trigger Article 16 emergency measures that could start an EU trade war may need to be made.
POLLS AND PARTY UNITY
With the Tories trailing up to 39 points behind Labour in the polls, the new PM will be anxious to avoid being forced into an early General Election.
That means the next premier must somehow hold together a party that is split apart by factions. Conservative unity has been an impossible goal since the Brexit referendum but must somehow be achieved to avoid an election wipeout in two years’ time.
The latest tallies suggest Mr Sunak has 72 backers, while Mr Johnson is on 38 and Ms Mordaunt on 18. The former chancellor unveiled Sajid Javid, George Eustice, Chris Philp, Gavin Williamson and Liam Fox as his latest additions this afternoon.
Although Mr Johnson is still returning from the Dominican Republic, he has told allies he is definitely running.
interest costs on the £2.4trillion debt mountain hit a September record, as Chancellor Jeremy Hunt scrambles to put together £40billion of spending cuts for a Halloween Budget.
Friends of Mr Johnson told MailOnline that Mr Hunt staying as Chancellor was ‘coded in’ if he becomes PM again. ‘He’d be absolutely bonkers to change Hunt,’ one said. ‘He has gone down well. Any change, even if it was to somebody more competent would just generate confusion.’
A senior Tory source said: ‘It is something that has got to be tried. The party as it stands is fractured – it is incumbent on the two greatest talents in the party to see if it can be healed.’ They added: ‘The question the Conservative Party needs to ask itself is whether it wants to win another general election. If it does, then it needs to come together now.’
A source close to bookies’ favourite Mr Sunak last night played down the prospect of peace talks, saying that although he was ‘willing to talk to all colleagues’, there were ‘no plans’ for a meeting with Mr Johnson. But another senior Tory said there were signs that both camps were eager to heal the rift that otherwise threatens to undermine whoever succeeds Miss Truss. ‘On balance, I think it [a meeting] will happen,’ the source said.
It came as Sky News photographed the ex-PM and wife Carrie Johnson on an overnight British Airways flight back from the Dominican Republic with their children and said the MP received ‘one or two boos’ as he boarded.
Influential Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, who was a key Sunak backer in the last leadership race, said he now wanted to see Mr Johnson as PM with Mr Sunak alongside him again as chancellor.
Both men enjoyed a surge in support yesterday that threatened to make it impossible for rival candidates to get enough nominations to get on the ballot paper.
In a significant intervention, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said he was setting aside his own leadership chances – and suggested he would back Mr Johnson. He said it was important to think about ‘who could win the next election’ for the Conservatives.
Mr Johnson also received endorsements from five other Cabinet ministers, including Jacob Rees-Mogg, Levelling Up Secretary Simon Clarke and Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan.
Writing in the Daily Mail today, Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris describes Mr Johnson as the party’s ‘standout star’ who is best placed to ‘finish the job he started’.
Last night, Mr Johnson had the declared support of 43 MPs, although sources are confident he will get well over the 100 nominations needed to make the ballot paper on Monday.
Mr Sunak was out in front with backing from 83 MPs, including former chancellor Sajid Javid, who said it was ‘abundantly clear’ that he had the ‘values our party needs’ to ‘move on from the mistakes of the past’.
Mr Johnson is due to arrive back in the UK today following a holiday in the Caribbean. Although he has not formally confirmed his candidacy, former minister Sir James Duddridge revealed he had told him he was ‘up for it’.
Sir James said: ‘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’.’
Allies of Mr Johnson suggested he would be willing to meet Mr Sunak as soon as this afternoon if the former chancellor agrees. The two men have not spoken since Mr Sunak quit the Cabinet in July, triggering Mr Johnson’s exit a few days later. The ‘backstabber’ narrative dogged Mr Sunak throughout the summer leadership campaign and is seen as one of the main reasons Tory members rejected him in favour of Miss Truss.
MPs on both sides of the Tory divide fear that neither man will be able to heal the deep divisions without the support of the other. Peterborough MP Paul Bristow said it was time to ‘put the band back together’.
He told the BBC: ‘Boris Johnson has a mandate from the members of the party and from the electorate. I’m sure my colleagues will reflect on that when they vote, and we can avoid a general election, we can go out and put this band back together, we can have political heavyweights around that Cabinet table and we can go on and win the next general election. I’m convinced of that.’
It remains unclear how any deal between the two leading contenders could work. Mr Sunak quit as chancellor in part because of differences over economic policy and it is difficult to see how he could take the role again.
Allies of Mr Johnson dismissed the suggestion he would consider a senior role such as home secretary in a Sunak administration.
Miss Truss’s abrupt resignation on Wednesday has triggered a breakneck race to succeed her.
Candidate need 100 nominations from Tory MPs by 2pm on Monday to make the ballot paper.
Tory MPs will vote that night to whittle down the field to two if necessary. If two candidates remain, Conservative Party members will be asked to decide the contest in an online vote, with the result revealed on Friday.
Miss Truss will stay in post as caretaker leader in the meantime, and could take part in a final session of Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.
Now Tory big beasts line up to back Boris Johnson: Ex-Prime Minister sees dramatic surge in support with six Cabinet ministers leading clamour for a comeback
By Jason Groves, Political Editor for the Daily Mail
Support for a Boris Johnson comeback surged yesterday as six Cabinet ministers threw their weight behind the former prime minister.
Writing in today’s Daily Mail, Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said Mr Johnson was the ‘standout star’ to replace Liz Truss after she resigned.
It came after Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said yesterday he was also ‘leaning towards’ backing Mr Johnson.
Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg, Levelling Up Secretary Simon Clarke and Cop26 president Alok Sharma also pledged their votes for the ex-PM.
Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan also backed a comeback.
She tweeted last night: ‘I have worked closely with Boris Johnson for many years. He can continue to deliver for the country and already has a mandate.’
She added that it was ‘time to bring back Boris’.
Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan backed a Johnson comeback. She Tweeted last night: ‘I have worked closely with Boris Johnson for many years. He can continue to deliver for the country and already has a mandate’
Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg Tweeted a graphic that read ‘I’m backing Boris’ alongside a ‘Boris or bust’ logo.
Cop26 president Alok Sharma is among Tory Cabinet ministers backing Boris Johnson
Mr Johnson went on a charm offensive yesterday, phoning MPs from the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean, where he has been on holiday, to shore up support for a leadership bid. He accepted mistakes had been made during his previous stint in No 10 and pledged ‘a different culture’ if he wins back the keys.
He was due to fly back to London overnight before weighing up whether to throw his hat in the ring for the Tory leadership.
Mr Heaton-Harris, Mr Johnson’s former chief whip, writes in the Mail today that ‘there is no politician more able to rise up to whatever challenge he faces’.
He added: ‘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.
‘At a time of economic and international uncertainty, we need a leader with a track record of delivering for the British people.
‘A leader who has the mandate of not only the Conservative Party membership, but also the country.
A leader Labour fear the most because of his ability to win.’
Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris Mr Johnson’s former chief whip, writes in the Mail today that ‘there is no politician more able to rise up to whatever challenge he faces’
Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Simon Clarke also pledged his allegiance to the former Prime Minister
Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris Mr Johnson’s former chief whip, writes in the Mail today that ‘there is no politician more able to rise up to whatever challenge he faces’
Mr Wallace said he was minded to support Mr Johnson because he would be the only candidate with a clear mandate from the public, having won the 2019 general election. He added: ‘This will be potentially our third prime minister since the general election of 2019.
‘That means we have to think about that legitimacy question that the public will be asking themselves, and 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.’
In a joint statement with Ben Houchen, the Tory mayor of Tees Valley, Mr Clarke 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 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.’
Mr Rees-Mogg reposted a graphic on Twitter saying ‘I’m backing Boris’ alongside a ‘Boris or bust’ logo.
Meanwhile, Mr Sharma tweeted: ‘I am backing Boris Johnson – he won a mandate from the electorate in 2019.
‘We need to get back to delivering on the Conservative manifesto we were elected on.’
It means the contest for the leadership is looking increasingly like a two-horse race between Mr Johnson and his former chancellor Rishi Sunak.
One tally yesterday afternoon had Mr Sunak on 80 MPs backing him, with Mr Johnson on 50 and Penny Mordaunt – the only Tory to announce officially that they are running so far – on 21.
Candidates must secure the backing of 100 MPs by Monday afternoon to make it on to the ballot paper.
But a YouGov poll yesterday found more than half of Britons (52 per cent) would be unhappy to see Mr Johnson return. Only 27 per cent would be happy to see a comeback.
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11342231/Senior-Tories-urge-Boris-Johnson-Rishi-Sunak-meet-agree-dream-ticket-win.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Boris cuts holiday short and catches overnight flight to fend off Rishi in race for No10