Penny Mordaunt refuses Boris Johnson request to drop out of contest, reports say – UK politics live | Conservative leadership

Mordaunt refuses Johnson request to drop out of contest – reports

As reported at 3:38pm, PA Media is reporting a line briefed out that Boris Johnson asked Penny Mordaunt to drop out of the leadership race and to back him.

“Sources close to the Leader of the House of Commons” told the news agency that Mordaunt refused, warning that most of her support would switch to Rishi Sunak if she did.

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MP for Finchley and Golders Green Mike Freer has been added to the list of Sunak’s backers, after confirming his support for the former chancellor in a tweet earlier today.

Sunak’s public backers have put him beyond the threshold of 100 nominations from MPs required to be on the ballot for the Tory leadership race. So far he has 131.

The Observer’s political editor, Toby Helm, has tweeted his prediction of what comes next.

A not unlikely scenario is Johnson gets 100 just. Mordaunt drops out. Most of her MPs go to Sunak giving him close to roughly twice as many as Johnson in final indicative vote of MPs. If Johnson then wins among members with big maj of MPs not wanting him…it is utter chaos.

— Toby Helm (@tobyhelm) October 23, 2022

The former Bank of England governor Mervyn King has issued a warning that Britons face years of financial hardship that could be “more difficult” than during the age of austerity under the former Conservative chancellor George Osborne. He said households would face both higher taxes and higher mortgage rates.

Starmer under pressure from left for more radical Labour economic programme

Keir Starmer is facing growing pressure from the left of the Labour party to seek a more radically redistributive economic programme – as he warned that the current economic conditions will minimise the scope for action if his party wins the next general election.

Corbyn-era shadow cabinet member Rebecca Long-Bailey has echoed the frustration of many on the left at what they view as an excessively cautious approach despite Labour’s huge poll leads suggesting they are in a position to win a large parliamentary majority.

Writing in the Independent, she said Labour must be ready to take advantage of a “watershed” moment in British politics by offering a “transformative socialist programme for government”.

Our deputy political editor, Rowena Mason, has written a helpful explainer on the issues that will be faced by the next PM in the months ahead.

For those just catching up, Rishi Sunak’s support is currently at 140 MPs – two and a half times the number of publicly declared supporters for Johnson, who has 56 backers. Penny Mordaunt, the third candidate, has about 25 supporters.

In a damning verdict on the prospect of Johnson returning as prime minister, Suella Braverman has said the party “cannot indulge in parochial or nativist fantasies”.

She warned fellow Tory MPs not to be “naive” when deciding who to nominate in the contest. Braverman’s decision is significant as Johnson’s team had made a “big pitch” to her on Saturday in the hope that winning over the former home secretary would persuade fellow rightwing MPs to back him.

Braverman is a former head of the European Research Group of Brexiteer MPs. It is a further sign that the ERG is split down the middle between Sunak and Johnson.

Culture secretary comes out for Sunak

Another cabinet minister has come out in support of Rishi Sunak, as culture secretary Michelle Donelan has said she supports his “unity, stability, delivery and relentless focus”.

Donelan, who was education secretary for two days under Boris Johnson in July, said it was important for the party to “come together and unite”.

Her backing means that according to the Guardian’s count, Sunak now has 140 MPs who have said publicly that they will vote for him.

Earlier today I publicly backed @RishiSunak to be our next Prime Minister. The country is facing many challenges – now is the time for unity, stability, delivery and relentless focus.

It is crucial we come together and unite behind this common mission.

— Michelle Donelan MP (@michelledonelan) October 23, 2022


Here’s a round-up of today’s key developments in the final day before Conservative party MPs vote in the first ballot as part of the contest to elect their next leader.

  • Rishi Sunak has announced his candidacy to be the next Tory leader. In a statement, posted on Twitter, he promised to “fix our economy, unite our country and deliver for our country”.

  • A number of key declarations of support have been made. Suella Braverman, Grant Shapps and Chloe Smith have all said they will support Sunak in the vote on Monday.

  • Former vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi, who was briefly Johnson’s chancellor, said he will vote for him, as will foreign secretary James Cleverly.

  • Johnson is still yet to announce his candidacy. Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris told Sky News that the former PM had the 100 MPs needed to get through the ballot on Monday.

  • Talks were held between Sunak and Johnson that ended late on Saturday night without a deal.

  • Similar discussions took place between Mordaunt and Johnson on Sunday afternoon, with the former prime minister reportedly asking Mordaunt to drop out of the contest – a request she refused.

  • Mordaunt appeared on BBC One in an interview with Laura Kuenssberg, and declined to make any agreements on policy.

  • New polling from Opinium that has been published in the last few minutes shows that the public prefer Rishi Sunak over Boris Johnson to be the next prime minister.

  • Former Conservative party leader Iain Duncan Smith told the BBC that the Tories were “staring over the brink of a precipice” with its current problems.

  • Former European Research Group chair Steve Baker said Johnson’s return as prime minister would be “a guaranteed disaster” because of an upcoming vote on whether he lied to the House of Commons over Partygate.

Mordaunt refuses Johnson request to drop out of contest – reports

As reported at 3:38pm, PA Media is reporting a line briefed out that Boris Johnson asked Penny Mordaunt to drop out of the leadership race and to back him.

“Sources close to the Leader of the House of Commons” told the news agency that Mordaunt refused, warning that most of her support would switch to Rishi Sunak if she did.

Two interesting reports for different reasons here, with a focus on Boris Johnson’s – as yet still to be announced – leadership candidacy.

The Times’s home affairs editor Matt Dathan is reporting that Johnson and leadership contender Penny Mordaunt spoke this afternoon. Johnson is thought to have asked her to support him, but she said no and in turn that most of her backers would rather switch to Rishi Sunak.

Sunak and Johnson spoke last night, with it appearing that no deal was struck. Sunak announced his own candidacy this morning. But it suggests that despite assurances that the Johnson camp have the 100 MPs needed to get onto the ballot, they may be short.

Mordaunt is further behind Johnson – she has 24 MPs compared with Johnson’s 5,7 according to the Guardian’s count. There are a good chunk of MPs who are yet to declare their support, but both are well short of 100. Both trail Sunak, who is on 139, after Nusrat Ghani’s declaration.

Arj Singh and Chloe Chaplain of the i have been told that Johnson will take the leadership contest to the members’ vote, even if Sunak is well ahead in the MP’s ballot.

“Members decide, not MPs,” one of Johnson’s supporters told the i.

Vice-chair of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers Nusrat Ghani has said she is backing Rishi Sunak in the leadership race, saying she had considered supported Penny Mordaunt.

Ghani has held ministerial positions for Liz Truss, Boris Johnson and Theresa May.

The wording of her tweet implicitly suggests that she does not think Johnson is a credible candidate.

Both Penny & Rishi are credible candidates & a credit to the party.
But we have tested the public’s patience enough. We need to unite & focus on delivery with integrity, professionalism & accountability. I’m backing Rishi- leave party division behind & focus on the country. https://t.co/FpeQdkEC7D

— Nus Ghani MP (@Nus_Ghani) October 23, 2022

Mark Brown

Mark Brown

If you’re just catching up with who has backed who in the leadership contest, you can find the live list of MPs who have publicly declared who they will be supporting below.

Rishi Sunak is ahead with nearly 140 MPs. The vote will take place at 2pm on Monday.

My colleague Mark Brown has also laid out which of the “big beasts” are backing who, from Dominic Raab and Suella Braverman backing Rishi Sunak, Priti Patel and James Cleverly for Boris Johnson and Andrea Leadsom and Damien Green supporting Penny Mordaunt.

New polling from Opinium that has been published in the last few minutes shows that the public prefer Rishi Sunak over Boris Johnson to be the next prime minister.

The numbers have further shifted in favour of Sunak compared to the last time the company surveyed people.

The former chancellor has a narrow lead over people who have said they wouldn’t vote Conservative but did so in 2019.

Today Rishi Sunak has increased his lead over Boris Johnson as the public preference to be next PM.

> 45% now prefer Sunak (+1)
> 27% now prefer Johnson (-4)

Changes since 20-21st October. pic.twitter.com/XhPCBVXs7c

— Opinium (@OpiniumResearch) October 23, 2022

David Lidington, who was effectively deputy prime minister under Theresa May, has written an opinion piece for the Guardian on the current image problem of the Conservative party.

Lidington, who stepped down from parliament in 2019, said the Tories looked “incompetent, tin-eared and obsessed with our party’s prospects” during the cost of living crisis.

He writes:

This week will be the 13th time since I joined the Conservative party back in 1975 that a new leader has been elected or an incumbent faced a leadership challenge. Six of those occasions have been in the past six years alone.

We all know that this cannot go on. Our country is facing economic and strategic threats as great as any I have seen in my lifetime. Our party is in peril of being branded for a generation as divided, self-indulgent and indifferent to the nation’s needs.

Please, when you make your choice, put the country first. Every single one of us went into politics because we wanted to make the United Kingdom more prosperous and secure, to make life better for our fellow citizens. Yet in the past few weeks we have appeared incompetent, tin-eared and obsessed with our party’s prospects at the very time millions of households are worried sick about how to meet their bills for food, fuel and housing. Even those lucky enough to have a decent income and paid-off mortgage worry about those who do not. After all, they include our own children and grandchildren.

The full piece can be read here:

Keir Starmer calls Tory leadership contest ‘ridiculous, chaotic circus’ – video

‘Boris has learned lessons’ says Cleverly as he announces support

A big declaration of support for Boris Johnson from foreign secretary James Cleverly, as he said he will vote for him if he stands in Monday’s vote.

Cleverly, who was education secretary for a month under Johnson, and a minister previous to that, said that he thinks Johnson has “learned his lessons from his time” in Downing Street.

“[He] will ensure the focus is on the needs of the country from day 1,” he said.

The last few weeks show that being PM is tough and no other job in government is quite like it.

I know Boris has learned lessons from his time in No10 and will ensure the focus is on the needs of the country from day 1.

I will be supporting him to return to the role of PM.

— James Cleverly🇬🇧 (@JamesCleverly) October 23, 2022

Suella Braverman declares Sunak backing

Former home secretary Suella Braverman, who resigned on Wednesday, has said that she is supporting Rishi Sunak’s bid to become prime minister.

Braverman, who served as attorney general under Boris Johnson, is a big figure on the right of the party and it was thought that she may have launched a leadership bid herself. Her support for Sunak will count as a big blow to Johnson’s campaign.

Her resignation letter to Liz Truss on Wednesday criticised breaking manifesto pledges. She is an MP who has engaged most readily with “culture war issues” and said it would be her “dream” to see refugees deported to Rwanda.

Writing in the Telegraph (paywall), she said Johnson is “one of our most significant prime ministers in history”.

But she pivots to say:

Things need to change. We, as a party, need to change. We need to provide leadership, stability and confidence to the British people. We cannot indulge in parochial or nativist fantasies. Yes, I want a leader of our Party and our country to inspire hope for a better future and raise our spirits. And I need a leader who will put our house in order and apply a steady, careful hand on the tiller. That person, for me, is Rishi Sunak.

She ends by saying that Britain is in “dire straits” and Sunak is the candidate that “fits the bill.”

I have backed Boris from the start. From running alongside him in London in 2012, to supporting him to be our leader in 2019 and willing him to succeed throughout the travails of this year. His resignation in July was a loss for our country.

But we are in dire straits now. We need unity, stability and efficiency. Rishi is the only candidate that fits the bill and I am proud to support him.

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