Rishi Sunak stands to rescue Britain from the ‘guaranteed disaster’ of a Boris Johnson comeback

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Rishi Sunak gained momentum in the race to become UK prime minister, securing public backing from top Conservative Party lawmakers ahead of Monday’s initial leadership vote and pressing Boris Johnson to declare his hand.

The former chancellor announced on Sunday that he was running for party leadership in a race sparked by the resignation of Liz Truss after 44 turmoil-filled days as prime minister. “I want to fix our economy, unite our party and deliver for our country,” he said in a post on twitter.

Meanwhile, Johnson has yet to publicly announce his candidacy, even as a person familiar with the discussions said the former prime minister had already garnered the support of 100 lawmakers, enough to put him on the ballot Monday. But public support for him was only half of that, and throughout Sunday it was clear that the big conservative names were increasingly backing Sunak.

Suella Braverman, whose resignation as home secretary last week helped trigger the race to replace Truss as party boss and prime minister, backed Sunak. “We as a party have to change,” she said. wrote at the Telegraph. “We need to provide leadership, stability and confidence to the British people.”

Whoever wins will be faced with the task of trying to bring unity to a party that has endured months of turmoil and public infighting. Truss took over after a leadership battle with Sunak that at times led to public clashes, and which in turn was sparked by Johnson’s departure as prime minister after a series of scandals. It comes as economic challenges mount with inflation at four-decade highs and a deepening cost-of-living crisis as people face ever-increasing energy bills.

Sunak has at least 123 legislators behind him, compared to those of Boris Johnson 51 designated sponsors, according to the Bloomberg count. The only other candidate for now is the leader of the Commons, Penny Mordaunt. She has 23 confirmed backers in the Bloomberg tally, but she told Sky News that she was “confident about our numbers”. She confirmed that she would be keeping the current chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, in her position and that she had sat down with him at the Treasury Department and been briefed on the state of the country’s finances.

Investors are likely to sell the pound and gilts in the event of a Johnson or Mordaunt win, while a Sunak win would likely support UK assets for a while because he is seen as having a better understanding of what the country wants. needs to balance the books. The race will conclude on Monday night or, if put to an online vote with the broader Tory party membership, on Friday.

Johnson and Sunak met last night amid speculation of a deal between the two, despite bitterness over Sunak’s role in Johnson’s downfall as prime minister. There was no apparent outcome of those discussions and no mention of Johnson in Sunak’s announcement. Mordaunt meanwhile rejected a proposal Johnson to drop out of the race and support him instead, the Telegraph reported, without saying where he got the information.

Johnson won some supporters on Sunday, including Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and Nadhim Zahawi, a short-lived chancellor for Johnson.

“He made the right decisions, whether it was ordering more vaccines before more waves of covid, arming Ukraine early against the advice of some, or resigning for the sake of unity. But now Britain needs him back,” Zahawi wrote on Twitter.

But Steve Baker, a Northern Ireland minister and Brexite leader who backed Johnson in the 2019 general election, said another prime ministerial role for Johnson would be a “guaranteed disaster”. Baker told Sky News the country needed “stability and professionalism” and Johnson would be distracted by an ethics investigation into topics including partying during coronavirus lockdowns.

Grant Shapps, Braverman’s successor as home secretary, also endorsed Sunak on Sunday, following cabinet minister Kemi Badenoch on Saturday.

—Assisted by Alex Wickham and Ryan Hesketh

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