Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has withdrawn from the race to become the next Conservative Party leader and thus the next Prime Minister.
Johnson claimed to have the support of 100 MPs – the minimum required to clear the threshold to appear on the Conservative Party membership ballot – but declined to stand, saying “this would just not be the right thing to do”. as “you cannot govern effectively if you do not have a united party in parliament,” according to the PA Media news agency.
His announcement comes after former British Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak officially entered the race to lead the Conservative Party, his second attempt at the position this year.
Sunak has already collected the 100 nominations from Tory party members to run. Sunak had tried to become leader in the summer following Johnson’s resignation, but lost out to Liz Truss, who resigned on Thursday.
A runoff between the two men could have proved divisive for the ruling Conservative Party, not least because many of Johnson’s supporters blame Sunak’s resignation in July for triggering the fall of his government. The Conservatives, in power for 12 years, are currently engulfed in chaos following the resignations of both Johnson and Truss.
Jake Tapper on the lessons of Britain’s recent political turmoil
Johnson’s possible return to the top job had divided opinion within the Conservative Party, with many lawmakers dismayed at the prospect of a second Johnson premiership. He resigned in July after a series of scandals.
The former prime minister is expected to appear in the coming weeks before the Commons Privileges Committee which is investigating whether he misled parliament across the parties, which could potentially see him suspended or expelled as an MP.
Sunak declared on Sunday morning that he would enter the competition. In a tweet, he wrote: “Britain is a great country but we are facing a deep economic crisis. That’s why I’m standing to be leader of the Conservative Party and your next Prime Minister. I want to fix our economy, unite our party and deliver for our country.”
After Johnson’s announcement on Sunday that he would not seek to be the next Conservative party leader, Sunak tweeted: “Boris Johnson delivered Brexit and the great vaccine rollout. He led our country through some of the toughest challenges we have ever faced, then took on Putin and his barbaric war in Ukraine. We will always be grateful to him for that.”
Sunak will be pitted against House of Commons leader Penny Mordaunt, who said on Sunday she regretted the so-called “mini-budget” that led to economic turmoil in Britain and Truss’ resignation.
“I very much regret the mini-budget … I raised concerns even before I was in the cabinet,” Mordant told the BBC in a Sunday interview, adding that there were details of the budget “the cabinet was not aware of.”
The last time the Conservatives held a leadership race – following the demise of the Johnson government – Truss came first, Sunak second and Mordaunt third.
Graham Brady, the Conservative official in charge of the process, has said all candidates must receive at least 100 nominations from the party’s MPs by 2pm local time on Monday.
Truss resigned on Thursday, just six weeks into her disastrous tenure that plunged Britain deep into political and economic turmoil. Her successor will be the fifth prime minister to lead the country since it voted for Brexit in 2016.
Amanpour reacts to Truss’ claim during resignation speech
Keir Starmer, leader of the main opposition Labor party, renewed calls for a general election on Sunday, after claiming people are “fed to the back teeth” by the Conservative leadership and the consequences of their government’s decisions.
“There is a choice to be made. We need a general election! Let the public decide… Do they want to continue with this total chaos, or do they want stability under a Labor government?” Starmer asked during a BBC interview.