Boris Johnson urges party to back new leader 'wholeheartedly' after race is over

Credit: Peter Nicholls/Pool via AP

Boris Johnson has urged his party to come together and back its new leader “wholeheartedly” ahead of the result of the Tory leadership contest being announced this week. Either Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak will be declared as the new leader of the Conservative Party on Monday and writing in the Sunday Express, the outgoing PM backed the abilities of both candidates. After a long summer of at-times fractious campaigning, Mr Johnson writes: “Tomorrow (Monday) the great national suspense will be over and the country will finally learn the name of our new prime minister. “This is the moment for every Conservative to come together – and back that new leader wholeheartedly.” “This is the time to put aside the disagreements of the last few weeks, fascinating though they may have been, and put the national interest first.”

There have been questions in recent weeks about how the party moves on from the contest, after Ms Truss and Mr Sunak offered competing and sometimes divergent visions for the governing party and the country.

Ms Truss, the foreign secretary, has said she will offer support to households, but has not set out what might be contained in any emergency budget or fiscal event.

But Mr Johnson, writing his final piece for the Sunday Express as PM, says: “As I leave Number Ten after three tough but often exhilarating years I know just how big and demanding this job is. I also know that either candidate is more than capable of delivering for the people of this country.” His successor, widely expected to be Ms Truss, will face a daunting set of challenges including an energy crisis, soaring inflation, further strike action and the ongoing war in Ukraine. Mr Johnson uses the article to repeat one of his main messages of recent weeks, urging the British people to remain resolute in support of Ukraine despite the cost-of-living crisis.

Both candidates have said they are against the idea of cash payouts for British families struggling through the cost of living crisis. Credit: PA

He also says that both candidates, if elected, will “do even more” to support those who are struggling, with energy bills set to rise to around £3,500 this winter for the average household. “I know that both candidates will do even more to help people with the cash they need to pay their bills, in addition to the large sums that are already arriving in the next weeks and months. “Both candidates will find other ways to ease the pressures on families – such as sensible tax cuts,” he writes. “I know that together we will get through this cost-of-living crisis just as we got through Covid – and never forget how grim things seemed just a couple of years ago. “We had thousands dying of a new and scary disease, and the economy shocked by the biggest fall in output for 300 years. “Yes, Putin’s energy crisis is tough. Yes, it has been and will be hard this winter, for families whose gas and electricity bills are being forced sky-high by his vicious war in Ukraine. “But if he thinks he can succeed in his economic blackmail, he is fooling himself."

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the outgoing PM a “true friend” as he paid tribute to his steadfast support for the war-torn country.

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Where do Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak stand on the cost-of-living crisis?

Ms Truss has said she will offer support to households and will set out “immediate action” on energy bills during her first week in office.

But she has not set out what might be contained in any emergency budget or fiscal event. Throughout the campaign she has pledged to “start cutting taxes from day one” with a new Budget and Spending Review that would reverse April’s rise in National Insurance and next year’s corporation tax increase from 19% to 25%. The foreign secretary also said she would “simplify” taxes and ensure people are not penalised for caring for children or relatives.

She has confirmed that she would suspend the “green levy” - part of the energy bill that pays for social and green projects.

Mr Sunak has said that protecting people from rising energy bills will be his “immediate priority” as prime minister. Having pitched himself as the fiscally conservative candidate, the former chancellor has criticised his rival’s tax-cutting plans as “comforting fairytales”. He has promised to “deliver tax cuts that drive growth”, but to do so in a “way that’s responsible”, while branding plans by Ms Truss as “morally wrong” for passing debt on to the next generation.

Mr Sunak has also pledged to temporarily scrap VAT on energy bills from October, saving households around £160 at a cost to the exchequer of around £4.3 billion.

He has said he would look at soaring energy costs for businesses, as well as stressing that he would provide “direct financial assistance” to those on the lowest incomes and pensioners.

Mr Johnson and his successor will go to Balmoral rather than Buckingham Palace for the appointment of the new prime minister on Tuesday, in a break from tradition. The Queen will receive Mr Johnson on Tuesday at her Aberdeenshire home, where he will formally tender his resignation. This will be followed by an audience with the new Tory leader, where she or he will be invited to form a government.