Rishi Sunak 'wins backing of over 100 MPs' in leadership race

Rishi Sunak came second place to Liz Truss in the previous leadership contest. Credit: PA

Rishi Sunak is attracting a growing number of backers to replace Liz Truss as Conservative party leader and prime minister.

Sources from Mr Sunak's campaign have told ITV News that he has gained the 100 nominations from Tory MPs needed to enter a ballot of Conservative party members.

Tory MP Angela Richardson confirmed his bid this evening, tweeting: "I was able to sign @RishiSunak's nomination papers for Conservative Party Leader.

"A positive end to an extraordinary week in Westminster."

Penny Mordaunt was the first to announce her bid to take over from Liz Truss as prime minister, and Boris Johnson is also expected to join the race.

Mr Sunak has also yet to declare whether he is running.

The former prime minister is believed to be flying home from his holiday in the Caribbean in an attempt to return to No 10.

Mr Johnson resigned as PM in July, forced out by his own MPs, after one scandal too many, but he still has many allies within the party who are urging him to run again.

It could mean a tense contest against Mr Sunak, who Johnson supporters blame for bringing him down.

But the ex-chancellor has his share of allies too, including former veterans minister Johnny Mercer, who told BBC Radio 4's PM programme: "I don't accept he knifed Boris Johnson."

He added: “I love Boris to bits and he’s got amazing qualities for this country but it is now time for serious, competent, straightforward and values-based governance."

Boris Johnson is believed to be flying home from his holiday to join the race. Credit: Andrew Boyers/PA

Former health secretary and chancellor Sajid Javid has also thrown his weight behind Mr Sunak.

He tweeted: "Our country desperately needs economic stability, hard-headed decision making and strong leadership.

"It is abundantly clear that Rishi Sunak has what it takes to match the challenges we face - he is the right person to lead our party and take the country forward.

"I also believe it is in the national interest to have a strong Conservative Party. The only way for our party to reclaim our values and recover our reputation for stewardship is to move on from mistakes of the past and come together to focus on the future."

Showing his support, another former health secretary, Matt Hancock, tweeted: "I have worked incredibly closely with Boris, Rishi & Penny in Government. I admire all three.

"With the challenges we face today: economic crisis & the need to restore authoritative leadership, @RishiSunak is the best person to lead our country I’m voting Rishi & hope you do too."

Tom Tugendhat, who competed in the last Tory leadership race over the summer, said he is backing Mr Sunak because "we need economic stability".

The leadership contest is expected to be completed by the end of next week and will include both MPs and party members.

Credit: PA

Earlier Downing Street confirmed that it would be up to whoever succeeds Ms Truss to decide whether to go ahead with Jeremy Hunt’s medium-term fiscal plan to balance the books.

The chancellor has warned that it will involve some “eye-wateringly difficult” decisions, with tax rising and spending reined in to fill an estimated £30 billion black hole in the public finances.

However former Bank of England deputy governor Professor Sir Charlie Bean warned the new incumbent would have no choice but to stick with it if they were to avoid the turmoil which followed former chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s now abandoned mini-budget.

“It would be even worse if the new prime minister decided they wanted to replace Jeremy Hunt with another chancellor. That really would create a lot of volatility in the financial markets,” he told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One.

“There has really to be an acceptance on the part of whoever takes over as prime minister that they will defer to Jeremy Hunt.”

Former Conservative foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind said he would back former chancellor Rishi Sunak because he is “by far the best” of the contenders available.

He told Times Radio: “I don’t know Rishi Sunak. I’ve not met him personally. So I’m not simply an automatic adherent.

“But what I do know is that during the Truss/Sunak campaign, one of the reasons Sunak lost probably was because he was brave enough to put the public interest (first) and say ‘I cannot support tax cuts unless they’re properly funded, and not while the economy’s in a mess’ and he said that and it probably cost him more votes than it gained him. But he’s been proven 100% right.

“So as a citizen affected by the way the economy may develop over the next few months, then on the people available, he is by far the best.”

Lord Frost, a former Brexit minister and close ally of Boris Johnson, also called on his party colleagues in the Commons to back Rishi Sunak.

The Tory peer tweeted: “Boris Johnson will always be a hero for delivering Brexit.

“But we must move on. It is simply not right to risk repeating the chaos and confusion of the last year.

“The Tory Party must get behind a capable leader who can deliver a Conservative programme. That is Rishi Sunak.

“As I wrote in July: ‘(Rishi) would be a very able prime minister. He understands the issues, can work the machine, and is a decent guy to boot. He would mark a big change in ‘feel’ from the Boris years.’

“That’s what we now need. Let’s get behind Rishi.”

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know.