Boris Johnson is privately pleading with Conservative MPs to support him for a dramatic return to Downing Street, promising that only he can win the Conservatives the next election.
In a remarkable olive branch offer after their public spat at the top of government, the former prime minister is urging Rishi Sunak to reach out and “get back together.”
On Thursday night, Mr Sunak was narrowly ahead of Mr Johnson in the Tory MP nominations, attempting to reclaim the leadership victory he missed last month.
Liz Truss resigned on Thursday after only 44 days in Number 10, accepting the near total collapse of support among colleagues and becoming Britain’s shortest-serving prime minister.
Ms Truss admitted in an 89-second resignation speech in Downing Street, “I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative Party.”
The battle to replace her is already underway, with Tory MPs declaring support for Mr Sunak, Mr Johnson, and the House of Commons leader, Penny Mordaunt.
On Thursday night, Mr Sunak led the Tory MP declarations with 29, followed by Mr Johnson with 24, and Ms Mordaunt with 11.
More candidates are considering a launch, but time is running out. Only MPs who receive nominations from 100 of the nearly 360 Tory MPs will advance to the first round.
The hopefuls have until Monday at 2 p.m. to collect the numbers. If there are two candidates who meet the threshold, the final two will go to a members’ vote, with a winner announced next Friday.
The news that Mr Johnson, who was ousted from office three months ago after more than 50 ministerial resignations, was considering running split Tory MP colleagues.
Given how his support dwindled earlier this year, there are doubts that Mr Johnson will reach the 100-MP threshold. Party leaders were forced to deny that the rules were intended to stymie him.
The Privileges Committee is also investigating whether Mr Johnson misled MPs about lockdown-breaking social gatherings in No10, dubbed “Partygate.” It is expected to begin gathering evidence within the next few weeks.
Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer responded to Ms Truss’ departure by declaring, “We need a general election – now.” According to labour sources, the demand will continue.