Boris Johnson drops out of race to be next UK PM – POLITICO

LONDON – Boris Johnson has given up his bid to return as British Prime Minister, saying now is “not the right time” to make another run at No 10 Downing Street.

In a dramatic statement on Sunday evening after a weekend spent canvassing Tory MPs, Johnson announced he would not, after all, be standing to succeed Liz Truss when she steps down as Prime Minister this week.

His decision leaves his fierce rival and former Chancellor Rishi Sunak in pole position to take over as British Prime Minister in the coming days – although third-placed Penny Mordaunt could still see a surge of support after the abrupt departure of Johnson of the race.

“I believe I have a lot to offer,” Johnson said in his statement, “but I’m afraid now is just not the right time.”

Rules agreed by Tory party leaders after Truss’ shock resignation on Thursday state that any candidate hoping to succeed him needs the backing of 100 fellow Tory MPs before nominations close at 2pm on Monday.

Sunak had cleared that hurdle easily by late Saturday afternoon, with Johnson clearly trailing and seemingly struggling to make the cut.

In his Sunday night statement, Johnson insisted he did in fact have the numbers to vote on and was confident he would win enough grassroots support in the membership vote that would have followed – but that the need of party unity meant the right thing to do was to stand down instead.

“You can’t govern effectively unless you have a united party in parliament,” Johnson said. “And although I reached out to both Rishi and Penny – because I was hoping we could come together in the national interest – unfortunately we were unable to find a way to do so.

“Therefore, I fear the best thing is not to allow my nomination to go ahead and to pledge my support to whoever succeeds.”

Johnson had always made it clear he hoped to one day return as prime minister after being ousted by his party in July following a series of personal scandals. His farewell shot in the House of Commons during its final session of Prime Minister’s Questions was “Hasta la vistababy” – a reference to actor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous catchphrase “I’ll be back” from the “Terminator” films.

Indeed, former colleagues of Johnson’s, including his longest-serving former aide Dominic Cummings, believe he tacitly backed Truss’ bid for No 10 precisely because he thought she was deeply unsuited for the job, and that she would therefore collapse once settled in No. 10 – potentially giving her the chance for a comeback.

But even Johnson was surprised by the speed of Truss’ collapse. He was vacationing with his family in the Caribbean when she abruptly resigned on Thursday and was forced to return late Friday night to launch her budding leadership bid.

He was backed by several figures, including Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, Cabinet Minister Nadhim Zahawi and Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg.

“I have been overwhelmed by the number of people who have suggested that I should again challenge the leadership of the Conservative Party,” Johnson said, “both among the public and among friends and colleagues in Parliament.”

But many other former allies had advised him against another run, and many of the party’s most prominent right-wing figures had backed Sunak instead.


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