Boris Johnson has pulled out of the race to become the next UK Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party, saying he has enough support but decided that it was not the right thing to do, the media reported on Monday.
In a statement on Sunday night, the former Prime Minister said: “In the last few days I have been overwhelmed by the number of people who suggested that I should once again contest the Conservative Party leadership, both among the public and among friends and colleagues in Parliament. I have been attracted because I led our party into a massive election victory less than three years ago, and I believe I am therefore uniquely placed to avert a general election now.
“A general election would be a further disastrous distraction just when the government must focus on the economic pressures faced by families across the country. I believe I am well placed to deliver a Conservative victory in 2024, and tonight I can confirm that I have cleared the very high hurdle of 102 nominations, including a proposer and a seconder, and I could put my nomination in tomorrow.
“There is a very good chance that I would be successful in the election with Conservative Party members, and that I could indeed be back in Downing Street on Friday. But in the course of the last days I have sadly come to the conclusion that this would simply not be the right thing to do. You can’t govern effectively unless you have a united party in parliament.
“And though I have reached out to both Rishi (Sunak) and Penny (Mordaunt) – because I hoped that we could come together in the national interest – we have sadly not been able to work out a way of doing this. Therefore I am afraid the best thing is that I do not allow my nomination to go forward and commit my support to whoever succeeds. I believe I have much to offer but I am afraid that this is simply not the right time.”
Responding to Johnson’s decision, the leading contender in the race, Rishi Sunak publicly praised the former Prime Minister for his achievements in Downing Street.
In a series of tweets early Monday morning, Sunak said: “Boris Johnson delivered Brexit and the great vaccine roll-out. He led our country through some of the toughest challenges we have ever faced, and then took on Putin and his barbaric war in Ukraine.
“We will always be grateful to him for that. Although he has decided not to run for PM again, I truly hope he continues to contribute to public life at home and abroad.”
Sunak, who is now seen as a favourite to be the next Prime minister, is still being challenged by Penny Mordaunt, the current leader of the House of Commons.
The two contenders have until 2 p.m. on Monday to get the required 100 endorsements from MPs and there are a total of 357 Conservative MPs in Parliament.
MPs will hold an “indicative” ballot of the final two, with the winner then decided in an online vote of party members, to end on October 28.
According to a tally by the BBC, 155 MPs are backing Sunak and 25 are supporting Mordaunt.
The 54 MPs who had backed Johnson are yet to switch support.