Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson withdraws from the leadership race

Johnson previously enjoyed great popularity until he lost credibility in the final months of his premiership.

Gleb Garanich | Reuters

LONDON — Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will not enter the competition to replace outgoing leader Liz Truss.

Despite being ousted from office just three months ago, some Tory MPs had backed Johnson for the top job, and he has reportedly told allies over the past two days that he would officially join in the competition.

But in a statement late Sunday, Johnson said now was “just not the right time.” He added that he had “passed the very high hurdle of 102 nominations” to enter the final stages of the competition. About 60 lawmakers had publicly backed the former prime minister, but there had been question marks over exactly how many nominations he had received.

Johnson mentioned his two rivals in his statement, Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt, who both officially competed in the contest.

“And although I reached out to both Rishi and Penny – because I was hoping we could come together in the national interest – unfortunately we weren’t able to find a way to do that,” he said. Johnson said.

Sunak the favorite

Former finance minister Sunak is now the red favorite to be Britain’s next leader with around 140 nominations so far.

On Saturday, Johnson returned from vacation in the Caribbean amid a media frenzy in which he would throw his hat in the ring. Johnson is believed to still be popular with the wider Tory party base, although many Tory MPs are strongly opposed to a return.

Nadine Dorries, former culture secretary and close Johnson ally tweeted Thursday that he was the only MP with “a mandate from party members and the British public”, having won the 2019 general election.

“There is a very good chance that I will succeed in the election with members of the Conservative Party – and that I may indeed be back in Downing Street on Friday. But over the past few days I have unfortunately come to the conclusion that it just wouldn’t be the right thing to do. You can’t govern effectively if you don’t have a united party in parliament,” Johnson said in the statement on Sunday.

Johnson previously enjoyed wide popularity until losing credibility in the final months of his term amid a political scandal over his Covid-19 rule-breaking and his links to disgraced MP Chris Pincher.

In his farewell speech, he hinted at a future return to power with the words: “Hasta la vista, baby” or “see you later”.

British Prime Minister Liz Truss resigned on Thursdayending a brief 44-day term bogged down by “mini-budget” chaos, economic turmoil and weeks of infighting.

How the contest works

Truss’s successor will again be chosen by a Conservative Party leadership race drawn from a shortlist of candidates. This time, however, the process has been sped up in the space of a week as the party seeks to salvage credibility and reassure markets.

Candidates have until 2pm London time on Monday to secure the support of 100 MPs and therefore enter the ballot for party leader.

The threshold is particularly high given that the party is made up of 357 MPs and each is only allowed to vote for one candidate. This therefore limits the number of possible suitors to three.

British Prime Minister Liz Truss failed to meet already low expectations, professor says

If just one candidate gets the required 100 votes, they will automatically win the race and become Britain’s next prime minister. If two or more candidates reach 100 nominations, the competition will proceed to indicative ballots on Monday afternoon and evening.

Should the process extend beyond Monday, members of the Conservative Party – who number around 200,000 representing 0.3% of the UK population – will have until 11 a.m. Friday to vote for their preferred candidate in the an online ballot.

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