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Boris Johnson’s statement in full as he exits race to replace Liz Truss in No 10

Ex-prime minister claims there was a ‘very good chance’ he could have returned to No 10

Andy Gregory
Sunday 23 October 2022 22:12 BST
Boris Johnson confirms he will not stand in Tory leadership contest

Boris Johnson has announced that he will not formally stand in the Tory leadership race, leaving his former chancellor Rishi Sunak as the clear favourite to replace Liz Truss in Downing Street.

Having cut short his Caribbean holiday early in a bid to shore up support among Conservative MPs for what would have marked an extraordinary return to No 10 just six weeks after leaving office in a mire of scandal, Mr Johnson announced on the eve of nominations closing that he would not contest the role.

Despite having the public support of just over 60 Tory MPs, the former prime minister claimed to have privately surpassed the threshold of the 100 nominations needed to appear on Monday’s ballot.

But after days of consternation among Conservative MPs warning that his reinstatement in Downing Street could tear a chasm in their party and tarnish its brand for a generation, Mr Johnson said he had decided that a formal bid to return to power “would simply not be the right thing to do”.

Despite claiming that there was “very good chance” his party could have propelled him back into No 10, Mr Johnson admitted: “You can’t govern effectively unless you have a united party in parliament.”

His dramatic exit on Sunday night leaves Mr Sunak within touching distance of No 10, with the former chancellor – who came second behind Ms Truss during the summer leadership race – fast closing in on the 179 nominations marking the support of more than half the parliamentary party.

His only remaining challenger, Penny Mordaunt, sat at just 26 public declarations of support at the time of Mr Johnson’s announcement, and it remained to be seen whether she could hoover up enough of his supporters to make it to the ballot the following day.

Here is Mr Johnson’s statement in full:

“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 and Penny – 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.”

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