United Kingdom: Boris Johnson faces the rejection of the ‘tories’ deputies, who bet on Rishi Sunak | International
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Boris Johnson has faced this Sunday a reality that he is unaware of: he has had to work hard to beg the support of at least 100 conservative deputies, in order to present his candidacy to lead the party again. He is not used to not being loved or his aspirations not being taken into account. Near the end of the weekend, there are still doubts that he can reach the magic number. And his two immediate rivals – Penny Mordaunt and especially favorite Rishi Sunak – have rejected Johnson’s attempts to agree on a joint candidacy.
This time Sunak has preferred not to be the first to take the step, but the one with the most support when taking it. The former Minister of the Economy of the United Kingdom officially announced this Sunday that he aspires again to lead the Conservative Party, mired in a deep crisis after the brief and catastrophic mandate of Liz Truss in Downing Street. “The decision our party makes today will be the one that determines that the next generation of Britons has more opportunities than its predecessor,” Sunak said in a statement. “That is why I am running to lead the Conservative Party and to be the next Prime Minister. I want to straighten out the economy, unite the party and fulfill our commitments to the country.” He already had, at the time of the announcement, at least 150 endorsements, with names and surnames, for his candidacy. He was even close to half of the entire parliamentary group, which is 357.
Without naming who today is still his main rival, and for three years he was his boss, Johnson, Sunak has launched a direct attack on the legacy of the former prime minister: “I will bring integrity, professionalism and responsibility to each level of government that I lead , and I will work day and night to fulfill the task”, he assured.
While Johnson, who rushed back to London this Saturday from a Caribbean vacation cheered on by his fans to fight the political battle, is still desperately trying to get the 100 endorsements from deputies required to be able to run for the primaries, Sunak has seen how in the last few hours exponentially accelerated the pace of their supports. Notable figures of the party, and, surprisingly, very relevant characters of the eurosceptic current that one day supported Johnson, have turned to the candidacy of the former Minister of Economy.
Steve Baker, the current minister for Northern Ireland, has given Johnson the final blow from the party’s anti-EU wing. The return of him would be a guaranteed disaster, ”Baker has said in SkyNews. “I am going to support Sunak, because he is the only one who can launch a competent, capable, and professional government,” announced the former president of the European Research Group (ERG, in its acronym in English). ), the powerful Eurosceptic current of the conservative parliamentary group. Before Baker, other important “Brexiters” such as David Frost, David Davis, Dominic Raab, Steve Barclay or Kemi Badenoch had expressed their support for the former Minister of Economy.
The last to do so was former Interior Minister Suella Braverman, who caused Truss’s accelerated fall with her resignation last week. The former Attorney General of the State, who contributed to supporting with her legal reports a large part of the political consequences of Brexit – the tightening of immigration policy or the scrapping of the Northern Ireland protocol – was one of the favorites of the right wing of the conservatives. Her support of Sunak deals a painful blow to Johnson.
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Sunak not only consolidated a serious and effective image with the economic measures it deployed during the pandemic. The former Economy Minister, who ran against Truss in the final phase of last summer’s primaries, already anticipated the disaster that his rival’s recipes would entail, especially the tax cut, at a time as delicate as the current one, with inflation rampant and high interest rates. He got it all right, and that has cemented his reputation as a serious and reliable candidate, at a time of existential crisis for the Conservatives. The polls give advantages of more than 30 percentage points to the Labor opposition, and predict the collapse of the Tories.
Fifty endorsements for Johnson
In the last few hours, it has been known about the face-to-face meeting that Johnson and Sunak held this Saturday, of which neither side has reported and from which, obviously, no agreement came out. Part of the party and the conservative media are now imploring a Johnson-Sunak pact to avoid a civil war in the making, but the consensus attempt sounds more like a desperate maneuver by the former prime minister than a real will to achieve peace.
Earlier this Sunday, the PA agency reported that Johnson had also contacted candidate Penny Mordaunt. Although she was the first to officially announce her effort to take over the leadership of the party, she has only collected between 20 and 30 endorsements. She maintains, however, a high level of popularity among the bases and respect of many of the deputies. According to the aforementioned agency, Mordaunt has rejected the former prime minister’s request that she withdraw from the race, and has even warned him that, if she did, most of her support would go to Sunak.
As much as his followers have intoxicated the press in recent hours with the idea that Johnson already had enough endorsements, the truth is that the count of public demonstrations in support of deputies for his candidacy, made by many British newspapers and televisions , barely gives Johnson 50 endorsements.
It is possible that he will reach the figure of 100, but it is also possible that he will throw in the towel and repeat the maneuver of the last primaries: mobilize his followers to obtain support for the candidacy of Penny Mordaunt. The third in the race —and the first to proclaim her candidacy— barely exceeds 20 endorsements. But, as happened with Truss, if Johnson’s fans and declared enemies of Sunak – they accuse him of being the Judas who, with his resignation, caused the collapse of his boss – turn to Mordaunt, the possibilities of the former Minister of Economy to reach the goal would be reduced.
This Monday, at two in the afternoon (three o’clock, in Spanish peninsular time) the deadline for submitting applications closes. The new rules – designed by the leadership of the Conservative Party to accelerate primaries that add uncertainty to an already very uncertain economic situation – establish that if only one candidate exceeds 100 endorsements, that would be the winner. If all three succeed (there are 357 conservative deputies), a first discard vote, on Monday afternoon, in the parliamentary group, would eliminate at least one vote. There would be a second vote, indicative, between the two finalists, so that the affiliates knew the inclination of their deputies. And finally, throughout the week, virtual ballot boxes would be opened so that the bases could vote online. In that case, the winner will be announced on Friday.
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