UK politics live: Sunak, Johnson and Mordaunt attract early backing for new PM as Tory leadership race begins | Conservative leadership

MPs have started declaring their support for Sunak, Johnson and Mordaunt

After spending Liz Truss’s premiership keeping an extremely low profile, Rishi Sunak is firmly back on the scene this morning, with several MPs declaring their support in a coordinated social media push last night.

Sunak’s deepest appeal to MPs is his promise of absolution: if you think the voters’ distaste for Boris Johnson is only outdone by their disgust at everything that has happened since, Sunak allows you to rewind the clock, but not too far.

Among the MPs who voiced their support for Sunak on Twitter were Simon Hart, Helen Whately, Huw Merriman and Nick Gibb.

Hart said that this was “no time for experiments; no time for frivolity…this means choosing someone serious, tested, competent and kind.”

After the last few weeks the very least we can do for the country is get the right Prime Minister this time. No time for experiments; no time for frivolity; no time to line up a job offer. This means choosing someone serious, tested, competent & kind.
For me that’s Rishi Sunak.

— Simon Hart (@Simonhartmp) October 20, 2022

While Sunak beats the other plausible candidates, apart from Johnson, in recent membership polls, it is easy to see the former PM’s hardcore in the rank and file coalescing around Penny Mordaunt instead. So Sunak would certainly rather have the race sewn up early. But given the deep divides in the party over economic policy, as well as whether he should be held personally responsible for Johnson’s demise, any impression of unity is likely to be only a superficial effect.

Former culture secretary and current member for Mid Bedfordshire Nadine Dorries was among those who voiced support for Boris Johnson on Thursday, both on television and on Twitter, where she said, “One person was elected by the British public with a manifesto and a mandate until January 25”:

One person was elected by the British public with a manifesto and a mandate until January ‘25.
If Liz Truss is no longer PM there can be no coronation of previously failed candidates.

MPs must demand return of @BorisJohnson – if not it has to be leadership election or a GE.

— Nadine Dorries (@NadineDorries) October 20, 2022

Member for West Cornwall Derek Thomas tweeted in support of Mordaunt, who he said had been his first choice when he supported Truss:

Although she wasn’t my first choice, I supported Liz Truss because I believed she would deliver the growth this country needs.
She herself accepted in her resignation speech that she will not be able to do so.
My first choice for Prime Minister is again Penny Mordaunt.#PMforPM

— Derek Thomas MP (@DerekThomasUK) October 20, 2022

Key events

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The founder of the ConservativeHome website, Tim Montgomerie, says the prospect of Boris Johnson making it into the final stage of the Tory party leadership race should be taken “very” seriously.

Johnson could receive “close to 140” nominations from Tory MPs, Montgomerie told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

He said:

Boris Johnson is very popular amongst grassroots members and Rishi Sunak, the other leading contender for the crown, is much less popular. So I wouldn’t want to make any cast iron prediction in this crazy world of politics at the moment but I think Boris Johnson returning is a very real possibility.

He added that there are many Tories who “hate the idea of Johnson becoming leader” again, with talk of MPs potentially resigning the whip if he succeeds.

What’s coming up today

Hello everyone. I’m Léonie Chao-Fong, taking over the live blog from Helen Sullivan to take you through the latest in British politics. I’m on Twitter or you can email me.

Here’s the agenda for the day:

Lib Dem leader Ed Davey will be doing a broadcast round this morning.

6.30am: Scottish Tory MP John Lamont, who is supporting Penny Mordaunt, was on BBC Breakfast, followed by Tory MPs Crispin Blunt at 7:30am and Paul Bristow at 8.05am. The shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves will speak at 8.30am followed by the SNP Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, at 9.05am.

7am: Borrowing data for September from the Office for National Statistics.

7:15am. Tory MP Crispin Blunt will be on Sky News at 7.15am, followed by the shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, at 7.20am. Chatham House’s director Bronwen Maddox is on at 7.40am, then the former adviser to Boris Johnson, Will Walden, at 7.45am. Tory MP Christopher Chope is on at 8.20am followed by the SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford at 8.45am.

7.20am: The former education minister Nicky Morgan will be speaking on Times radio, followed by Conservative MP Richard Graham and Jill Rutter of the UK in a Changing Europe think tank at 7:40am. The former Truss adviser Kirsty Buchanan will be on at 8.20am), then the Tory MP Bob Seely, supporting Mordaunt, at 9.05am.

7.32am: Sir Christopher Chope, supporting Boris Johnson, will be on TalkTV followed by Steve Double, supporting Rishi Sunak, at 8.05am.

9.30am: HMRC releases house sales figures.

9:30am: Sits in the House of Commons for Private Members’ bills.

2:45pm. Plaid Cymru’s leader, Adam Price, will address the party’s conference in Llandudno.

That’s it from me, Helen Sullivan, for today. My colleague Léonie Chao-Fong will see you through the next few hours, come what may.

Boris Johnson’s allies say he is considering running – but could he win?

Boris Johnson is considering running again to be UK prime minister, with rightwing Conservative MPs and party donors already backing his nascent campaign – but as Pippa Crerar and Jessica Elgot report, he is a deeply divisive figure within the parliamentary party, and has an inquiry into the Partygate affair still hanging over him.

Nonetheless, Johnson remains popular with the Tory grassroots, who could get a say in the process of choosing a new leader. A YouGov poll earlier this week found 32% put him as their top candidate, ahead of Sunak at 23%.

MPs said they believed the influence of the rightwing ERG faction of the party, which previously backed Johnson, was “greatly diminished” by the collapse of Truss.

“It is very hard to see how anyone on the right of the party comes through now,” one long-serving Tory said. “But you will need people like Priti [Patel] in cabinet. If it’s all one nation types it collapses again in six months.”

The prospect of Johnson bidding for the top job sent many moderate Tory MPs into paroxysms of despair, and polling showed he remained unpopular with huge swaths of the public.

In an interview with LBC’s Andrew Marr, the former cabinet minister David Davis told Johnson “Go back to the beach”, while other Conservatives variously described the former prime minister as “electorally toxic”, “dangerous for democracy” and “Labour’s secret weapon”.

If a cabinet reshuffle follows when a new PM is elected, the UK could get its sixth education secretary in just over a year:

If there’s a reshuffle with a new PM that would mean the sixth education secretary in 14 months. It is a national disagrace to treat the country like this. https://t.co/DONtQUmyFf

— Sam Freedman (@Samfr) October 20, 2022

That’s more, the New Statesman’s Jeremy Cliffe points out, than Germany has had in the last 24 years:

Looking likely that by early November the UK will have gone through more education secretaries in the past 14 months than Germany has in the past 24 years. https://t.co/0ojtRwjr42

— Jeremy Cliffe (@JeremyCliffe) October 21, 2022

What happens next?

Jessica Elgot

Jessica Elgot

Liz Truss has resigned as prime minister, saying she expects a replacement to be in place by the end of next week. Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers that decides the rules of a leadership contest, set out the rules on Thursday evening as follows:

When will there be a new prime minister?

Brady said he hoped the process would be concluded by 28 October – next Friday. But the result could come much sooner – perhaps even by Monday night.

What do candidates need to do?

Candidates will need a minimum of 100 nominations to proceed to the ballot, according to new rules decided by a committee of MPs. Nominations start on Thursday night and close at 2pm on Monday.

If two or three candidates reach the threshold – which is possible – then there will be two rounds of voting from MPs. The first vote will take place on Monday at 3.30pm with results announced at 6pm and an indicative round, if needed, would take place that evening, with the final result at 9pm.

MPs will hear from the nominated candidates at a hustings – but it will be behind closed doors.

Will the wider Tory membership be consulted?

Yes – despite the wishes of many Tory MPs. But they will not get to vote unless more than one candidate receives 100 or more nominations. A ballot of members will be conducted via “secure online voting” – according to the party.

The ballot will close at 11am on Friday 28 October and the result will be announced later that day. Only qualifying members, who have been a member for at least three months, can vote.

There will be at least one hustings between the final two candidates, via a broadcaster which is likely to be the BBC.

More here:

China’s state-run Global Times has also responded to the turmoil in the UK, saying it could “be seen as a microcosm of failing Western politics,” and that “the long-term practice of Western democracy cannot solve emerging new problems”.

Former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Friday that the UK “looks like a shambles”.

“At the moment the place looks like a shambles. It is very sad,” he said at a conference in Sydney on Friday. “I think what she did was so mad,” Turnbull added in reference to Truss’s mini-budget that crashed the markets and triggered a domestic financial crisis.

“I was just staggered. I knew Boris was wild and woolly but Liz Truss appeared to be a more sensible person, but turned out to be even crazier.”

Denis Campbell

Denis Campbell

Meanwhile, two out of five maternity units in England are providing substandard care to mothers and babies, the NHS watchdog has warned.

“The quality of maternity care is not good enough,” the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said in its annual assessment of how health and social care services are performing.

It published new figures showing it rated 39% of maternity units it inspected in the year to 31 July to “require improvement” or be “inadequate” – the highest proportion on record.

Ian Trenholm, the CQC’s chief executive, said maternity services were deteriorating, substandard care was unacceptably common and failings were “systemic” across the NHS.

Its latest state of care report said: “Our ratings as of 31 July 2022 show that the quality of maternity services is getting worse, with 6% of NHS services (nine out of 139) now rated as inadequate and 32% (45 services) rated as require improvement.

“This means that the care in almost two out of every five maternity units is not good enough”:

Liz Truss ignored economists’ stark warnings over mini-budget

Larry Elliott

Larry Elliott

Liz Truss ignored stark warnings from economists sympathetic to her growth strategy that the mini-budget that ultimately led to her downfall risked triggering a financial markets meltdown, the Guardian has learned.

Truss announced her resignation on Thursday after just 44 days in Downing Street, after a package of tax cuts and spending increases on 23 September rattled the markets, prompted a run on pension funds and sent the cost of mortgages spiralling.

But days before the start of her premiership, she was told by the economists Gerard Lyons and Julian Jessop that the markets were highly nervous and that she could face a crash if her policy changes were not handled with care:

With that, let us take a moment to simmer down and acknowledge the sound tracks chosen by evening news producers in the UK last night. The variety of sonic themes included newsnight’s choice of Rihanna’s “Take a Bow”, with the clip selected to include the lines “How a’bout a round of applause, yeah, standing ovation” – which accompanied a painful amount of footage of the crowd clapping at the 2022 Conservative Party Conference where Truss vowed to “Get Britain Moving” – as well as the line “You look so dumb right now”:

Also on the BBC, Ros Atkins leaned into the camera and gave us the précis of the last six years over the dramatic plucking of various string instruments.

To make our new weekly series, the BBC pulled in brilliant producers and editors from Panorama, Newsnight, Reality Check, Outside Source & the News Channel. This opening sequence on Liz Truss’ resignation was made by @StuartDenman. The whole show will be @BBCiPlayer later. pic.twitter.com/1C5e81Cyqx

— Ros Atkins (@BBCRosAtkins) October 20, 2022

Channel 4 used Liz Truss’s alleged favourite song, Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” to brutal effect, possibly ruining it for her forever.

Liz Truss’s entitlement to ex-PMs’ £115,000 annual grant sparks anger

Ben Quinn

Ben Quinn

Anger has been sparked at rules that mean Liz Truss will be entitled to an annual office allowance of up to £115,000 after serving as prime minister for a matter of weeks.

Amid calls for her to forgo the allowance, a trade union representing civil servants hit out at her entitlement to the perk amid a mounting squeeze on public services and the cost of living crisis.

Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, said: “At a time when one in five civil servants are using food banks and 35% have skipped meals because they have no food, it’s grotesque that Liz Truss can walk away with what is effectively a £115,000 bonus.

“The next prime minister must give civil servants, who work hard on essential services, an above-inflation pay rise.”

Friday’s front pages

The resignation of Liz Truss after 45 chaotic days as prime minister leads the front page of every major newspaper in the UK on Friday. Here’s a roundup of the headlines:

Australian PM: ‘My government is stable, is orderly. The adults are in charge’

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has expressed concern the political turmoil in the UK could delay a long-awaited free trade agreement between Australia and Britain.

“I’m concerned about any delay that would occur to the Australia-UK free trade agreement,” he told reporters in Perth on Friday.

“I had discussed with Prime Minister Truss the fast tracking of that. We discussed trying to get it concluded before the end of this year, to make sure that the appropriate parliamentary processes went through our respective parliament.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese speaks to media during a press conference after viewing an NBN fibre rollout demonstration in Albany, Western Australia, Thursday, 20 October 2022.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese speaks to media during a press conference after viewing an NBN fibre rollout demonstration in Albany, Western Australia, Thursday, 20 October 2022. Photograph: Lee Griffith/AAP

The deal was set to be one of the first new trade deals signed by the British government in the wake of the UK leaving the European Union.

But following political chaos in Westminster, Mr Albanese has sought to emphasise stability in his federal government.

“My government is stable, is orderly. The adults are in charge,” he said.

“I’ve been in office for five months. I’ve met the two British prime ministers, so far, and I obviously will have contact with a third at some time when those issues are concluded.”

The MPs who could be PM

Peter Walker

Peter Walker

So here we are again. Less than two months after Conservative party members chose Liz Truss to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister, the party’s MPs – and, in some way, the members again – will select a successor to Truss in an accelerated week-long contest. Here are some of the contenders who could stand. They have all either indicated they may stand, or at least not ruled it out.

The (unlikely) pathways to a general election before 2025

Archie Bland

Archie Bland

So, could there be a general election?

In short, to the consternation of the opposition, and despite the government cycling through four chancellors, three home secretaries, and now three prime ministers this year: no. The next election is likely to be at the start of 2025, and changing that timeline is very hard to do.

Because the UK is a parliamentary democracy, elections are for individual local candidates – not prime ministers. So, in theory, the constant hokey-cokey of the last nine months has no bearing on the mandate of the particular MPs in place, and the only way to force an election is for a majority of the House of Commons to back a vote of no confidence.

As things stand, 40 Tory backbenchers would have to vote for an election that they would have every chance of losing, given Labour’s 30 point lead in the polls. If whoever the next prime minister is also fails, some of them might be despairing and exhausted and embarrassed enough to do so – but even then, and however dysfunctional it might seem, it’s a tall order.

MPs have started declaring their support for Sunak, Johnson and Mordaunt

After spending Liz Truss’s premiership keeping an extremely low profile, Rishi Sunak is firmly back on the scene this morning, with several MPs declaring their support in a coordinated social media push last night.

Sunak’s deepest appeal to MPs is his promise of absolution: if you think the voters’ distaste for Boris Johnson is only outdone by their disgust at everything that has happened since, Sunak allows you to rewind the clock, but not too far.

Among the MPs who voiced their support for Sunak on Twitter were Simon Hart, Helen Whately, Huw Merriman and Nick Gibb.

Hart said that this was “no time for experiments; no time for frivolity…this means choosing someone serious, tested, competent and kind.”

After the last few weeks the very least we can do for the country is get the right Prime Minister this time. No time for experiments; no time for frivolity; no time to line up a job offer. This means choosing someone serious, tested, competent & kind.
For me that’s Rishi Sunak.

— Simon Hart (@Simonhartmp) October 20, 2022

While Sunak beats the other plausible candidates, apart from Johnson, in recent membership polls, it is easy to see the former PM’s hardcore in the rank and file coalescing around Penny Mordaunt instead. So Sunak would certainly rather have the race sewn up early. But given the deep divides in the party over economic policy, as well as whether he should be held personally responsible for Johnson’s demise, any impression of unity is likely to be only a superficial effect.

Former culture secretary and current member for Mid Bedfordshire Nadine Dorries was among those who voiced support for Boris Johnson on Thursday, both on television and on Twitter, where she said, “One person was elected by the British public with a manifesto and a mandate until January 25”:

One person was elected by the British public with a manifesto and a mandate until January ‘25.
If Liz Truss is no longer PM there can be no coronation of previously failed candidates.

MPs must demand return of @BorisJohnson – if not it has to be leadership election or a GE.

— Nadine Dorries (@NadineDorries) October 20, 2022

Member for West Cornwall Derek Thomas tweeted in support of Mordaunt, who he said had been his first choice when he supported Truss:

Although she wasn’t my first choice, I supported Liz Truss because I believed she would deliver the growth this country needs.
She herself accepted in her resignation speech that she will not be able to do so.
My first choice for Prime Minister is again Penny Mordaunt.#PMforPM

— Derek Thomas MP (@DerekThomasUK) October 20, 2022

Welcome and summary

As people in the UK wake up knowing they will soon have their 5th Conservative prime minister in six years – or their third in just eight weeks – the race is on to discover who the winner of a fresh leadership contest will be. The lettuce, as far as we know, is not running.

My name is Helen Sullivan and I’ll be taking you through the latest in British politics for the next while. You can get in touch with questions or comments on Twitter here.

On Thursday night, MPs were tweeting their support for various candidates ahead of a ballot on Monday afternoon. No candidates have declared publicly yet that they are running, though Michael Gove and Jeremy Hunt have ruled themselves out.

More on the likely candidates shortly. In the meantime, Here is where things stood on Thursday evening:

  • Liz Truss resigned as prime minister after just 45 days in office. Truss will be the shortest-serving prime minister in UK history. She said: “I recognise though given the situation I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative party.”

  • Nominations for the next PM opened on Thursday night and will close at 2pm on Monday. Candidates will need a minimum of 100 nominations to proceed to the ballot. There will be an indicative vote of MPs once there are two candidates.

  • The first ballot of MPs will be held between 3.30pm and 5.30pm on Monday. If there are three candidates, the candidate with the fewest number of votes will be eliminated.

  • The result will be announced at 6pm on Monday. If a second vote is needed (indicative), this will be held between 6.30-8.30pm on Monday. The result will be announced at 9pm.

  • If there are two candidates, the Tory membership will get to vote again and a winner will be picked by Friday.

  • Labour leader Keir Starmer said his party has a manifesto “ready to go” if there is an early election. He told the BBC if the Tories were to replace Liz Truss with Boris Johnson it would make the case for an early election even stronger. The Liberal Democrats say the Conservative party should block Boris Johnson from standing again.

  • A senior MP in Rishi Sunak’s previous leadership campaign said they expect him to stand again, according to the Guardian’s Jessica Elgot.

  • Kemi Badenoch and Penny Mordaunt are also expected to stand as leadership candidates.





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