Boris Johnson has urged failed Tory leadership candidates to oppose Rishi Sunak, the former Chancellor whose stab in the back to the Prime Minister resulted in his resignation.
According to the Times, Mr Johnson has met with failed candidates in an attempt to sway the competition against one man – Mr Sunak. Mr Sunak’s resignation came just minutes after that of Health Secretary Sajid Javid last week, triggering a historic wave of resignations that forced Mr Johnson to resign.
A source said that Johnson’s preferred candidate was Foreign Secretary and close ally Liz Truss. Ms Truss has also received support from people close to Mr Johnson, including Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nadine Dorries.
Mr Johnson is said to be open to Penny Mordaunt taking over as Prime Minister if it prevents Mr Sunak from doing so.
A source told The Times: “The whole No 10 team hates Rishi. It’s personal. It’s vitriolic.
“They don’t hold Saj [Sajid Javid] responsible for bringing him down. Rishi is to blame. They think he was planning this for months.”
Mr Sunak’s campaign website, readyforrishi.com, was registered on December 23, 2021, according to DomainTools records. Per another source, Mr Johnson privately expressed concern that Sunak would go “soft” on Putin and ease sanctions against Russia.
The ally admitted that the prime minister was still resentful of his “betrayal.”
“Of course he’s disappointed, of course he’s frustrated,” a friend said. “He’s been pushing Rishi for a compelling growth strategy for many months without success.
“So alongside the sense of betrayal is a sense of regret about what could have already been well under way.
“But he’s very clear his commitment is overwhelmingly to the British people and that electing a leader who will deliver for them is paramount, even if personally painful for him.”
Meanwhile, Mr Sunak’s ally dismissed the notion that he would soften his stance toward Vladimir Putin.
“Rishi led the way in enforcing the toughest sanctions against Russia and ensured that our allies followed suit,” they said.
The PM intends to remain in the Commons as a backbencher after he formally stands down in early September. During Boris’ leadership, Mr Sunak’s campaign strategy has been described as “safety first.”