Rishi Sunak pressed on when he decided to resign as Chancellor
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The PM has said he will not endorse any leadership candidates or publicly intervene in the contest to replace him as leader of the Conservative party. However, according to the Times, Mr Johnson has had conversations with failed contenders in an effort to sway the competition against one man – Mr Sunak. Mr Sunak’s resignation minutes after that of health secretary Sajid Javid last week spurred on a historic wave of resignations, eventually leading to Mr Johnson having to step down.
A source close to one of the conversations said that Johnson’s favourite candidate was Foreign Secretary and close ally Liz Truss. Ms Truss has also seen endorsement from others close to Mr Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nadine Dorries.
Mr Johnson is even said to be open to Penny Mordaunt taking the top spot if it prevented 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 blame Saj [Sajid Javid] for bringing him down. They blame Rishi.
“They think he was planning this for months.”
Records on DomainTools show that Mr Sunak’s campaign website, readyforrishi.com, was registered back on December 23, 2021. Another source said Mr Johnson had privately raised concerns that Sunak would go “soft” on Putin and ease sanctions on Russia.
According to an ally of Mr Johnson, the claim the PM wants “anyone but Rishi” isn’t accurate.
However, the ally admitted the prime minister still felt resentment over his “betrayal”.
The friend said: “Of course he’s disappointed, of course he’s frustrated.
“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.”
An ally of Mr Sunak, meanwhile, rejected the idea that he would go soft on Vladimir Putin.
They said: “Rishi led the way in enforcing the toughest sanctions on Russia and ensured that our allies followed suit.”
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The PM intends to remain in the Commons as a backbencher after he formally stands down in early September. Mr Sunak’s strategy in his leadership bid has been described as “safety first”.
He has offered just two interviews in which many responses appeared to be well-rehearsed, and took barely any questions from newspapers and broadcasters at his launch press conference. A YouGov poll of members this week found that he lost in head-to-heads against everyone left in the contest.
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