Senior Eurosceptic Steve Baker has backed Rishi Sunak, warning that Boris Johnson’s return as Prime Minister would be a “certain nailed-on disaster” that would lead to the government imploding. Sunak, the front-runner to succeed Liz Truss, has already amassed far more than the minimum 100 votes.
Despite his supporters’ claims, Johnson appeared to be falling short, although on Sunday he won the support of Nadhim Zahawi, the eighth cabinet minister to back him up. Jacob Rees-Mogg, the business secretary, declared that Johnson would “surely stand” and that “those performing the arithmetic tell me they have the numbers.”
Sunak’s campaign got a boost on Sunday when Baker, a former Truss supporter, minister, and a key member of the European Research Group party, endorsed him.
“I think it would be better if Boris did something big and statesmanlike,” he told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday. I mean, if he wants to be Prime Minister again, he must do it when the issue of privileges has been settled. He would make a fantastic party chairman, in my opinion…
“But we can’t have him as prime minister in circumstances where he’s bound to disintegrate, taking the entire government with him.” That is simply not something we can do again.”
Sunak and Johnson debated their future responsibilities at the party on Saturday night. Following Sunak’s departure, which aided Johnson’s demotion to No. 10, Johnson’s team pushed for a reconciliation, but their meeting appeared to end without a settlement.
One of Johnson’s most ardent supporters, Chris Heaton-Harris, claimed that Johnson “had the numbers” to win, but he couldn’t explain why neither he nor Sunak had declared openly. Penny Mordaunt, the Commons leader, is the third possibility, and her supporter Damian Green has warned against a “stitch-up” in Westminster without a vote for Tory party members.
“We saw what happened last time, and how the government nearly fell apart,” Green said of Johnson on Sky News. We know there’s an investigation going on, and if [Johnson] becomes leader, we might all be here again.”
Mordaunt told BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg that she believed she could unite the party. She denied speaking with Johnson’s campaign about giving her support in exchange for a job, and she stated that she would not back another candidate.
Many Conservative MPs are still worried about a Johnson comeback, owing to ongoing questions about Partygate and the danger of defections from those MPs who have indicated their refusal to collaborate with him.
Baker underlined the planned investigation into whether Johnson misled the House of Commons over the Partygate scandal, suggesting that MPs will “refuse, as they see it, to lay down their integrity to protect him, and his premiership will crumble at that moment.”
Baker refused to say how he would vote on the issue but stated that a Johnson presidency would be “a guaranteed nailed-on disaster, and we must let it happen.”
He also warned Sunak that if he did not support the government’s current stance on the Northern Ireland protocol, he would join the ranks of Eurosceptics.
Liz Truss is a British politician who has served as the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister since September 6, 2022. On October 20, after 45 days in office, she resigned as Conservative Party leader and declared her intention to retire as prime minister once her successor as party leader was chosen.
She previously worked in Prime Ministers David Cameron, Theresa May, and Boris Johnson’s Cabinets, most recently as Foreign Secretary from 2021 to 2022. She has been the MP for South West Norfolk since 2010.
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