Boris Johnson said in a Sunday evening statement that he wouldn’t join the fight to become Britain’s next prime minister, all but guaranteeing that former U.K. Chancellor Rishi Sunak will get the top job at No. 10 Downing Street.
“I believe I have much to offer but I am afraid that this is simply not the right time,” Johnson said. Though he claimed that he’d been “overwhelmed by the number of people” encouraging him to stand for leader of the Conservative Party, Johnson said he was standing down after failing to reach an agreement with his main rivals, Sunak and Penny Mordaunt, the leader of the House of Commons.
“You can’t govern effectively unless you have a united party in parliament,” he explained.
Johnson also asserted that he’d garnered support from 102 other Tory Members of Parliament before his resignation, which would’ve allowed him to get on the ballot. Only 57 Tories had publicly declared their support for him by the time of his announcement, according to BBC research.
Candidates were required to have at least 100 votes by 2 p.m. London time Monday to be considered for the ballot. As of Sunday evening, Sunak had gathered 147 Conservative backers, while Mordaunt had 24.
Johnson never formally declared an intention to run, unlike Mordaunt, who announced her bid on Friday, and Sunak, with whom Johnson met on Saturday evening. Without providing details, Sunak supporter Dominic Raab told the BBC that the pair had had “a very good conversation about the need for unity.”
On Sunday morning, Sunak, a former hedge-fund manager, declared that he would be throwing his hat in the ring.
Johnson served as British prime minister from 2019 until this July, when he resigned over his government’s outraged response to a series of ethical scandals, including accusations that he lied to parliament about a series of boozy parties that violated the U.K.’s COVID-19 lockdown orders.
His handpicked successor, Liz Truss, governed for a grand total of 45 days before what was widely viewed as her incompetence—best illustrated by a disastrous tax plan—resigned in disgrace, becoming the shortest-serving prime minister in the nation’s history.
Soon after, Johnson cut short a holiday in the Dominican Republic to return home. “I hope you enjoyed your holiday boss,” tweeted James Duddridge, a Tory MP. “Time to come back. Few issues at the office that need addressing.”