UK’s Johnson steers clear of endorsing successor

FALL FROM GRACE

Central to the “1922 Committee” ruling is expected to be how many MPs need to support a candidate for them to be allowed in the race.

Blackman said any prospective candidate may need the backing of 18 or more MPs.

On a visit to a science research institute in London, Johnson was asked directly if he would endorse any of the candidates, six of whom are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

“The job of the prime minister at this stage is to let the party decide, let them get on with it, and to continue delivering on the projects that we were elected to deliver,” he said.

Johnson’s fall from grace has been spectacular. In December 2019 he won a landslide 80-seat victory on a promise to take Britain out of the European Union.

His parliamentary majority allowed him to do just that but his premiership was hit by waves of scandal, not least about lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street that saw him fined by police.

Another row blew up last week about his appointment of a senior colleague despite knowing of sexual assault allegations against him, sparking the government resignations.

In his speech, he blamed the “herd” for moving against him, and his allies have been briefing angrily against former chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak.

But Johnson refused to say Monday whether he felt betrayed.

“I don’t want to say any more about all that,” he said.

“There’s a contest under way and that has happened and you know, I wouldn’t want to damage any chances by offering my support.

“I just have to get on and in the last few days or weeks … the constitutional function of the prime minister in this situation is to continue to discharge the mandate. And that’s what I’m doing,” he added.

“The more we focus on the people who elect us … (and) the less we talk about politics at Westminster, the generally happier we will all be.”