Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak ‘hold power summit to decide who becomes next PM’

Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson were thought to be locked in crunch talks about who should become prime minister late last night, amid mounting speculation that the pair could strike a deal.

The two men dramatically fell out over Johnson’s previous implosion, with the ex PM blaming his former chancellor for his downfall.

Now Johnson is significantly lagging behind Sunak in the latest race for No 10 – following Liz Truss’ dramatic resignation earlier this week.

But he could still win if the contest goes to Tory members, who he still remains hugely popular among.

Reports suggest the power summit lasted three hours, but details about its nature were scarce after it was delayed twice – an issue both sides blamed on the other.

Sunak will be on the ballot paper, after winning the backing of more than 100 Conservative MPs, including big beasts Lord David Frost and Kemi Badenoch yesterday.

But though Johnson is being challenged over claims he has also reached 100 backers – the number required to secure a spot on the ballot – he is boosted by his likely popularity with members.

Neither of the two favourites have officially declared that they will stand, fuelling claims that talks last night could include agreeing on a joint ticket.

Johnson was previously foreign secretary under Theresa May and could be tempted by an envoy role to Ukraine, while Sunak was previously chancellor but has held none of the other great offices of state.

Both are thought to be set on the top job, however.

Despite being the only candidate to declare so far, Cabinet minister Penny Mordaunt is far behind her potential rivals on public support, with just 24 to Johnson’s 56 and Sunak’s 121, according to Conservative Home.

There are 357 Tory MPs – meaning that it 258 or more declare for Johnson and Sunak, Mordaunt will not make the next stage of the ballot.

However, she could well be a ‘kingmaker’ and is thought to favour the foreign secretary role.

Setting out her plan to ‘unite the party and the country’ in the Express, she warned the Tories had ‘let ourselves become distracted by internal disputes’.

Mordaunt used her pitch to stress the need to ‘make Brexit work’, ‘focus on the potential of all our citizens’ and ‘defend our Union and its territorial integrity’, pledging her support for reforming the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol.

She vowed to build a government which ‘draws from all our best talent’ if she wins the race.

Sunak and Mordaunt came second and third respectively in the previous leadership race won by Truss just last month.

Fourth placed Badenoch, the International Trade Secretary, landed a blow to the Johnson campaign by insisting it was not the time for ‘nostalgia for the cavalier elan of 2019’.

Johnson divides opinion among Conservative MPs, including his former allies, like no other.

His former deputy prime minister and foreign secretary Dominic Raab said ‘we cannot go backwards’ and backed Sunak.

He also pointed out that the ex-PM faces a potentially damning investigation into his actions over partygate, which could see him forced to resign from the Commons in the coming weeks

Meanwhile, Johnson has so far won the support of six Cabinet ministers: Ben Wallace, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Simon Clarke, Chris Heaton-Harris, Alok Sharma and Anne-Marie Trevelyan.

Arch Johnson loyalist Nadine Dorries, the former culture secretary, said of a Sunak Government: ‘If that happens, I have no idea how we would be able to look voters in the eye and deny them a General Election that Labour is screaming out for…

‘A Tory Party led into the next Election by anyone other than Boris Johnson would mean the country would be looking into the face of a Socialist government.’

Tory MPs will vote on Monday, before two candidates are put to the party membership – unless one pulls out.

Candidates have until 2pm on Monday to secure the 100 nominations, limiting the ballot to a maximum of three candidates, with the result expected on Friday.

Supporters of Johnson believe that if he can make it to the last two, he will win in the final online ballot of party activists.

Some MPs have warned they would resign the Tory whip and sit in the Commons as independents if Johnson returned to Downing Street.

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