Conservative Rishi Sunak meets threshold to run for party leader with over 100 endorsements while ex-PM Boris Johnson cuts short a Caribbean holiday to take part in the accelerated contest.
British Conservative politician Rishi Sunak has reached the minimum threshold to run for party leader, as former prime minister Boris Johnson targeted an audacious comeback.
"Honoured to be the 100th Tory MP to support #Ready4Rishi," senior backbencher Tobias Ellwood tweeted late on Friday, as other backers of Sunak also said he had crossed the barrier.
Sunak will automatically become party leader and prime minister if his opponents fail also to win 100 nominations from their fellow Tory MPs.
Neither Sunak nor Johnson has publicly declared they are running.
But Johnson cut short a Caribbean holiday to take part in the accelerated contest, which will see Tory MPs hold a vote on Monday before a possible online ballot for party members next week.
James Duddridge, one of Johnson's closest allies in parliament, said he had been in contact with his old boss via WhatsApp.
"He said... 'We are going to do this. I'm up for it'," the MP said, as a Sky News reporter posted a photograph apparently showing Johnson on a flight home from the Dominican Republic.
Security minister Tom Tugendhat, who ran for the leader himself after Johnson was toppled in July, issued a thinly veiled appeal to the scandal-tainted ex-leader to stay out of the race.
"This is no time for political games, for settling scores, or for looking backwards," Tugendhat said as he also endorsed Sunak late Friday.
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Political website Guido Fawkes, which is running a rolling spreadsheet of Tory MPs' declared support, had Sunak on 103, Johnson on 68 and Mordaunt on 25 by late Friday.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, a favourite of the Tory grassroots, told reporters he was not standing himself. "At the moment, I'm leaning towards Boris Johnson," he said.
But Wallace added that Johnson still had "some questions to answer" over the multiple scandals, which resulted in a yet-to-launch investigation in the House of Commons.
If found guilty of lying to the Commons over the "Partygate" scandal -- lockdown-breaching revels held in Downing Street -- Johnson could be suspended or even expelled from parliament.
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The Sunak and Johnson camps are reportedly seeking talks to see if there is scope for a unity deal -- although there is plenty of bad blood since the former prime minister's defenestration.
Mordaunt, who just missed out on making the final runoff after Johnson quit, said she was running for "a fresh start, a united party and leadership in the national interest".
But polling company YouGov found that three in five voters now want an early general election, in line with demands from opposition parties, as Britons struggle with a worsening cost-of-living crisis.
Labour and other parties argue only an election can end the months of political chaos, sparked when Johnson was himself forced out after non-stop personal and political scandals.
In the resultant contest, Truss won the support of just over 80,000 Tory party members, defeating Sunak, who correctly warned that her right-wing programme of debt-fuelled tax cuts would crash the economy.
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