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Boris Johnson out, Sunak and Mordaunt in the race to be next UK prime minister

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Intense rumours of a comeback were put to rest as former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced he will not seek the position of Conservative Party leader.

It was widely believed that Johnson, who was fired in July on ethics allegations, would run to succeed Liz Truss, who resigned last week.

He said he had accumulated more than 100 votes, the required number to run, after spending the weekend trying to win over his fellow members.

Johnson, who left office last month after a series of scandals rocked his premiership, said in a statement that it “would simply not be the right thing to do” to mount a bid because it would divide his party.

“You can’t govern effectively unless you have a united party in Parliament,” Johnson wrote in a statement on Sunday. “The best thing I can do is not allow my nomination to go forward.”

The pound extended gains after Johnson said he wouldn’t stand, rallying 0.8% to $1.1388.

Johnson insisted he had the support to go forward to a ballot of the members but said that doing so might deepen splits within the parliamentary party.

“I led our party into a massive election victory less than three years ago,” Johnson said. “There was a very good chance I would be successful in the election with Conservative Party member. But in the course of the last days I have sadly come to the conclusion that this would simply not be the right thing to do.”

The decision leaves Sunak facing House of Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt in the contest, with the former chancellor of the exchequer having the public support of key Tory members of Parliament. Mordaunt is staying in the race, a person familiar with the matter said after Johnson’s exit.

Former British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is the frontrunner in the Conservative Party’s race to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. Sunak garnered the public support of over 100 Tory lawmakers to forge ahead of his two main rivals: former Prime Minister Boris Johnson and ex-Cabinet minister Penny Mordaunt.

But widespread uncertainty remained after British media reported that Sunak held late-night talks with Johnson on Saturday. Speculation mounted that the pair could strike a deal to unite the fractured governing party after it was left reeling from Truss’ rapid downfall following Johnson’s ouster.

The Conservative Party hastily ordered a contest that aims to finalize nominations Monday and install a new prime minister — its third this year — within a week.

Sunak, 42, was runner-up after Truss in this summer’s Tory leadership race to replace Johnson after he was forced out by a string of ethics scandals. On Sunday, he confirmed he was running again in the latest leadership contest.

Sunak has the backing of at least 124 Conservative lawmakers, according to unofficial tallies compiled by British news organizations. That’s well ahead of the 100 nominations required to qualify.

“There will be integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level of the government I lead and I will work day in and day out to get the job done,” Sunak said in a statement.

Earlier, Tory voters backed Truss over Sunak, but he was proved right when Truss’ unfunded tax-cutting package triggered chaos in the markets in September.

Dozens among Britain’s 357 Conservative lawmakers have not yet publicly declared whom they are backing to replace Truss.

(With inputs from agencies)

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