Boris Johnson has already received 100 nominations from Conservative MPs before Sir Graham Brady’s Monday deadline and could announce his candidacy as early as today, the former Prime Minister’s allies have claimed. Mr Johnson, who only left Number 10 on September 6 after being booted out following a Cabinet cabal in the summer, is expected to formally announce his candidacy after arriving back in the UK from the Caribbean earlier today. He looks likely to go up against ex-Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt in the race to replace Liz Truss in Downing Street.
The Uxbridge & South Ruislip MP is reported to have around 70 supporters, just 30 short of the number required.
Mr Sunak is the only candidate to receive more than 100 publicly-declared nominations so far and Ms Mordaunt is straggling in a distant third with around 25 backers.
However, Mr Johnson’s allies believe the Brexit-backing ex-Prime Minister could be set to complete a remarkable political comeback as he edges closer to 100 nominations.
A Tory MP told Express.co.uk: “It looks almost certain that Boris will get 100 nominations.”
Tory MP Sir James Duddridge claimed Mr Johnson already has the support he needed were he to announce he was standing in the leadership race.
He tweeted: “New – Boris Johnson has more than 100 backers.”
Another Johnson supporter said: “I firmly believe he will but the ERG meeting on Monday morning is critical.”
A third ally, who described reaching the threshold as “imminent”, claimed: “I would imagine we may even hit that 100 today and I can’t guarantee it but we could get an announcement.”
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While, one of the team of MPs running the Boris campaign told Express.co.uk that the number of MP nominations collected is now “in the 90s”.
He said: “We expect to reach 100 today.”
Meanwhile, Mr Johnson’s father Stanley Johnson predicted that his son will put his name forward and beat Rishi Sunak in a head-to-head contest.
Speaking to GB News on Saturday, Stanley said: “I think he will put his name forward, and I think he will beat Rishi Sunak in a head to head.
“And I want to say, and I’m now going to reveal this for the first time, when I get my vote, my electronic password, I will be voting for Boris because I think he will do the things I care about, Europe, environment, peace in our time, and net zero.”
However, Mr Johnson is also facing the Commons’ Privileges Committee into allegations that the former Prime Minister misled Parliament over Partygate.
The seven-strong committee, which is chaired by veteran Labour MP Harriet Harman, could ultimately trigger a by-election in Mr Johnson’s West London constituency via a recall petition if he is suspended from Parliament for more than 10 days.
Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak were both fined by the Metropolitan Police during Scotland Yard’s Operation Hillman investigation into whether lockdown-breaking parties took place at Whitehall while Covid-curbing restrictions were in place.
There had been discussion about whether the committee would need to prove Mr Johnson deliberately misled MPs in order to rule he was in contempt.
However, the Privileges Committee said its legal advice in July suggested that intent was not relevant to its judgement.
When asked about whether the Commons’ Privileges Committee could derail the former Prime Minister’s plan, a Tory MP told Express.co.uk: “I hope not and I don’t believe he did mislead Parliament, so I am confident he will be cleared.”
A second MP said: “It is just seen as politicians arguing amongst themselves about technical issues and I think the appetite for it outside of Westminster isn’t really there.”
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They added: “I think they are fairly confident that this will actually get done and dusted.
“Some people will try and make it drag on but realistically I don’t think it’s going to come to anything and it does then have to go to the Commons afterwards anyway.”
Another ally claimed: “The Privileges Committee is acting unlawfully, according to Lord Pannick, and I expect a legal challenge but I don’t know who from.”
Lord David Pannick QC previously said that the partygate probe was “fundamentally flawed” and “wrong in principle”.
He also argued it would be considered unlawful by the courts if it was not subject to parliamentary privilege.
A Johnson-led Government could move to end the inquiry by holding a Commons vote to terminate the committee’s work.
However, this could lead to more infighting inside the Tory Party as some Conservative MPs believe Mr Johnson should be held accountable for his involvement in the partygate saga.
Mr Johnson could also struggle to hold the Conservative Party together after some MPs suggested they would resign the whip or even defect to Labour if he returned to Number 10.
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Basildon & Billericay MP John Baron told BBC Radio 4: “I would find it impossible to serve under Boris.”
But Mr Johnson’s supporters claim he would look to unite the Tory Party if he returned to Downing Street with a more “conciliatory” approach, including with his estranged ex-Chancellor.
A leading ally to Mr Johnson told Express.co.uk: “Whoever gets elected, we need to support them and I think we need to put our arms around people and bring them on board.”
They added: “It’s about grown-up politics… the vast majority of colleagues will take a mature approach and come together but I am disappointed that some people feel that way.”
Speaking about a potential olive branch to Mr Sunak, a second MP said: “It would be good for unity.”
However, another ally asked: “After Boris wins is best for any discussions but how can he [Sunak] be trusted not to act so treacherously again?”
Mr Sunak resigned as Chancellor of the Exchequer in July in a move which ultimately helped oust Mr Johnson from Number 10 after dozens of ministers quit his Government.
Despite trailing Mr Sunak with Conservative colleagues, Mr Johnson remains the favourite among Tory Party members and even voters.
Polling by Portland Communications, which is reportedly being shared with Red Wall MPs by Johnson’s supporters, indicates that the former Prime Minister is best-positioned to win back disheartened Conservative voters.
However, other polling suggests that Mr Sunak and Ms Mordaunt are preferred by general voters compared to Mr Johnson.
The surveys come at a time when general election polling is particularly dire for the Tories.
According to YouGov, Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party opened up a 39-point lead yesterday as Conservative support collapsed to just 19 percent.