Rishi Sunak leads in No10 race and gains support from 148 MPs backing his serious PM speech


RISHI Sunak ditched his usual slick branding and snazzy campaign videos yesterday — as he pitched to be the serious PM for serious times.

The runaway favourite to replace Liz Truss hoovered up almost half of Tory MPs and bagged some big-name backers from the Brexit wing of the party.

Runaway favourite Rishi Sunak is cruising towards a first-round victory after 148 Conservative colleagues publicly backed him

Suella Braverman said: ‘Rishi is the only candidate that fits the bill and I am proud to support him’

Kemi Badenoch shunned Mr Johnson in favour of Mr Sunak

The former Chancellor is cruising towards a first-round victory today after 150 Conservative colleagues publicly backed him.

He officially launched his leadership campaign with a tweet linking to a simple, nine sentence statement after snubbing an eleventh-hour peace offering from bitter rival Boris Johnson.

It was in stark contrast to the highly professional campaign video he had ready to go just hours after Mr Johnson quit as PM in July.

In his message, Mr Sunak insisted he was the man to “fix our economy, unite our party and deliver for our country”.

He wrote: “I have the track record of delivery, a clear plan to fix the biggest problems we face and I will deliver on the promise of the 2019 manifesto.

“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.”

Key figures from all sides of the party swung in behind Mr Sunak who had snubbed Mr Johnson’s overtures to team up.

Hopes that the pals-turned-foes could unite on a “dream ticket” withered as Mr Sunak refused to bend to his old boss.

Many of Mr Johnson’s backers in 2019 switched their support.

In a major coup, former Home Secretary Suella Braverman picked the former Chancellor.

She praised Mr Johnson but stated: “We are in dire straits now. We need unity, stability and ­efficiency. Rishi is the only candidate that fits the bill and I am proud to support him.”

Self-styled “Brexit hardman” Steve Baker also declared for Mr Sunak, saying Mr Johnson would be a “guaranteed disaster”.

They were joined by fellow grassroots darlings Kemi Badenoch and Lord Frost in shunning Mr Johnson in favour of Mr Sunak.

Home Secretary Grant Shapps, Work and Pensions Secretary Chloe Smith and Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan also came out for the former Chancellor.

His camp believe many of Penny Mordaunt’s supporters will fold into his campaign if she bows out.

Mr Sunak, who railed against Liz Truss’s tax cut plans in his losing battle with her to become the next PM, made sure to put his economic credentials at the centre of his renewed campaign.

He said: “The United Kingdom is a great country but we face a profound economic crisis. The choice our party makes now will decide whether the next generation of British people will have more opportunities than the last.”

Trumpeting his time in the Treasury, he added: “I served as your Chancellor, helping steer our country through the toughest of times.

“The challenges we face now are even greater. But the opportunities — if we make the right choice — are phenomenal.”

Former Chancellor George Osborne predicted Mr Sunak would secure the support of around two in three Tory MPs.

He said choosing Mr Sunak was the party’s only hope of easing concerns in the financial markets.

Mr Osborne told Channel 4: “Two thirds of MPs will, I think, back Rishi Sunak, and therefore Rishi Sunak commands the party in Parliament.

“And that is critical for market confidence. We are in an economic crisis.

“Britain needs a prime minister who is going to restore confidence in our institutions and the credibility of our economic policy.”

With MPs expected to mass behind Mr Sunak any rival would face enormous pressure to drop out before the contest goes to Tory members.

Mr Sunak’s allies had also warned that, should he win, Mr Johnson’s premiership could implode before it began.

He faces a Commons Privileges Committee investigation into whether he misled MPs over ­parties in No10 during lockdown.

Dominic Raab, Mr Johnson’s former deputy, said: “I’d love to see Boris Johnson come back to frontline politics . . . but we have this major issue which led to him having to resign, which is Partygate.

“And in days he’s going to see televised witness testimony, including his own, which is going to take him right back into that spiral”.

Mr Baker also said the Partygate probe meant a comeback by Mr Johnson would be “a guaranteed nailed-on failure”.

In an effort to blunt the attack, Boris ally Nadine Dorries insisted Mr Sunak would also come under scrutiny if he became PM.

Both he and Mr Johnson were fined by police for breaking lockdown laws by attending a birthday party in the Cabinet Room.

Ms Dorries said: “If Rishi Sunak were to win, the focus of the privileges committee I am certain would move on to Rishi Sunak and what he knew.”