Rishi Sunak became the first contender for Tory leadership to reach the 100 nomination mark to move on to the next stage of the race, a campaign source said.
Although he has not formally stated his intention to run, supporters of the former chancellor said Friday evening that they received nominations from 100 Conservative MPs long before Monday’s deadline.
Former health secretary Matt Hancock confirmed his support for Mr. Sunak on Friday night.
He tweeted: “I worked closely with Boris, Rishi and Penny in government. I admire all three.
“With the challenges we face today: economic crisis and the need to restore authoritative leadership, Rishi Sunak is the best person to lead our country. I rate Rishi and I hope you do too.
Boris Johnson, who has yet to officially throw his hat in the ring, is late with the nominations, but has told allies he is “ready” and has embarked on a flight home from his Caribbean vacation to participate in the contest.
So far, it has had the support of ministers including Jacob Rees-Mogg, Simon Clarke and Alok Sharma.
But former Tory leader Lord William Hague warned that Johnson’s return would lead to a “death spiral” for the Conservative Party.
“And I think it’s possibly the worst idea I’ve heard of in 46 years of being a Conservative Party member,” he said. Radio Times.
Penny Mordaunt was the first to confirm her candidacy on Friday, promising a “fresh start” for the Tory party. About 25 MPs expressed their support for the Commons Leader.
The House leader – who finished third in the last elections for leadership – said she was encouraged by the support she received from fellow Conservative MPs.
“I was encouraged by the support of colleagues who want a new start, a united party and leadership in the national interest,” she said in a statement posted on social media.
“I’m running to be the leader of the Conservative Party and your prime minister – to unite our country, keep our commitments and win the next GE (general election).”
Meanwhile, Tory MP Nigel Mills said it was a “mistake” for him not to support Mr. Sunak during the summer leadership contest.
Mr. Mills tweeted: “A few weeks ago I changed my mind and didn’t support Rishi Sunak. I’m not making the same mistake again, he is clearly the prime minister we need to restore stability and address the many serious challenges facing the country. “
There is speculation among Sunak and Johnson supporters that the couple could strike a deal to be together, but this would require both of them to bury a lot of grudge.
Candidates have until 2pm on Monday to secure the 100 nominations, limiting the vote to a maximum of three candidates.
Tory MPs will vote on Monday and two candidates will be proposed to join the Tories unless one withdraws, with a result announced on Friday.