Boris Johnson has brushed off reports he is plotting to oust Theresa May – but immediately faced accusations his show of support was an attempt to lay the groundwork for a future leadership challenge.
The Foreign Secretary insisted that Mrs May was entitled to carry on in No 10 despite having lost her Commons majority in Thursday’s General Election.
“Jeremy Corbyn did not win this election. It is absolutely right that she should go ahead and form a government,” he said.
“I am going to be backing her. Absolutely everybody I’m talking to is going to be backing her as well.”
Earlier it emerged Mr Johnson had sent a WhatsApp message to Commons colleagues urging them to “calm down” following the election.
Mr Johnson’s eight-point message said Tory MPs must “stop the narrative” that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn “somehow won this thing”, noting he “barely did better” than Gordon Brown in 2010, ITV News reported.
The timing of the message, and the subsequent public release of it, will do little to quash speculation Mr Johnson is setting the scene for a potential leadership bid.
Mr Johnson also welcomed his former Brexiteer, Michael Gove, back into the Cabinet.
The two fell out when Mr Gove mounted a rival leadership bid, but he was welcomed back to the fold by a seemingly magnanimous Johnson.
Earlier, reports in the right-wing press claimed Mr Johnson was mounting a leadership challenge.
An ally of the former London Mayor said that it was “go-go-go” for Johnson’s leadership bid, according to a report from the Mail on Sunday.
However, the former London Mayor has dismissed the claims as “tripe”.
The close ally said: “We need a Brexiteer. We need somebody who can talk and connect with people like Jeremy Corbyn does. We need someone who can make Britain believe in itself again,” reports the Mail.
Johnson strongly refuted the claims, tweeting: “Mail on Sunday tripe – I am backing Theresa may. Let’s get on with the job”.
There has been confusion over the deal after Downing Street confirmed that it had been agreed in principle, while the DUP later stated that it had yet to finalised. It was later reported that the original statement had been issued in error.
The PM suffered further humiliation when her two top advisors resigned on Saturday.
The odds on Johnson becoming the next Prime Minister were slashed on Friday following the results, as he repeatedly failed to publicly back the PM during the election aftermath.
The former London Mayor dropped out of the Conservative leadership race last year in the chaotic days following the Brexit referendum.