Boris Johnson rejects calls to let caretaker premier take over

Boris Johnson rejects calls to let caretaker premier take over

Boris Johnson is refusing to heed calls to let a caretaker Prime Minister take over, as would-be successors are weighing up leadership bids.

There is growing pressure from senior Conservatives for Mr Johnson to step down immediately as Prime Minister and not wait for the election of a new leader.

Former Prime Minister Sir John Major was among those backing calls for Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab to be installed as a caretaker premier.

Dominic Raab
Some MPs want Dominic Raab installed as caretaker Prime Minister (James Manning/PA)

But Downing Street on Friday insisted Mr Johnson will not leave No 10 before a new leader is installed.

Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said: “The Prime Minister is acting in line with convention.

“He remains Prime Minister until a new party leader is in place and the work of Government will continue while that takes place.”

Following the tumultuous events in Westminster, some MPs fear a summer of “chaos” if Mr Johnson remains in No 10 while a leadership contest which could run for weeks or even months plays out.

But Mr Johnson has sought to assuage concerns by vowing not to implement new policies in his remaining time in office and to leave any major tax and spending decisions to the next Prime Minister.

Cabinet Meeting
Boris Johnson’s Cabinet ahead of a mass ministerial exodus sparked by the resignations of Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid (Justin Tallis/PA)

This pledge was reiterated by his spokesman, who said the Government “won’t seek to make any large fiscal changes, nor will it seek to unpick previously agreed policy”.

But it will push ahead with trying to force through deportations of asylum seekers to Rwanda, as well as continuing contentious talks with the European Union over the Northern Ireland Protocol, he said.

“It’s not that the Government cannot continue to deal with challenging or long-standing issues; it is simply the convention to stick with delivering on pre-agreed policies,” the official said.

After Mr Johnson made clear his frustration at the way he had been forced out by an unprecedented wave of ministerial resignations, many in the party remain deeply suspicious of his intentions.

Newly installed Education Secretary James Cleverly played down such concerns and insisted the process for choosing a new leader will be done “professionally but promptly”.

“There’s no such thing as a caretaker Prime Minister. In our system, there is a Prime Minister,” he said on the morning media round.

“I think the process now will be done professionally but promptly so that we can get a new Prime Minister who can form a new team in good time.”

Tom Tugendhat
Tom Tugendhat is the first contender to throw his hat in the ring (Niall Carson/PA)

In his resignation speech on the steps of No 10, Mr Johnson offered no contrition for the partygate scandal or the appointment of Chris Pincher as deputy chief whip.

Instead he angered many MPs by complaining of the “eccentric” move to oust him, accusing his tormentors of succumbing to a “herd mentality”.

George Freeman, one the last ministers to quit before Mr Johnson made his announcement, said the tone of his address did not suggest he would see out his time with “quiet humility and contrition”.

On Monday, elections will take place to the executive of the backbench 1922 Committee which will then set out the rules and timetable for the leadership contest.

Rishi Sunak
Former chancellor Rishi Sunak is among the early favourites (Yui Mok/PA)

Under current rules, MPs will vote in a series of secret ballots – depending on how many candidates there are – with the final two going forward to a vote of the membership.

Around a dozen potential candidates to claim the Tory crown – including backbenchers as well as ministers – are thought to be assessing their support needed for a challenge.

Jeremy Hunt is highly likely to announce his bid in the coming days, the PA new agency understands from a source close to the senior Tory MP.

The former foreign secretary and ex-health secretary was a runner-up to Mr Johnson in 2019.

The Commons Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tom Tugendhat was the first contender to throw his hat in the ring, saying he was putting together a “broad coalition” offering a “clean start”.

Among the early favourites are former chancellor Rishi Sunak – who quit on Tuesday, helping to trigger a slew of ministerial resignations – and the man who succeeded him, Nadhim Zahawi.

Elsewhere, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace are both thought to have significant support.

Other ministers considering a run include Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, Attorney General Suella Braverman and the Cabinet Office Minister Penny Mordaunt.

From outside the Government, former health secretary Sajid Javid, who also quit on Tuesday, and arch Brexiteer Steve Baker may also stand.