Badenoch endorses Sunak in significant leadership race development

The International Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch, has this evening announced that she is backing former Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, in next week’s Conservative leadership race.

Her decision, announced through an article in the Times newspaper, is arguably the most significant development to date, in the current Conservative leadership race.  Badenoch writes that Mr Sunak is the only candidate that has any possibility of defeating Sir Keir Starmer in a future general election.

Ms Badenoch who came fourth in the summer’s Conservative leadership contest, garnering the support of 59 MPs, was previously considered likely to stand, doing so as the candidate of the Conservative right.

In the current race, it was thought possible that Ms Badenoch may also have been able to tap into the support of a number of those MPs who had backed Liz Truss in the summer, thereby giving her a realistic chance of making it through to the final stages of next week’s contest.

Her decision not to run now removes one potentiallly serious candidate from the race.

Moreover, by endorsing Mr Sunak herself, Ms Badenoch may also be able to persuade a number of her supporters to do similar.  If she does so, Mr Sunak is highly likely to be able to garner the support of the majority of Conservative MPs.

All attention now focuses on whether Boris Johnson will be able to obtain the support of the 100 MPs that he needs in order to join the contetst.  If he did so, he would in all probability emerge victorious from the subsequent poll of Conservative party members.

However, despite claims by some in the Boris Johnson camp that he has now obtained the support of 100 Conservative MPs, only 55 Conservative MPs have so far publicly confirmed to be doing so.

In the absence of actual names, a number of MPs supporting Rishi Sunak have questioned the claims that Mr Johnson has the numbers he needs.  Instead they accuse the Johnson camp of using such statements as part of a desperate attempt to build momentum for the former prime minister.

At the moment, these claims from the Sunak camp would seem to carry weight.

The MPs who have so far declared for Mr Johnson can in the main be characterised as “die hard” Johnson loyalists, the majority of whom served in his transition government this summer.

Although Mr Johnson obtained the support of 211 Conservative MPs in June’s no confidence vote, that was before his premiership unravelled so dramatically in early July.

In the early stages of the current contest, there are no visible signs that Mr Johnson has yet been able to attract support beyond his hard core fan base within the parliamentary Conservative party.

This is significant, because that hard core fan base on its own would still appear to be short of the 100 MPs that he needs.

Should Mr Johnson fail to reach the 100 MP vote mark, and with Ms Badenoch now no longer considering a run in the race, the question then emerges as to how many of Mr Johnson’s supporters will transfer their allegiance to Ms Mordaunt at the last minute – so as to ensure that Mr Sunak has to face a ballot of party members.

If they fail to do so, it is possible that Ms Badenoch’s intervention this evening leaves her in the role of ‘kingmaker’ to a pending Rishi Sunak premiership.

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