Boris Johnson allies warn there's 'no alternative' to PM

‘There are no real contenders’: The Chancellor who looks like he’d rather be anywhere else, the ‘poundshop Thatcher’ and the ex-Health Secretary whose name makes seasoned broadcasters turn the air blue – Boris allies warn there is ‘no alternative’ to PM

  • Allies of Boris Johnson insist there is ‘no alternative’ PM waiting in the wings
  • The PM’s supporters note a lack of ‘any real contenders’ among Tory MPs
  • A loyalist minister tells MailOnline any rival would face more opposition than PM

Allies of Boris Johnson are insisting there is ‘no alternative’ Prime Minister waiting in the wings due to a lack of ‘any real contenders’ among Tory MPs.

After the PM survived a no confidence vote in his leadership last night, supporters of Mr Johnson have been rallying round to shore up his position in Number 10.

As well as pointing to his record in office – on Brexit, Covid and Ukraine – the PM’s allies have been sharing a message that any rival candidate would face even more opposition among fellow Tory MPs than Mr Johnson.

Cabinet ministers Liz Truss, Rishi Sunak and Ben Wallace have all been touted as potential successors to the PM.

And, outside of Cabinet, ex-health secretary Jeremy Hunt, and Tom Tugendhat, the chair of the House of Commons’ foreign affairs committee, have not been shy about their leadership ambitions. 

But those who backed the PM in last night’s vote questioned whether any of those being tipped as future Tory leaders would prove as electorally successful as Mr Johnson. 

Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant told MailOnline: ‘Who would replace Boris? There may be contenders, but who is such a proven winner?’ 

A loyalist Cabinet minister highlighted how there were not ‘any real contenders’ to replace Mr Johnson.

The PM saw 148 Tory MPs vote against him last night.

But the minister told MailOnline: ‘The reality is that there are more than 148 against any other candidate, especially those who seem to be touting themselves around.’ 

Another senior supporter of the PM said: ‘There’s no alternative to Boris.

‘He’s got an election winning agenda to level up and boost Brexit Britain. Labour are completely beatable. It’s time to come together for the country and get cracking.’ 

Some noted how Chancellor Rishi Sunak – who has seen his leadership fortunes diminish following a fierce row over his family’s tax affairs – looked subdued as he sat next to Boris Johnson at this morning’s Cabinet meeting

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss sat next to Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (bottom right). The pair have both been touted as possible future Tory leaders

Critics have previously referred to Ms Truss as a ‘pound shop Margaret Thatcher’ after she posed in a tank like the former PM

Jeremy Hunt – who publicly declared his opposition to Mr Johnson ahead of last night’s vote – has been stung by a backlash from PM loyalists

Possible successors to the PM were today taking stock after Mr Johnson survived the Conservative rebels’ attempt to topple him.

Ms Truss, Mr Sunak and Mr Wallace put on a show of unity with the PM this morning as they gathered in Downing Street for a Cabinet meeting.

The Foreign Secretary, who critics have previously disparagingly referred to as a ‘pound shop Margaret Thatcher’, sat next to the Defence Secretary in Number 10.

Ms Truss later met the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, as she continued UK efforts to resist Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Mr Wallace has seen his popularity among Tory members soar during the Ukraine war.

But the Defence Secretary suffered a blow in the early weeks of the conflict when he was tricked into holding a video call with an imposter posing as Ukraine’s PM Volodymyr Zelensky.

Some noted today how the Chancellor – who has seen his leadership fortunes diminish following a fierce row over his family’s tax affairs – looked subdued as he sat next to Mr Johnson at this morning’s Cabinet meeting.

It followed what was viewed as a low-key performance by Mr Sunak in front of the Commons’ Treasury Committee yesterday, as he defended his recent £21billion package of support for households in the face of the cost-of-living crisis.

The Chancellor also faced a grilling by MPs over the timing of the package, which was announced the day after Sue Gray’s damning report on the Partygate scandal was published.

Mr Sunk denied he had been dragged into ‘Operation Save Big Dog’ efforts to keep Mr Johnson in No10 by rushing through the energy bills support.

When the controversy over Mr Sunak’s family finances first broke, the Chancellor was claimed to have considered quitting the Government front bench.

Meanwhile, Mr Hunt – who publicly declared his opposition to Mr Johnson ahead of last night’s vote – has been stung by a backlash from PM loyalists.

The attacks have led to renewed scrutiny of Mr Hunt’s time as Health Secretary, and whether his five-and-a-half year spell in charge of the Department of Health left Britain unprepared for the Covid pandemic.

Mr Hunt will have hoped yesterday would end with Mr Johnson toppled from power, leaving open the opportunity for him to launch a second Tory leadership bid.

But, after the PM survived the rebel efforts to remove him from No10, most headlines about Mr Hunt focussed on how a Sky News presenter stumbled over the ex-Cabinet minister’s surname and offered a rude alternative.

Trade minister Penny Mordaunt, the former defence secretary, is another rumoured to be harbouring leadership ambitions and was said to have been put on ‘resignation watch’ by Downing Street ahead of last night’s vote.

Although fears that she could quit Government in order to publicly oppose Mr Johnson proved unfounded, Ms Mordaunt prompted further questions about her political ambitions through the course of yesterday.

Firstly, she told a local newspaper in her Portsmouth constituency that she ‘didn’t choose this Prime Minister, I didn’t support him in the leadership contest’.

But Ms Mordaunt added that Mr Johnson ‘has always had my loyalty because I think that’s what you do when you have a democratic process – you select a leader and then you owe that person your loyalty’.

Ms Mordaunt then penned a Daily Express newspaper article to mark the 78th anniversary of D-Day, which many took to include veiled references to Mr Johnson’s position.

Referring to Allied Commander General Dwight Eisenhower, she wrote that ‘confidence and competence are easily confused, but they are not the same’, adding: ‘Confidence without competence is a dangerous combination, but Eisenhower also knew how to build a team.’

She continued: ‘Today is the day when we remember such leadership. It focused less on the leader and more on the ship.’

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