BORIS Johnson would win the Tory leadership contest if Theresa May is toppled in the next few weeks, his key allies now believe.
A dramatic surge in the last four weeks has seen the former London Mayor rapidly sign up almost as many MPs as race frontrunner Jeremy Hunt.
Boris Johnson would win the Tory leadership contest if Theresa May is toppled in the next few weeks, his key allies now believe[/caption]
Both senior Tories are now counting on the votes of more than 50 Conservatives MPs, from a total of 313.
But BoJo’s campaign team are convinced he will trounce his successor as Foreign Secretary in phase two of the campaign, a head-to-head run off between the two leading candidates in front of all 150,000 party members.
Allies say two key turns of events have delivered Boris the unexpected boost – a Tory poll collapse which has sparked fears of a General Election wipe out and widespread backbench rage over the PM turning to Jeremy Corbyn for help to pass a softer Brexit deal.
The 54 year-old’s surge marks a remarkable comeback, with even Boris having written off his chances only six months ago because of a rocky record as a Cabinet minister and his difficult marriage collapse.
‘EVERYONE KNOWS BORIS PUTS BUMS ON SEATS’
A senior figure on Boris’s leadership team told The Sun: “Right now, Boris would win. We will have the numbers.
“Before recess, five new MPs a day were approaching him.
“Everybody knows Boris puts bums on seats like nobody else can, and May’s decision to invite in Corbyn pushed a lot of people towards us.
“Everything could change if this goes on for months, which it well could, but we’re in a really good position at the moment – far better than we expected”.
Another senior Boris ally said: “Hunt is two-faced and wishy-washy on everything, not just Brexit. Debates during the membership phase would expose that very quickly”.
Boris’s team are telling wavering MPs that he defeated Ken Livingstone to take City Hall in London twice, including in 2012 when the Tories were 17 points behind in the polls nationally.
The Sun can also reveal that ex-Tory chairman Grant Shapps has joined Boris’s campaign and is canvassing MPs to tot up running tallies for all his rivals.
Boris’s main rival for the Leavers’ vote – as many as half of all Tory MPs – is ex-Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab.
Another senior Boris ally said of his leading rival : ‘Hunt is two-faced and wishy-washy on everything, not just Brexit’[/caption]
But Mr Johnson’s team say they have benefited from rising star of the Tory right Mr Raab’s campaign stalling recently after a strong start.
Having signed up between 20 and 30 MPs, Mr Raab is claimed to now be lagging in a distant third place as vicious rumours are being spread about his alleged angry temperament, while other enemy MPs accuse him of having “a women problem”.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock and former Chief Whip Mark Harper are picking up “marginal support”, but two Cabinet heavyweight challengers Michael Gove and Sajid Javid are said to be “nowhere”.
But Boris also faces a formidable operation by Tory MP Remainers to halt him by voting tactically to deny him a place in the final two sent out to members.
‘ANYONE BUT BORIS’
The ‘Anyone But Boris’ drive is being spearheaded by the newly formed One Nation Group of moderates, who now boast 60 members.
One grandee MP member of it told The Sun he is “prepared to do whatever it takes” to stop Boris, adding: “There are many more of us ready to stop the silly clown with a block vote than you might think”.
A former UK ambassador to the EU claimed that electing a “true believer Brexiteer” such as Boris or Mr Raab as the next Tory boss would “wreck” any chance of agreeing a Brexit deal with Brussels.
Sir Ivan Rogers said Eurosceptic leadership challengers would make promises to the Tory grassroots to get elected which the EU would never agree to.
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Former minister Sir Mike Penning yesterday gave Boris another boost by handing over his large and well-positioned Commons office to him.
The swap gives the mop-haired senior Tory more space for a campaign team to work in above busy Portcullis House atrium, a more central location than his former room in a separate building on the corner of Whitehall.
Sir Mike told The Independent: “I have not declared my support for Boris, but it is pretty obvious from my offer that I am minded to do that. He is a winner, as he showed in London.
“I have offered him the office because it is much more substantial than his current one and I don’t really need one that large.”
The PM’s decision to bring Jeremy Corbyn into negotiations has pushed many towards Boris[/caption]
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