Boris Johnson drops out of race to be prime minister with Tory MPs set to make decision on new leader

The former prime minister said he could not stand because he would not have a “united party”.

Tory MPs are preparing to choose who they want to be their new leader in the first stage of the race to become prime minister after Boris Johnson dramatically pulled out of the contest.

The former PM claimed he had the nominations needed to make it onto the ballot paper but admitted he could not unite a Conservative Party that fractured during his tenure and has since fallen further into chaos.

Johnson’s withdrawal means the contest could be decided by Monday afternoon unless both the remaining candidates can get the support of 100 MPs.

Former chancellor Rishi Sunak already has more than 140 public declarations of support, Penny Mordaunt, the Leader of the House, had fewer than 30.

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives at Gatwick Airport in London, after travelling on a flight from the Caribbean

Her team are now hoping that the departure of Mr Johnson will see a swathe of MP who were backing him or are yet to declare swing behind her

Johnsons surprise withdrawl comes after he had jetted back to London from a holiday in the Caribbean when he scented the prospect of a stunning return to Downing Street following Liz Truss’ resignation on Thursday.

What did Boris Johnson say in his statement?

This is the full text of the ex-PM’s statement ruling out an attempt to return as Tory leader and prime minister:

“In the last few days I have been overwhelmed by the number of people who suggested that I should once again contest the Conservative Party leadership, both among the public and among friends and colleagues in Parliament.

“I have been attracted because I led our party into a massive election victory less than three years ago – and I believe I am therefore uniquely placed to avert a general election now.

“A general election would be a further disastrous distraction just when the Government must focus on the economic pressures faced by families across the country.

“I believe I am well placed to deliver a Conservative victory in 2024 – and tonight I can confirm that I have cleared the very high hurdle of 102 nominations, including a proposer and a seconder, and I could put my nomination in tomorrow.

“There is a very good chance that I would be successful in the election with Conservative Party members – and that I could indeed be back in Downing Street on Friday.

“But in the course of the last days I have sadly come to the conclusion that this would simply not be the right thing to do. You can’t govern effectively unless you have a united party in parliament.

“And though I have reached out to both Rishi (Sunak) and Penny (Mordaunt) – because I hoped that we could come together in the national interest – we have sadly not been able to work out a way of doing this.

“Therefore I am afraid the best thing is that I do not allow my nomination to go forward and commit my support to whoever succeeds.

“I believe I have much to offer but I am afraid that this is simply not the right time.”