Rishi Sunak has recently overtaken Liz Truss in the polls as the favourite to succeed Boris Johnson. A YouGov poll from January 10, which spoke to 1,0005 Tory members, showed 33 percent of them wanting Mr Sunak to replace Mr Johnson. The Foreign Secretary is eight points behind, with 25 percent of the group supporting her.
Sir John told Express.co.uk that this gap in popularity may cause her supporters to be reluctant to trigger a leadership contest, instead waiting until Ms Truss has a bigger support base before they do so.
This, he said, would work to “Johnson’s advantage” – perhaps allowing him to remain in power for longer.
He said: “There is every reason for those who support Liz Truss not to pull the trigger.
“It could be one of the things to Johnson’s advantage.
“Because with a broader political argument, people will say ‘where do we go from here?’, and those who would prefer not to have to transfer for whatever reason – or those who would prefer to have Liz Truss – won’t necessarily be keen on an early contest perhaps.”
Earlier this week, Ms Truss threw her weight behind the Prime Minister, saying she has “100 percent support” for him as he is doing an “excellent job”.
In comments made on her trip to Australia, the Foreign Secretary added that Mr Johnson should “continue as long as possible in his job”.
This comes as Mr Johnson is facing increasing calls to resign over the mounting ‘partygate’ scandal.
Senior civil servant Sue Gray is currently leading an inquiry into the allegations, the findings of which are due to be published over the coming weeks.
The Metropolitan Police have also launched their own investigation into the parties, with Commissioner Cressida Dick saying they were looking into “potential breaches of Covid-19 regulations” in Downing Street and Whitehall since 2020.
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He said: “Can this be turned around? Maybe. With an awful lot of humble pie.
“Maybe with some help from Sue Gray.
He added: “There is no doubt that this is a very unusual but very deep crisis for the Prime Minister, whose ethics and probity and honesty are being questioned.
“If indeed on the narrow issue that evidence emerges and Sue Gray writes ‘well, I’ve been given to understand that indeed the Prime Minister was advised [against parties] and I’ve got more than one source for this’, he might be toast.”
In the most recent development, the Prime Minister was accused of having a birthday party in No 10 Downing Street during Lockdown.
ITV News reported that Mr Johnson and around 30 people attended the event in the Cabinet Room and ate picnic food from Marks and Spencer.
There have been numerous other reports of parties across Downing Street and Whitehall during lockdown, including a BYOB party organised by the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds.