Penny Mordaunt claims she is ‘in the zone’ for 100 threshold

Penny Mordaunt grilled on Tory leadership contest

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Penny Mordaunt’s supporters have said she is “confident” of hitting the threshold of 100 supporters, with an MP claiming she is “in the zone”. One of her backers, Damian Green told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Ms Mordaunt’s numbers are “certainly way, way above the published number”. She is currently lagging far behind frontrunner Rishi Sunak, with just 25 publicly declared backers.

Mr Sunak has surpassed the threshold, with 163 publicly declared backers.

Speaking to the BBC about Ms Mordaunt’s campaign, Mr Green said: “We are confident that Penny will get above the 100 mark.

“There are a lot of people who weren’t declaring publicly what they were doing, I mean, indeed, Penny’s numbers are well above the published figures already.”

He added: “It’s certainly way, way above the published number and we’re confident of getting to 100 before the deadline of 2pm and putting the case to colleagues that Penny is the person best positioned to unify the party.

“She’s got support from all wings of the party already and we can then get on with the important job for the country of the various serious problems we’re facing.”

Meanwhile, fellow Mordaunt backer Sir Roger Gale told Sky News: “I saw Penny about 20 minutes ago and she said ‘We’re in the zone'”.

Last night, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson pulled out of the race, saying it is “not the right time” for him to run.

In his statement, Mr Johnson said he had “cleared the very high hurdle of 102 nominations”, adding that there was a “very good chance” he could have been back in Downing Street by the end of the week if he had stood.

But he continued: “You can’t govern effectively unless you have a united party in parliament”.

In response, Mr Sunak tweeted: “Although he has decided not to run for PM again, I truly hope he continues to contribute to public life at home and abroad.”

Ms Mordaunt said he had “put country before party, and party before self”.

Several of Mr Johnson’s long-term allies had lent their support to Mr Sunak, including former Home Secretary Suella Braverman and ERG Chairman Steve Baker.

Ms Mordaunt is now trying to win over Mr Johnson’s supporters in order to push her campaign over the line.

If Ms Mordaunt fails to secure the backing of 100 MPs by 2pm today, then Mr Sunak will become the next Prime Minister before the end of the day.

But if Ms Mordaunt secures 100 backers, she will go head-to-head with the former Chancellor in a vote of Conservative Party members.

The winner would then be announced on Friday.

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