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Boris backs Sunak sceptic

(Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

At long last, Boris Johnson has joined the campaign trail. With less than three weeks to go until polling day, the former prime minister has today urged voters to back Rishi Sunak’s wounded party – just hours after a YouGov poll revealed that support for Reform has overtaken the Tories for the first time.

And no stranger to internal party politics, Johnson raised eyebrows this morning when he publicly backed Sir Simon Clarke in a short video. This is, after all, the MP who was so disillusioned by Sunak’s leadership that at the start of the year he took to the pages of the Telegraph to urge the PM to quit. Back in January, Clarke called for Sunak’s resignation, before warning the party was on track for an electoral ‘massacre’. Well, the polls certainly haven’t been getting any better for Sunak’s boys in blue…

In BoJo’s video, the former prime minister curiously makes no mention of his successor. In the clip, Johnson instead calls on voters in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland to back their Tory candidate, a former levelling up secretary. The ex-PM went to say that Clarke played a ‘crucial part’ in the ‘whole levelling up agenda’, before nodding to his own electoral success:

Simon has been heroic in helping to get me elected, to get us all elected, in 2019, one of the biggest majorities our party has seen for a very long time – and of course helping to get Brexit done, and prevent Jeremy Corbyn, Keir Starmer and everybody else from unravelling it.

Clarke achieved a majority of 11,000 in 2019 though current projections suggest Labour will win the seat this time around. While Johnson and Sunak are understood to have spoken before the election campaign, it appears the ex-PM’s support will come in ‘interventions’ to help individual Tory candidates. Mr S wonders just quite how this ‘intervention’ will have gone down in No. 10 – given Clarke once accused Sunak of ‘uninspiring leadership’. Ouch.