Sir Graham Brady has seemingly confirmed former prime minister Boris Johnson’s claim that he had enough MPs to mount a challenge to Rishi Sunak in last month’s leadership contest.
Mr Johnson dropped out of the Tory leadership race, claiming he had the nominations needed to make it on to the ballot paper but could not unite the party.
Speaking to the BBC, Sir Graham – chair of the Tory party’s 1922 Committee – said “two candidates” had reached the threshold, and “one of them decided not to then submit his nomination”.
Sir Graham also spoke about his experiences meeting with Liz Truss and Mr Johnson at separate stages this year to tell them they no longer commanded majority support from their MPs.
He told BBC North West Tonight that Ms Truss had “come to the same conclusion” as him regarding the untenable status of her premiership, while Mr Johnson was “still determined to go on” the night before he announced his resignation.
After Mr Sunak was made PM uncontested, Mr Johnson tweeted: “Congratulations to Rishi Sunak on this historic day, this is the moment for every Conservative to give our new PM their full and wholehearted support.”
The former premier offered his congratulations a day later than messages from outgoing PM Ms Truss and Mr Sunak’s fellow leadership hopeful, Penny Mordaunt.
In his speech, Mr Sunak said he will “always be grateful” to Mr Johnson for his “incredible achievements” in No 10.
He pledged to deliver on the Conservative 2019 manifesto, insisting Mr Johnson would agree it is not “the sole property of any one individual”.
He said: “I will always be grateful to Boris Johnson for his incredible achievements as prime minister and I treasure his warmth and generosity of spirit.
“I know he would agree that the mandate my party earned in 2019 is not the sole property of any one individual, it is a mandate that belongs to and unites all of us.
“And the heart of that mandate is our manifesto. I will deliver on its promise.”
In a statement, Mr Johnson said there was a “very good chance” he could have been back in No 10 by the end of the week if he had stood.
However, his efforts to “reach out” to his rivals – Mr Sunak and Ms Mordaunt – to work together in the national interest had not been successful so he was dropping out.