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Johnson raises prospect of early exit from No 10

Prime Minister Boris Johnson departs 10 Downing Street (PA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson departs 10 Downing Street (PA)

The Tory leadership race may not go the distance and Boris Johnson’s term in No 10 may end before the expected September conclusion of the contest, the Prime Minister has indicated.

At what might be his final Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson suggested his successor could be chosen “by acclamation” rather than requiring the planned vote.

He told MPs he would be leaving office “with my head held high”.

The first round of voting in the leadership contest was taking place on Wednesday afternoon.

Subsequent rounds of voting by MPs will whittle the field of contenders down to a final two, with the membership of the Tory party then deciding on the eventual winner who is due to be named on September 5.

Mr Johnson is expected to face one final session of Prime Minister’s Questions next week, but he raised the prospect that a new leader could be in place before then.

“The next leader of my party may be elected by acclamation so it’s possible this will be our last confrontation… it’s possible,” he told Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

Mr Johnson defended his record on Brexit, infrastructure projects and supporting Ukraine in its war with Russia.

“It’s perfectly true that I leave not at a time of my choosing, absolutely true,” Mr Johnson said.

“But I am proud of the fantastic teamwork that has been involved in all of those projects both nationally and internationally, and I am also proud of the leadership that I have given.

“I will be leaving soon with my head held high.”

Prime Minister’s Questions
Boris Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions (House of Commons/PA)

The 2016 leadership battle to replace David Cameron ended early without going to a ballot of members.

Theresa May took the keys to No 10 after Dame Andrea Leadsom, her last remaining leadership rival, abandoned her campaign.

On Wednesday, Tom Tugendhat warned his leadership rivals not to do the same in this year’s contest to replace Mr Johnson.

“Whatever happens, whoever ends up being my rival in the last two, let me be absolutely clear: this is no time for any form of deal-doing or anything like that. This has got to go to a membership vote,” he said.

“It absolutely must go all the way because otherwise democracy in the party will be undermined.”

Downing Street said Mr Johnson plans to leave No 10 on September 6 if the next Tory leader is chosen the day before as planned, and does not have plans to skip his final Prime Minister’s Questions next week.

The Prime Minister’s press secretary said: “As things stand, he will still be doing PMQs in his last week.”

A Labour spokesman said: “I’m sure that the Prime Minister would want to take advantage of this opportunity to say a proper farewell to the House next week.”