‘Pole position’ Rishi tipped for Number 10 takeover while main rivals ‘cling to Boris’

Odds on the former Chancellor have dropped from 20/1 to 3/1 within hours of his decision to quit Boris Johnson’s Government saying that change needs to happen. Sources have confirmed that he has been maneuvering for some weeks to launch a potential leadership body. A senior minister told Express.co.uk: “People keep saying Rishi won’t run but I know he will. He has been preparing for some time now.”

Mr Sunak had been the darling of the nation after helping sort out furlough and bailouts during lockdown.

But his star had fallen after he brought in a National Insurance rise and corporation tax hike to help pay for the covid debt.

Then revelations that his wife legally avoided paying tax at a time he was infuriating Tory MPs by hiking taxes appeared to have ended his ambitions.

However, the senior minister noted: “There is no doubt in my mind he will be a leading contender and people need to forget about what has been said before.”

A Red Wall MP told Express.co.uk: “Rishi is definitely now in pole position because he has resigned first.

“It has made him look like a man of integrity while his main rivals are still clinging on with Boris.

“This Government is dead.”

But Mr Sunak was immediately at the heart of a briefing battle with Downing Street with sources claiming that it was he who was the block to the Government bringing in tax cuts.

A source said: “Rishi was the problem. Without him the Prime Minister can push ahead with tax cuts.”

Another suggested that Mr Sunak would have been sacked in a reshuffle and “jumped before he was pushed.”

Meanwhile, loyalist MP Michael Fabricant accused Mr Sunak and Sajid Javid, who resigned two minutes before as Health Secretary, of “collusion”.

There was speculation that the two may run as a ticket in a campaign coordinated by former chairman Oliver Dowden, a close friend of Sunak’s, who quit the Government after the catastrophic by-elections.

But backbenchers are still questioning whether Mr Sunak is the man to deliver the Conservative agenda many are hankering for.

One Red Waller said: “He’ll have helped himself with some more credibility now for sure by going early. Personally, I’m still too concerned about his economic outlook!”

One major party donor who had been directly funding 20 Tory MPs but withheld his money after anger over Partygate, agreed that Sunak is “now a contender.”

Mr Sunak told the Prime Minister that there was a need for change.

In his resignation letter, he said: “The public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously. 

“I recognise this may be my last ministerial job, but I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning.”

In his letter to Mr Sunak, the Prime Minister thanks him for his service.