Outgoing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday that he would not want to damage the chances of any of the candidates in the leadership race to succeed him at 10 Downing Street by endorsing a favourite.
Speaking to reporters for the first time since his dramatic resignation statement last week, the 58-year-old embattled Conservative Party leader said he was determined to deliver on the promises of his winning 2019 general election manifesto in the final weeks of his term as caretaker prime minister.
"There's a contest under way and it's happened; I wouldn't want to damage anybody's chances by offering my support,” Johnson said during a visit to the Francis Crick Institute in London to mark a major funding boost for the medical research facility.
"I just have to get on and, in the last few days or weeks of the job, the constitutional function of the Prime Minister in this situation is to discharge the mandate, to continue to discharge the mandate, and that's what I'm doing,” he said.
Under a timetable to be finalised for the leadership election, a new Conservative Party leader will be elected from among at least 11 candidates in the fray, including frontrunners Indian-origin Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.
"I'm determined to get on and deliver the mandate that was given to us, but my job is really just to oversee the process in the next few weeks, and I'm sure that the outcome will be good," Johnson said.
“The more we focus on the people who elect us, on their jobs, their hopes and what they can get out of investment in science and technology... the more we talk about the future that we're trying to build, the less we talk about politics in Westminster, the generally happier we will all be," he said.
Last Thursday, after days of intense political drama in the wake of high-profile Cabinet exits in opposition to partygate and other scandals under his leadership, Johnson had announced his resignation on the steps of 10 Downing Street in London. He blamed the governing Tory party’s herd mentality for his unceremonious exit despite winning a “colossal mandate” from the British electorate in December 2019 with the promise to “get Brexit done”.
He said in his speech at the time: “I have tried to persuade my colleagues that it would be eccentric to change governments...and I regret not to have been successful in those arguments.”
“At Westminster, the herd is powerful and when the herd moves, it moves and my friends in politics no one is remotely indispensable, and our brilliant and Darwinian system will produce another leader equally committed to taking this country forward through tough times.”
Since then, Conservative Party leadership hopefuls have been setting their stalls to replace Johnson, with the candidates’ tax plans likely to be the decisive element of their pitch to sway members of the Tory party.