Boris Johnson has urged his party to come together and back its new leader “wholeheartedly” ahead of the result of the Tory leadership contest being announced next week.
Either Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak will be declared as the new leader of the Conservative Party on Monday and, writing in the Sunday Express, the outgoing prime minister backed the abilities of both candidates.
After a summer of campaigning, Mr Johnson said: “Tomorrow the great national suspense will be over and the country will finally learn the name of our new prime minister.
“This is the moment for every Conservative to come together – and back that new leader wholeheartedly. This is the time to put aside the disagreements of the last few weeks, fascinating though they may have been, and put the national interest first.”
There have been questions in recent weeks about how the party moves on from the contest, after Ms Truss and Mr Sunak offered competing and sometimes divergent visions for the governing party and the country at large.
But Mr Johnson wrote: “As I leave Number Ten after three tough but often exhilarating years I know just how big and demanding this job is. I also know that either candidate is more than capable of delivering for the people of this country.”
His successor is widely expected to be Ms Truss, who will face many challenges in the role including an energy and cost-of-living crisis, soaring inflation, further strike action and the ongoing war in Ukraine.
According to the Sunday Times, Ms Truss is expected to put the energy crisis top of her agenda, should she be elected on Monday. The announcement is expected to be “very short” with a “fiscal event” attached taking place in the coming weeks.
On Saturday, a senior Tory MP and former cabinet minister spoke to the Guardian, warning Ms Truss against filling cabinet roles with loyalists of the soon-to-be former prime minister, suggesting there would be “explosive” consequences if Mr Johnson’s successor did not make efforts to unite the party.
Recent days have been full of speculation about who could make up the Cabinet in a Truss administration, with business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng among those tipped for high office. The Independent reported on Friday that Ms Truss is expected to move Therese Coffey into the health secretary role.
Mr Johnson also used his Sunday Express article to repeat one of his main messages of recent weeks, urging the British people to remain resolute in support of Ukraine despite the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.
He also says that both candidates for his successor, if elected, will “do even more” to support struggling households.
Ms Truss has so far indicated that she would offer fresh support for households, but has given little detail about the exact form it might take.
Throughout the campaign she has pledged to “start cutting taxes from day one” with a new Budget and Spending Review that would reverse April’s rise in National Insurance and next year’s corporation tax increase from 19 per cent to 25 per cent.
“I know that both candidates will do even more to help people with the cash they need to pay their bills, in addition to the large sums that are already arriving in the next weeks and months,” Mr Johnson writes.
“Both candidates will find other ways to ease the pressures on families – such as sensible tax cuts.
“I know that together we will get through this cost-of-living crisis just as we got through Covid – and never forget how grim things seemed just a couple of years ago.
“We had thousands dying of a new and scary disease, and the economy shocked by the biggest fall in output for 300 years.”
Mr Johnson continues: “Yes, Putin’s energy crisis is tough. Yes, it has been and will be hard this winter, for families whose gas and electricity bills are being forced sky-high by his vicious war in Ukraine.
“But if he thinks he can succeed in his economic blackmail, he is fooling himself.
“If he thinks he can force us to abandon our support for the Ukrainians and lift the sanctions on Russia – then he woefully underestimates the British people.
“If he thinks he can force Britain and the rest of Europe back into some craven dependence on Russian hydrocarbons, he is utterly deluded. We will win in the struggle, just as the Ukrainians will win.
“We will come through stronger and more resilient the other side.”
Following his premiership, Mr Johnson is still subject to an ongoing inquiry by the privileges committee into whether he misled parliament over denying knowledge of law-breaking parties in Downing Street through lockdown – with senior Tory MPs and loyalists to Mr Johnson looking to rescind the inquiry with a parliamentary motion.
The leadership contest comes to a close on Monday 5 September, with Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee, announcing the winner before the successful candidate meets with the Queen at her home in Balmoral on Tuesday.