Mr Johnson’s backers are allegedly plotting to “lend” votes to Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in a bid to rig the contest to succeed Theresa May. The extraordinary allegation was made by senior Tory MPs. The party members told The Sun Boris Johnson’s allies were desperate for him to swerve a direct battle with Mr Gove in the final stages of the race.
One Tory said: “MPs on Boris’ team are looking at lending Jeremy votes.
“Boris has so much headroom he can be a master manipulator.
“It’s like something out of 1930s Chicago.
“And given it’s a secret ballot there’s no way of stopping it.”
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Another said: “There’s talk of 15 MPs going across.”
Mr Johnson is way ahead in the contest to become the next Tory leader, having secured a staggering 114 votes in the first elimination round last week.
The formidable former Foreign Secretary is on-course to win a huge 150 votes in the next round which could see several more candidates knocked out of the race.
All Prime Ministerial hopefuls must secure the endorsement of at least 33 MPs to proceed to the next round of the contest.
If Mr Johnson is to achieve the result predicted it would comprise almost 50 percent of the vote share of the Parliamentary party.
But MPs have claimed “team Boris” is keen to prop up Mr Hunt, as they believe the former London Mayor would “wipe the floor” with the former Health Secretary if they were to face-off in the final round.
The fact Mr Hunt is “hated” by “arch Brexiteers” is likely to instil further confidence in the Johnson camp, one of whom sensationally claimed their preferred candidate would “eat Mr Hunt alive if it went to the membership”.
One MP told The Sun: “Jeremy is hated by the arch Brexiteers, who see him as a Remainer.
“And the ultra-Remainers don’t trust him because of his reincarnation as a Brexiteer.
“Boris would eat him alive if it went to the membership.”
The MP added: “Michael is viewed as a far more formidable rival.
“They’re both true Brexiteers and they know each other well from Vote Leave.”
A senior source in Mr Johnson’s campaign last night insisted the idea of lending votes was “insane” and “crazy”.
But they noted: “What members do in the privacy of the voting booth is clearly up to them.”
Meanwhile a Minister on a rival campaign conceded: “I’m not surprised. It’s what I would do if I was them.”
Already knocked out of the race last week were Andrea Leadsom, Esther McVey and Mark Harper, all of whom failed to secure the 17 votes needed to proceed to the next stage of the contest.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock withdrew from the race on Friday after declining to form an alliance of “change candidates” according to the Guardian.
The youngest of the contenders to succeed Mrs May said in a statement at the time: “I ran as the candidate of the future, but the party is understandably looking for a candidate for the unique circumstances we face right now.”