A second place at No 10 for Boris Johnson would be a “guaranteed disaster”, one of his former supporters has said.

Northern Ireland Secretary Steve Baker has told Sky News’ Sophie Ridge that he will back Rishi Sunak in the upcoming Tory leadership contest because he will “deliver a competent, capable, professional government that we can rely on”.

But an influential MP also launched a scathing attack on the ex-prime minister, saying Mr Johnson’s return to Downing Street “will collapse, taking the whole government down with it”.

The Johnson-Sunak “stitching” warning is the latest policy

His comments came as the battle to get on the ballot nears its climax following the resignation of Liz Truss after only 44 days in office.

Candidates to replace her have until 2pm on Monday to win the support of 100 MPs as the fast-paced race seeks to calm the turmoil in the party.

So far, Mr Sunak, who announced his entry into the competition on Sunday morning, leads the pack, having already passed the threshold of 129 to advance to the next stage.

But while only 57 have publicly declared their support for Mr Johnson, one of his supporters, Northern Ireland Minister Chris Heaton-Harris, insisted Mr Ridge had “definitely” the numbers to get on the ballot.

The ex-prime minister also secured the support of another cabinet minister this morning despite having yet to announce he was joining the race, with Nadhim Zahavi insisting he was “getting the important calls right”. and “studied in [previous] mistakes, how could he run number 10 and run the country better.’

House of Commons leader Penny Mordaunt was the first to announce her candidacy and has so far received 23 public endorsements.

Rishi Sunak is leading the pack even before announcing, with Penny Mordaunt the only official candidate in the race.

Damian Green, who served as Theresa May’s de facto deputy, told Ridge that she “attracts support from all wings of the party” and would provide “calm stability” for the Conservatives.

And he said he was confident she would reach the threshold by Monday, saying she was “in it to win it”.

The expected schedule of events for the election of the new prime minister
The expected schedule of events for the election of the new prime minister

Mr. Sunak and Mr. Johnson are believed to have held talks last night amid speculation they could do a management deal.

But Mr Green also warned that the race would not be “sealed up behind closed doors by big names in Westminster”, telling Ridge: “Penny doesn’t need to make deals to unite the party and stabilize the government because she stands for that the work she did.

“She can do it herself, and that, I think, makes her the strongest candidate.”

Mr Johnson’s former deputy prime minister – who now backs Mr Sunak – Dominic Raab told the BBC he did not think a deal had been done, adding: “It’s not the right way to go about it

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Damian Green says the deal between the candidates could leave the Tories and the country feeling disappointed.

Mr Heaton-Harris sang Ridge’s praises for the ex-prime minister, adding: “This is a time when we need a big player like Boris in our politics, so I think he will.”

He said Mr Johnson “wonders what the parliamentary party thinks”, adding: “He’s a great unifier, he’s a great campaigner, he’s a man who understands what the country wants to hear and what the country needs to happen.”

However, Mr Baker – once head of the influential Brexit MPs’ European Scrutiny Group – warned the upcoming inquiry into whether the former prime minister misled the House of Commons over Partygate can throw the party into chaos again.

He told Ridge: “I’m afraid the trouble is because of the vote [over whether to accept the findings]Boris would be a guaranteed disaster.

“This vote is guaranteed to have a large number of Conservatives refusing, as they see it, to give up their integrity to save him, at which point his premiership will collapse.”

He added: “It’s a guaranteed failure and we can’t let that happen.”

Instead, he said Mr Sunak would be the best man for the job, adding: “The first thing we need is stability. We need professionalism. We need to move this country forward from a difficult situation. And Rishi is the right guy. do it.”