Rishi Sunak has vowed to remain as a backbench MP if he loses the Conservative Party leadership contest.
The ex-chancellor, considered the underdog in the competition with Liz Truss, told Sunday Times “you’ve got to be kidding me” when asked if he wanted to quit British politics.
If Sunak loses, Truss is unlikely to offer him a position in her cabinet – and even if she did, he is unlikely to accept a lower-ranking role after previously being in charge of the nation’s finances.
Instead, he has promised to dedicate his time to his constituents in Richmond, North Yorkshire.
“You’ve got to be kidding, absolutely not,” he told the paper when asked if he could return to America, where he had lucrative work before becoming an MP and still owns a property.
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“It’s the most incredible privilege to have these jobs,” he added. “The people of Richmond are the most wonderful people, it’s a joy every week to go home to them and have their love and their support and to be able to represent them properly as their MP.
“Gee, it would take a lot for me to give that up.”
It has previously been suggested that Sunak would not stay if his status declines. In April was Daily Telegraph reported a source as saying “he’s not the kind of person who would stay in parliament for another 10 years and wait for his chance to come back” and that “if it became clear he wasn’t going to be prime minister, would just leave ».
Sunak is thought to be trailing Truss in the contest, with YouGov polling this week suggesting 69% of Tory members intend to vote for Truss.
But he argued that this did not reflect the membership’s true intentions, he said Sunday Times: “I’m out all the time, I talk to people, it feels different on the ground.”
Earlier this week, Sunak faced a furious backlash after leaked footage showed him boasting to Tory MPs in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, about diverting funding from “deprived urban areas” to more affluent towns.
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Both Labor and Conservative MPs condemned him over the “scandalous” comments.
Labour’s frontbencher Lisa Nandy, the shadow communities secretary, said Sunak was showing his “true colours” as his former government colleague Lord (Zac) Goldsmith – an ally of Boris Johnson, whom Sunak helped oust by resigning as chancellor last month – said it was “one of the weirdest – and stupidest – things I’ve ever heard from a politician”.
Watch: Rishi Sunak brags about taking money from ‘deprived urban areas’ to help prosperous cities
The Sunak campaign fought back, arguing that the government’s “equalisation” agenda “is not just about city centres, it is also about towns and rural areas across the country that also need help”.
Truss, meanwhile, on Saturday declined to say whether her campaign was involved in the leaking of the video when asked about it during a visit to the West Midlands, saying only: “I’m running a positive campaign.”