RISHI Sunak launched his campaign to be PM with a sober warning to rivals not to risk bankrupting Britain with mad promises of giveaways.
The former Chancellor was the first big beast to go public with their bid as 19 Tories — including a host of no-marks — were weighing up tilts at the top job.
Rishi Sunak announced his Conservative leadership bid to succeed Boris Johnson
Just three days after knifing Boris Johnson, Mr Sunak used a super-slick campaign video to brand himself the “unity candidate” and stressed his “honesty”.
Using the slogan Ready for Rishi, he said any talk of big tax cuts would be no more than “comforting fairy-tales” that could harm the country in the long run.
The dig came as moderate Tom Tugendhat, another declared candidate, told Trending In The News he would slash VAT and business tax, plus tariffs on imported food and clothes.
Meanwhile Liz Truss, who also plans to run, was telling colleagues she is the only contender who can keep the Boris legacy going.
An ally of the Foreign Secretary said: “We need someone who unites the Red and Blue Wall, who is able to get difficult things done, and has a clear Conservative philosophy for the economy based around promoting business and leaving money in people’s pockets.
“Liz Truss is that person. She’s vastly experienced and our best hope for the next election.”
Mr Sunak’s launch video was so slick it left many MPs wondering if it could really have been produced in the three days since he had quit the Cabinet.
Parts of his website appeared to have been registered in December and designed last month, while still serving at Mr Johnson’s side.
The first Cabinet minister to declare support for him was former Chief Whip Mark Spencer, who scotched rumours of lurking financial scandals.
He told the BBC: “There are no secrets to Rishi Sunak. There are no skeletons in that cupboard.”
Ex-party chairman Oliver Dowden also declared for Mr Sunak, who heads the field according to party members.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace was discussing a leadership bid with his family, with allies confident he had more than enough support to get on to the ballot.
Boris assassin Sajid Javid and current Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi are also poised to announce their candidacy within days.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is considering an outsider tilt, with Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt an activists’ fave.
Allies say former Health Secretary and 2019 runner up Jeremy Hunt was “certain to run” and friends of ultra-Boris loyalist Nadine Dorries said she was considering running to “keep the BoJo flame alive”.
Popular backbencher — and prominent Remainer — Mr Tugendhat told Trending In The News he respected Brexit and would not try to unpick it if he won.
The former Army officer said: “Brexit was a democratic revolution that I will proudly uphold.
“I’ve doubted our leaders could deliver it but I’ve never doubted our people have the guts and the spirit to make it work.
“Look at what we can now do — we can cut tariffs that make our food, clothes, and energy more expensive. We can slash VAT and corporation tax. We can strip regulations that slow our growth.
“Boris got Brexit done. I’m going to make Brexit deliver.”
A poll of Tory members by Opinium for Channel 4 News put Mr Sunak on 25 per cent, just ahead of Liz Truss on 21 per cent.
Mr Wallace, while the bookies’ favourite, was only on 12 per cent, while Mr Zahawi was on six per cent. But yesterday also saw a stampede of random Tory MPs unexpectedly throwing their hats in the ring.
Backbencher John Baron revealed on TV that he is considering running.
He told Politics Live: “There is a wealth of talent and experience on the back benches which I think needs to come forward.”
Fellow anonymous Tory Rehman Chishti said he was considering a tilt too. He added: “I will be reflecting on how best I can serve our country with my own experience and background.
“Our country and party needs new ideas and fresh leadership.”
Even veteran David Davis was said to be ringing round to see if he can get any support while many Tory MPs were left scratching their heads and trying to work out who some of the contenders even were.
The party’s ruling backbench 1922 Committee will meet on Monday to determine the length of the contest and raise the bar to avoid no-hopers slowing it down.
It is expected that candidates will have to secure the names of 20 colleagues to get on the ballot.
There would be twice-weekly rounds of voting before the summer recess, with the final two candidates going to a vote of the party membership over August.
That could see a new PM in place as soon as September.
Yesterday Mr Johnson visited a wholesalers in his London constituency.
Moves to oust him as caretaker appeared to be stalling last night as focus instead turned towards future candidates.
Rishi Sunak had a logo ready for the launch of his slick campaign launch
Sunak included an old family picture in his leadership campaign video
Sunak warned in a video message that there are no quick fixes for the economy
Rishi Sunak quit as Chancellor this past week
Rishi Sunak is married to billionaire heiress Akshata Murthy