THE prospect of bitter infighting during the Tory leadership race began to emerge yesterday, with MPs taking sides and sources briefing against bookies’ favourite Rishi Sunak for his “treacherous” role in helping to bring Boris Johnson down.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps became the latest high-profile name to launch a bid to become Prime Minister, discounting the idea of holding a general election.

And recently elected Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi followed close behind, with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss set to launch her bid tomorrow.

However, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who was previously tipped to be a front-runner, yesterday ruled himself out of the contest.

A report yesterday that Johnson intends to stand down as Prime Minister tomorrow in order to run again for Tory leader was also knocked down by a spokesperson for Johnson as “completely untrue”

Attorney General Suella Braverman, ex-minister Kemi Badenoch and senior Tory Tom Tugendhat have all launched their bids, with further announcements anticipated over the coming days.

Another potential frontrunner Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt, and in the Telegraph today, former health secretaries Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt officially launched their campaigns.

Sunak, whose resignation from Cabinet helped trigger the avalanche of walkouts from ministers and aides, launched his campaign on Friday.

He has received the backing of several senior Tories including Commons Leader Mark Spencer, former Tory Party co-chairman Oliver Dowden, former chief whip Mark Harper, and ex-ministers Liam Fox and Andrew Murrison.

Yesterday, reports suggested his campaign website – Ready For Rishi – had actually been registered in December during the partygate scandal.

A No 10 source told the BBC there was “real disappointment” with Sunak in Downing Street, accusing him of having a “short memory”.

“It was the Prime Minister who trusted him and gave him a top job when he was a junior minister,” the source said.

“The Prime Minister backed him to the hilt. It’s a shame it wasn’t reciprocated.”

A senior No 10 official was also reported to have called Sunak “a treacherous bastard”, according to the Financial Times.

Shapps launched his leadership bid by telling The Sunday Times he was ruling out a general election, and saying he would produce an emergency budget, instructing his chancellor to cut personal tax for the most vulnerable and giving state support to firms with high levels of energy consumption.

The Johnson loyalist was also keen to quash any notion that he had a role in bringing the Prime Minister down.

He said: “I have not spent the last few turbulent years plotting or briefing against the Prime Minister. I have not been mobilising a leadership campaign behind his back.

“I tell you this: for all his flaws – and who is not flawed? – I like Boris Johnson. I have never, for a moment, doubted his love of this country.”

Shapps added: “It is easy to criticise Boris after keeping one’s head down for years while being happy to benefit from his patronage. I am glad that I did not do that.

“Even as the skies darkened over his premiership, often because of errors committed by him, I hoped he could pull it back. Because in losing him, we would lose a man who makes a unique connection with people.”

ZAHAWI’S leadership bid followed soon after. In a statement, the Chancellor said: “The Conservative Party has made me who I am today. It gave me an education, it provided my family with a home and, most importantly, it provided hope. Making the most of my education, with the security of a safe home, I grew up with the understanding that nothing was impossible.

“Society is a reflection of its leaders, and under Margaret Thatcher, the Britain I knew was full of boundless optimism and opportunity. That has been lost and a change is needed. The country is confronting some of the greatest challenges for a lifetime.

“My aim is a simple one: to provide the opportunities that were afforded to my generation, to all Britons, whoever you are and wherever you come from. To steady the ship and to stabilise the economy. Thanks to Brexit, we are now a free nation.

“Let’s not just talk about the opportunities that follow, let’s take them. If a young boy, who came here aged 11 without a word of English, can serve at the highest levels of her majesty’s Government and run to be the next Prime Minister, anything is possible.”

The Mail on Sunday reported Truss’s leadership plans yesterday, where she pledged to advocate “classic Conservative principles” and introduce measures to tackle the cost of living crisis. She plans to make a formal announcement tomorrow.

Tugendhat made his first pitch to Scottish Tory members, stressing the need for “serious and tested leadership” for the party to be successful in Scotland.

The MP said the party required a “fresh start” after the dramatic exit of the former leader.

He is thought to have support among Scottish Tory MSPs, with chief whip Stephen Kerr and North East representative Douglas Lumsden having publicly declared their desire to see the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee chairman take over.

Writing in The Times yesterday, Tugendhat said the party is the only one that voters can “trust to unequivocally stand up for the Union and Scotland’s role within it”.

He added: “If we are to defeat Labour and the SNP-Green coalition, our party will need a fresh start under serious and tested leadership.”

Badenoch announced her campaign with a plan for a smaller state and a government “focused on the essentials”.

Tory MP Sir Charles Walker said it is incumbent on those running for leader that they “don’t knock lumps out of each other”, with a timetable for the leadership election to be drawn up following elections to the backbench 1922 Committee tomorrow. Walker said the process could be “truncated” by waiving regional hustings.