Rishi Sunak has said it was “very kind” of Conservative MPs to suggest he replace Boris Johnson should the prime minister be forced to resign.
In an interview with the BBC on Thursday, the chancellor refused four times to rule out standing in any Tory leadership contest.
Johnson has said he wants to remain in post and fight the next election, due in 2024.
But in the wake of the partygate affair, there is a drip-drip of Tory MPs announcing they have formally requested a vote of no confidence in the PM be held.
Asked if he would run to replace Johnson, Suank said: “That’s not what I’m focused on.”
Told some Tory MPs want him to, he replied: “Well, that’s very kind of them, of them to suggest that.”
Pressed two more times if he would like to succeed Johnson in No.10, Sunak said it was a “hypothetical situation” and that he was ” getting on with my job”.
“The prime minister has my full support,” the chancellor said. “I’ve got a lot to focus on and my job is to deliver that.”
Sunak was noticeably quiet last month when some of the allegations about parties in Downing Street during lockdown emerged, taking many hours before offering only lukewarm backing to the PM.
Asked by the BBC today if Johnson “always tells the truth”, Sunak added: “Yes of course he does. He’s the prime minister of the United Kingdom.”
The chancellor is seen as the frontrunner to take over as Conservative leader should Johnson be forced out.
Other likely candidates include foreign secretary Liz Truss and former health secretary Jeremy Hunt.
So far 13 Conservatives have publicly called for the PM’s resignation, although more may have submitted letters in secret.
If 54 Tory MPs submit a letter to Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the backbench Tory 1922 committee, then a no confidence vote in Johnson’s leadership will be held.