Boris Johnson quits, Rishi Sunak top contender to be next UK Prime Minister

Boris Johnson resigned as UK Prime Minister following a series of resignations from his ministers who sailed him through thick and thin times of his tenure but finally said it had become “too much”.

Rishi Sunak, who resigned as UK Finance Minister two days ago, is a top contender to be the British Prime Minister. Sunak is seen by the bookmakers Ladbrokes as joint favourite alongside former Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt. He became hugely popular during the pandemic after crafting a massive package worth tens of billions of pounds to help businesses and workers.

Even before Boris Johnson stepped out of 10 Downing Street on Thursday to deliver his resignation speech as Conservative Party leader, triggering a leadership race for a new British prime minister, the runners and riders had been lining up to compete for the top job.

Indian-origin Suella Braverman, currently the Attorney General in the UK Cabinet, is among the early Tory members of Parliament to formally declare her leadership bid. The 42-year-old barrister and the government’s senior-most legal official is likely to command some support within the pro-Brexit wing of her party.

“I am putting myself forward because I believe that the 2019 manifesto is fit for purpose, presents a bold and inspiring vision for our country and I want to deliver on the promises contained in that manifesto. I want to embed the opportunities of Brexit and tidy up the outstanding issues…and cut taxes,” said Braverman, who is of Goan ancestry.

Another fellow staunch Brexiteer, Steve Baker, also declared on air that he intends to throw his hat in the ring. He is an influential Tory backbencher who served as chair of the European Research Group, in favour of a hard Brexit deal.

But the duo are largely seen as outliers and now with Johnson’s formal resignation, the other more serious bids are expected to start pouring in thick and fast.

In a latest YouGov poll of Tory party members in ‘The Daily Telegraph’, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has emerged as the frontrunner to become the next Prime Minister.

The party’s 1922 Committee is responsible for setting the timetable for a Tory leadership contest.

To take part in the race, a Tory MP has to be nominated by eight colleagues. If more than two MPs put themselves forward and secure enough nominations to run for leader, a series of secret ballots are held to whittle them down. The YouGov survey indicates that Wallace may be in pole position if he chooses to contest and then makes it to the final two candidates. He is on 13 per cent, just ahead of junior minister Penny Mordaunt on 12 per cent.

Former UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak, the Indian-origin minister who stepped down on Tuesday, is also seen as a contender and is at 10 per cent in the survey. Former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who came second in the 2019 Conservative leadership contest, is on a joint 5 per cent, alongside the new Chancellor, Nadhim Zahawi.

Zahawi, former Health and Education Secretary and most recently Chancellor in the Boris Johnson Cabinet, is believed to have already been working with Australian political strategist Sir Lynton Crosby – the man behind Johnson’s thumping general electoral win in December 2019. The 55-year-old Iraqi refugee, who arrived in the UK as an 11-year-old boy, is yet to formally declare his intention to vie for the top job but is seen as a serious contender.

Boris Johnson has resigned: What next?

The timescale of the leadership contest will be decided by the Conservative party’s 1922 committee and is not clear yet. Crucially, Johnson has indicated that he wants to stay as caretaker PM during the process.

  • All MPs who want to take part will face a vote of Tory MPs, with the least popular candidate eliminated
  • Successive rounds of votes will then take place to whittle down the field to a final two candidates
  • Those final two candidates will then be put to the Tory membership, which will make the final decision
  • Johnson would go to the Buckingham Palace and resign
  • Another MP would also go to the palace and ask to form a government
  • After that, the victor would head straight to 10 Downing, and likely address the public from the doorstep
  • If that comes to a head within the Tory party, then there will be no-confidence vote after all – either in Parliament or within the Tory party
  • At no point in this process will there be an election or public vote to choose the new PM – although they might choose to call an early election to get their own mandate

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