After the resignation of the two heavyweights of his Government, Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid, Boris Johnson faces the flight of “minor” ministers while his possible successors warm up the engines. The undersecretary for children and families, Will Quince, was the last to resign on Wednesday morning after having defended the “premier” for his role in the case of the sexual scandal of former deputy Chris Pincher and now admitting that “he cheated to the public” with his statements. Johnson will face the parliamentary fire at noon and will try to close the government crisis -with Nadhim Zahawi as the new Secretary of the Treasury and Steve Barclay as Secretary of Health- but the animosity against the “premier” is increasing in the seats of the Tories, already divided into two irreconcilable halves over the uncertain future of their leader.
Former Defense Secretary Penny Mordaunt has skyrocketed in the stakes for the premier’s succession. Mordaunt, 49, a moderate Brexitera, was “devalued” by Johnson as Secretary of State for Trade Policy and crouches for her moment. She has been one of the most critical internal voices during “Partygate”, she is a relatively popular face for the British and has a special pull among the party’s bases, where she has risen to the point of being the second favorite (19.3% of preferences).
The current Minister of Defense Ben Wallace, 52 years old, ranks first among Tory militants (19.7%) and is also the most highly valued member of the Government, with 85% popular acceptance, compared to 21% for Boris Johnson (lower valued than all his ministers). Wallace has gained political clout over the Ukraine war, though he lacks charisma and isn’t well known to voters. His recent confrontation with Johnson over the defense budget gave rise to speculation that his relationship with the “premier” was deteriorating.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, 46, is third in the Conservative Home pools, with 13.9% of the total preferences. Since her promotion in September, Truss has waged a calculated campaign of self-promotion online as she has closed ranks with Johnson at critical moments. She was in favor of remaining in the EU, but she has not hesitated to tighten the screws when it comes to promoting the law of the Ireland Protocol that aims to unilaterally modify the most controversial part of the Brexit agreement.
Nadhim Zahawi, 55, recently appointed Treasury Secretary after the resignation of Rishi Sunak, is another of the names on the rise. The son of Iraqi immigrants of Kurdish origin, Zahawi made his way as “minister of vaccines” at the critical moment of the pandemic and was later awarded education secretary. He is currently the third most valued member of the Johnson Government, and so far loyal to his leader.
Rishi Sunak, 42, was for a time considered the antithesis and natural successor to Boris Johnson. He reached high levels of popularity thanks to the economic measures during the Covid that allowed maintaining the lowest level of unemployment in recent decades. His star was extinguished, however, by the scandal of his wife, Akshata Murty, daughter of the Indian billionaire Narayana Murti, who did not declare taxes in the United Kingdom because of the “non-resident” status. The Government’s lukewarm reaction to inflation, which has already exceeded 9% for the year, also caused it to fall in the popularity polls.
Tom Tugendhat, 49, occupies fourth place in the preferences of conservative militants, although he is not a well-known face either. He belongs to the penultimate batch of deputies in 2015 and was elected thanks in large part to his experience as a war veteran in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is the chairman of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee and voted against Johnson in the motion of no confidence, along with 41% of “Tory” deputies.
Jeremy Hunt, 56 years old, has been off the hook in recent bets. The former Foreign Secretary was Johnson’s closest rival in the last contest for the conservative leadership and one of the leaders of the rebel “Tories” who promoted the recent motion of no confidence. His opposition to Brexit and his latest moves have, however, caused him to lose support among the grassroots.
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