Three candidates have already opened fire as candidates to succeed Boris Johnson as leader of the Conservative Party: Attorney General Suella Braverman, former Brexit Minister Steve Baker and the chairman of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee Tom Tugendhat. None of them, however, appear on the list of favorites in a competition in which at least a dozen candidates are expected to attend.
Johnson has meanwhile resisted calls to leave Downing Street “immediately”. The former conservative leader aspires to continue serving as acting “premier” until the election of his successor. But after initial reactions, calling for the appointment of an “interim” prime minister (number two, Dominic Raab), Conservative MPs seem resigned to the fact that Johnson will provisionally remain in his position for at least two months.
The Labor Party has meanwhile stepped up its threats of a no-confidence motion, also backed by the Liberal Democrat Party, if Johnson “does not hand over the keys (to Downing Street) on Monday”. “Trying to hold on to power for a few months is totally unacceptable,” said Labor “number two” Angela Rayner.
If approved, the motion could open the doors to the dissolution of Parliament and the calling of general elections. However, it is highly unlikely that the rebel “Tory” MPs will support it in the absence of a new leader.
In his new role as acting “premier”, Johnson presided over the Cabinet of Ministers on Thursday with new additions to cover the more than 50 resignations in a chain throughout this week, among which are James Cleverly as the new Secretary of Education and Greg Clark as “Economic Leveling” Secretary.
Johnson has confirmed that he will not promote new political measures in the transition period, although in some sectors of the party there is fear that he will stand out with some Donald Trump-style “disruption” or some rude gesture towards his party. In his resignation speech he criticized the “herd instinct” of the Conservatives and stressed to the British how he had resisted resigning because of his electoral commitment and the complex international situation.
In the Conservative Party, fears are also growing that Johnson’s succession will degenerate into a battle that will bring to light the internal fractures of the party and will not be able to produce a leader with sufficient electoral pull.
None of the three candidates already confirmed are fairly well known by the British. Attorney General Suella Braverman, 42, has been criticized for her quest for prominence during the recent crisis after having held her position very quietly since 2020. Her only public and notorious intervention in public opinion has been very recent, defending the “legality” of the deportation of refugees to Rwanda (despite being the daughter of immigrants from Kenya and Mauritius).
Tom Tugendhat, 49, was elected MP in 2015 with the background of a war veteran in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was one of the most critical voices against Boris Johnson during Partygate and has had occasional friction with the Government on international policy issues due to a relevant position in Westminster. But he is not a sufficiently recognizable name or face for the British either.
Steve Baker, 51, was Brexit minister with Theresa May and later evolved to radical positions, to the point of torpedoing the agreement with Brussels proposed by his chief of ranks and becoming head of the so-called European Research Group (ERG). He represents the toughest faction in the party, known as the “Spartans”.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, 46, who hastened back from the G20 meeting in Asia, is expected to announce her candidacy in the next few hours. Former Treasury Secretary Rishi Sunak (42), the second to resign this week, has already formed his team. Considered a few months ago as the favorite to succeed, he has lost steam due to the scandal of his billionaire wife Akshata Murty (who availed himself of the status of “non-resident” to avoid paying taxes in the United Kingdom) and his lukewarm response to the crisis of the cost of living
Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, 52 years old, is today the favorite candidate of the Tory militants and the most valued in the Government for his role in the war in Ukraine. Wallace has, however, maintained total discretion during Johnson’s downfall, as has former Defense Secretary and Royal Navy reservist Penny Mordaunt (49), a betting favorite.
Nadhim Zahawi, 55 years old, the son of Iraqi Kurdish immigrants, architect of the vaccine campaign and “promoted” by Johnson as Treasury secretary in the midst of the crisis, is another name that sounds insistently. Former Health Secretary Sajid Javid (52) opened this week the cascade of resignations that forced Johnson’s downfall and could stand again as a candidate.
It is enough with the initial support of eight deputies to be able to present the candidacies. In successive votes among “Tory” parliamentarians, the candidates are finally reduced to two. It is then when the militants of the party can vote and choose between the two final candidates. In 2019, Boris Johnson won with 63% of the vote, almost double that achieved by his rival, former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who is also considering whether to try again.
Conforms to The Trust Project criteria