UK Conservative candidates throw hats in ring to replace Johnson

At least 11 candidates say they will vie to be the party’s new leader and prime minister after Johnson resigns.

united Kingdom
Several candidates have announced they will run to replace Prime Minister Boris Johnson [File: Toby Melville/Reuters]

Some 11 members of the United Kingdom’s Conservative Party have launched bids to replace Boris Johnson as the party’s leader with many pledging lower taxes and a clean start after Johnson’s scandal-ridden premiership.

Johnson announced on Thursday that he would step down after dozens of ministers and officials resigned over his handling of a series of scandals, including breaches of lockdown rules in gatherings at his Downing Street office.

Johnson said he would lead a caretaker government until the party had chosen a new leader.

The Conservative Party’s 1922 Committee of legislators, which sets rules for the party in parliament, will set out the exact timetable for the contest after a meeting on Monday.

Bob Blackman, an officer on the committee’s executive, has said nominations will close on Tuesday evening, and the field whittled down to just two candidates by July 21.

The contest would then go to a postal ballot with a new party leader, who would then become prime minister, expected to be chosen by September. They would have the option to call a snap election.

Taxation has already emerged as a key issue in the race, with the UK facing high inflation and a cost of living crisis.

An early favourite, Defence Minister Ben Wallace, said on Saturday he would not stand after a discussion with colleagues and family, while Home Secretary Priti Patel is said to be mulling a bid.

Here are the 11 candidates so far:

Liz Truss, foreign secretary

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss announced her candidacy in the right-wing Daily Telegraph newspaper on Sunday evening, saying she had “a clear vision of where we need to be, and the experience and resolve to get us there”.

Truss promised to cut taxes from “day one”.

Close up picture of UK foreign secretary Liz Truss walking in Downing Street
Foreign Secretary Lizz Truss announced her candidacy in the right-wing Daily Telegraph on Sunday with a promise to cut taxes [File: Justin Tallis/AFP]

Rishi Sunak, former finance minister

Sunak was the second minister to resign in protest over Johnson’s poor handling of sexual harassment allegations against Conservative legislator Christopher Pincher.

He launched his campaign on Friday, a day after Johnson’s resignation, and notched up more than 30 endorsements from members of Parliament over the weekend, according to the Times newspaper.

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak, the former finance minister, was the second minister to resign in protest ahead of Johnson’s resignation [File: Daniel Leal/Reuters]

The former hedge fund manager has come under pressure over the tax affairs of his wife, Akshata Murty, who is an heir to the Indian IT company Infosys. He has also been attacked over rising taxes after last year’s budget put the UK on course for its biggest tax burden since the 1950s.

In his campaign video, Sunak promised to confront the country’s difficult economic backdrop with “honesty, seriousness and determination”.

Jeremy Hunt, former foreign secretary

Jeremy Hunt
Jeremy Hunt, Conservative Party leadership candidate, appears on BBC’s Sunday Morning programme [BBC Handout via Reuters]

Hunt finished second to Johnson in the 2019 leadership contest to replace Prime Minister Theresa May and has said he would offer a more serious and less controversial style of leadership after the turmoil of Johnson’s premiership.

He has sought to differentiate himself as the only major candidate to date who did not serve in Johnson’s government.

Sajid Javid, former health minister

Sajid Javid
Sajid Javid, Conservative Party leadership candidate, appears on BBC’s Sunday Morning programme [BBC Handout via Reuters]

Javid was the first cabinet minister to resign in protest over accusations that Johnson misled the public regarding what he knew about the allegations against Pincher.

The son of Pakistani Muslim immigrant parents, Javid is a proponent of the free market and a former banker. “The next Prime Minister needs integrity, experience, and a tax-cutting plan for economic growth. That’s why I’m standing,” he wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

Penny Mordaunt, former UK defence secretary

Penny Mordaunt
British member of Parliament Penny Mordaunt [File: Simon Dawson/Reuters]

Mordaunt has held several ministerial positions, including serving as defence secretary in May’s government.

The former Navy reservist announced her bid for the top job in a video on social media, saying “our leadership has to change. It needs to become a little less about the leader, a lot more about the ship”.

Grant Shapps, transport secretary

Grant Shapps
British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps leaves 10 Downing Street in London [File: Phil Noble/Reuters]

Shapps has served as secretary of state for transport since Johnson took office in 2019. He was first elected to parliament in 2005.

He has been a loyal defender of Johnson.

He wrote on Twitter announcing his campaign: “I plan. I communicate. I campaign. I deliver. And I can win an election for our party in tough times”. He too has promised tax cuts.

Nadhim Zahawi, finance minister

Nadhim Zahawi
British finance minister Nadhim Zahawi at Downing Street in London [File: Henry Nicholls/Reuters]

Zahawi was appointed finance minister last week after Sunak resigned. He was previously the education minister.

A former refugee from Iraq and co-founder of the polling company YouGov before entering parliament in 2010, Zahawi has said he will run on a platform of lowering taxes for individuals, families and businesses.

Tom Tugendhat, chair of UK parliament’s foreign affairs committee

Tom Tugendhat
Tom Tugendhat, Conservative Party leadership candidate in London [File: Peter Nicholls/Reuters]

Tugendhat is the chair of parliament’s foreign affairs committee and a former soldier who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has never served in the cabinet and has been a regular critic of Johnson.

Writing on Twitter after announcing his campaign, he said: “Trust in our politics and our party is collapsing. We need a clean start.”

Kemi Badenoch, member of parliament

Badenoch was elected to parliament for the first time in 2017 and has held junior ministerial roles. She has never served in the cabinet.

Writing in The Times, she said: “Without change the Conservative Party, Britain, and the western world will continue to drift.”

Suella Braverman, attorney general

British Attorney General Suella Braverman walks outside at Downing Street in London [File: Phil Noble/Reuters]

As attorney general of England and Wales, Braverman was heavily criticised by lawyers after the government sought to break international law over post-Brexit trade rules in Northern Ireland.

A staunch Brexit supporter, she resigned in protest from her post as junior minister in the Brexit department under May, saying the former prime minister’s Brexit deal did not go far enough in breaking ties with Europe. Her campaign so far has focused on further breaking ties with European institutions, including the European Convention on Human Rights.

Rehman Chishti, member of parliament

Rehman Chishti, who has worked as a trade envoy for the UK, announced his plan to run for the leadership in a tweet on Sunday.

“It’s about aspirational conservatism, fresh ideas, fresh team for a fresh start taking our great country forward,” the member of Parliament wrote on Twitter.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies