Johnson hangs on – but who are the frontrunners to succeed him when his time runs out?


British prime minister Boris Johnson was left wounded last night after 148 of his own MPs voted no confidence in him following a series of scandals, including a damning official report about Covid-19 lockdown-breaking parties at his official residence.

ohnson has vowed to fight on as leader, but the Conservative Party grandees could decide they can not continue with his leadership for the next two years until an election, and a contest to replace him will begin.

So who could replace him?

Liz Truss

The foreign secretary is the darling of the Conservatives’ grassroots and is regularly top of the polls of party members carried out by the website Conservative Home.

Truss has a carefully cultivated public image and was photographed in a tank last year, evoking a famous 1986 image of Britain’s first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, who was also captured in such a pose.

The 46-year-old spent the first two years of Johnson’s premiership as international trade secretary, championing Brexit, and last year was appointed as Britain’s lead negotiator with the European Union.

Truss said yesterday that Johnson has her “100pc backing” and she urged colleagues to support him.

Jeremy Hunt

The former foreign secretary (55) finished second to Johnson in the 2019 leadership contest. He would offer a more serious and less controversial style of leadership after the
turmoil of Johnson’s premiership.

Over the past two years, Hunt has used his experience as a former health secretary to chair the health select committee and has not been tarnished by having served in the current government. Earlier this year, he said his ambition to become prime minister “hasn’t completely vanished”.

Rishi Sunak

The finance minister was until last year the favourite to succeed Johnson. Sunak was praised for a rescue package for the economy during the coronavirus pandemic, including a jobs retention programme, which prevented mass unemployment, that could cost as much as £410bn (€480bn).

But he has faced criticism for not giving enough cost-of-living support to households, his wealthy wife’s non-domiciled tax status and a fine he received, along with Johnson, for breaking lockdown rules.

His tax-and-spend budget last year put Britain on course for its biggest tax burden since the 1950s, undermining his claims to favour lower taxes. Sunak said on Monday he backed Johnson’s leadership.

Nadhim Zahawi

The current education secretary impressed as vaccines minister when Britain had one of the fastest rollouts of Covid-19 jabs in the world.

Zahawi’s personal story as a former refugee from Iraq who came to Britain as a child sets him apart from other Conservative contenders.

He went on to co-found polling company YouGov before entering parliament in 2010. He said last week at some stage it would be a “privilege” to be prime minister.

Penny Mordaunt

Former defence minister was sacked by Johnson when he became prime minister after she backed his rival Hunt during the last leadership contest.

Mordaunt was a passionate supporter of leaving the EU and made national headlines by taking part in now-defunct reality TV diving show.

Currently a junior trade minister, Mordaunt called the lockdown-breaking parties in government “shameful”. She said last month  voters wanted to see “professionalism and competence” from the government.

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