Boris Johnson has announced his resignation as Tory leader, triggering the party’s second leadership contest in three years.
His potential replacements are already jockeying for position in a crowded field. Here are the frontrunners…
Mordaunt, the trade policy minister, is a naval reservist who first rose to prominence when appointed international development secretary in 2017.
A keen Brexiteer, Mordaunt has managed to keep within the ministerial ranks while also having the odd dig at the government. Her team has apparently compiled a dossier of all these occasions to use as ammunition in a leadership race.
Previously viewed as a bit of a wild card, Mordaunt has shot up to become bookies’ favourite. She is popular with Tory grassroots, coming a close second in ConHome’s polling run-off, losing out to Ben Wallace.
High point: Hurling herself off a 7.5m diving board as a contestant on The Splash, bellyflopping out of the competition.
Low point: Wrongly claiming that Britain would not have a veto to stop Turkey joining the EU before the Brexit referendum in 2016.
Fun fact: She worked as a magician’s assistant for the president of the Portsmouth Magic Circle to pay her way through college.
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Wallace has topped the ConHome poll of members’ favourite cabinet ministers for several months running thanks to his handling of the evacuation from Afghanistan and the war in Ukraine.
A former Scots Guards officer, Wallace has served as Northern Ireland minister, security minister and now Defence Secretary.
While he’s seen as a professional who knows his stuff on military matters, there are big question marks over what Wallace believes on the other big issues of the day. His economic strategy to tackle the cost-of-living crisis, for instance, is an enigma.
Even so, he is seen by many as a candidate who could unite disparate wings of the party.
High point: Calling Vladimir Putin “a lunatic with small man syndrome.”
Low point: Getting pranked into talking to a Russian posing as the Ukrainian PM on the phone.
Fun fact: He used to be a ski instructor.
Since becoming an MP for South West Surrey in 2005, Hunt has collected numerous job titles within the government but never quite made it to PM. Most notably, he was Culture Secretary from 2010 to 2012, overseeing the London Olympic Games, and was Health Secretary from 2012 to 2018, making him the longest-ever serving MP in the role.
Hunt lost to Johnson in the Tory leadership race in 2019 and has been openly critical of Johnson’s government as a backbencher and chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee ever since. Some colleagues are said to call him “Theresa May in trousers.”
High point: As Health Secretary he reportedly read one letter each morning from people who had lost loved ones due to mistakes and has recently written a book, Zero, which outlines ways to prevent avoidable deaths in the NHS.
Low point: Becoming the first Health Secretary to cause doctors to strike without emergency cover – he was also introduced as “Jeremy C***” on the Today programme in 2010.
Fun fact: Known for his gaffes, Hunt infamously referred to his Chinese wife as “Japanese” during a visit to Beijing in 2018.
Gove reportedly gave the Prime Minister until 9pm last night to resign, only to find himself sacked as Levelling-Up Secretary at 8.59 pm. Gove has previously held roles as Education, Justice and Environment Secretary over the years, making him one of the more experienced ministers in the running.
High point: Going viral for tearing up the dance floor in an Aberdeen nightclub last year. Gove also allegedly tried to avoid the £5 entry fee by stating he was the Duchy of Lancaster.
Low point: Being sacked by every living Tory prime minister (minus one).
Fun fact: In 1995, Gove played the role of the chaplain in the comedy film A Feast at Midnight alongside Christopher Lee. You can watch his acting debut here.
The Foreign Secretary is the darling of the ruling Tory party’s grassroots members. Until recently, Truss has come out top in polls of party members surveyed by ConHome.
The 46-year-old MP for Southwest Norfolk takes care to cultivate a hard-working, high-achieving image, posting pictures of herself with flags after a whirlwind world tour to pin down new post-Brexit trade agreements when she was international trade secretary. She has not had so much luck in charming the bureaucrats of Brussels in trying to unlock the Northern Ireland Protocol, even threatening to bust Article 16.
Truss has been good at re-inventing herself. At Oxford, she was president of the Liberal Democrats but switched to the Tories after leaving, working as an economist and then deputy director of the free-market Reform think tank. As a Remainer, she has been equally assiduous in adopting a strong pro-Brexit stance.
High point: Her moment of homage to Lady Thatcher: dressing in fur coat and hat riding a tank in Estonia.
Low point: Being mocked for saying that it is a disgrace that Britain imports two thirds of its cheese at a party conference. Junior civil servants in her department went on to hold a special “cheese time.”
Fun fact: As the daughter of a maths teacher, Truss wants all students in full time education to have compulsory maths classes, making the point that only a fifth of UK pupils take maths to A-level. At the same time, she has argued that comprehensive school pupils are being mis-sold easy subjects, and that they are six times more likely to do media studies than privately-educated students.
First elected to Parliament in 2015, “Dishy Rishi”, as he came to be known, was Chancellor from 2020 until this week, and was, at one point, thought to be in pole position to become Britain’s next prime minister. The MP for Richmond was thrown into the deep end managing Britain’s economy during the pandemic.
Sunak’s resignation also spelt the beginning of the end for Boris on Tuesday, which will no doubt improve his popularity with some.
Low point: His sparkling future in the Tory party was dulled by the revelation of his wife’s controversial non-domicile tax status as well as the fact that he held onto his American green card when he was initially appointed Chancellor. Plus, people didn’t like that he drinks out of a £180 mug.
High point: In an attempt to help the struggling hospitality industry and boost the economy, Rishi launched Eat Out To Help Out (EOTHO) in 2020. The hugely popular initiative offered 50 per cent off eating out for the whole of August; the way to a Brit’s heart is apparently their stomach.
Fun fact: In an interview with two school students, the Chancellor was asked if he prefers Coke or Pepsi, to which he replied “I’m a coke addict”, before going to great lengths to ensure everyone knew he was talking about coca-cola.
Elected as an MP in Stratford-upon-Avon in 2010, Zahawi replaced Rishi Sunak as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the dying light of Boris Johnson’s leadership. Having spent less than 48 hours in the job, Zahawi took to Twitter to urge the PM to resign, writing: “You must do the right thing and go now.”
Fearing persecution from Saddam Hussein’s regime, Zahawi and his parents fled from Iraq to the UK when he was nine years old.
Having spent almost eight years as a backbencher while also working in the oil industry, Zahawi became junior education minister in 2018, having gone on to become vaccines minister and Education Secretary before his recent promotion.
Placing fifth in ConHome’s latest poll, Zahawi could be a surprise contender in the upcoming leadership election. He has reportedly been planning a leadership bid in recent months, with backing from Sir Lynton Crosby.
High point: Zahawi acted as vaccine minister during the Covid-19 pandemic, spearheading an operation that saw Britain leap ahead of the rest of Europe in its vaccine rollout, and strengthening Johnson’s position as PM.
Low point: In 2013, the Sunday Mirror revealed that Zahawi had claimed expenses for electricity at his stables in Warwickshire. The MP later admitted he had made a “mistake” and said: “I will be paying back any money wrongly claimed immediately and I apologise – unreservedly.”
Fun fact: YouGov, the polling firm co-founded by Zahawi, began life in his garden shed in 2000; even so, Zahawi admits that he wanted to be an international showjumper when he was young, rather than an entrepreneur-turned-politician.