Britain will have a new prime minister within a week, outgoing leader Liz Truss said in his resignation speech outside 10 Downing Street on Thursday.
The fast-track process was in stark contrast to the race that pushed Trath into the hot seat — a race that lasted six weeks in the middle of the summer.
This time around, the Conservative Party is at a low point in the polls and markets are jittery after a week of drama around Truss’ failed economic policy agenda, which wants a new leader in place as soon as possible and as little as possible dramatic event.
The Conservative Party official in charge of the process, Graham Brady, announced that a candidate to replace Truss would need at least 100 nominations from the party’s MPs by 2 p.m. local time on Monday.
If only one candidate meets that threshold, they automatically become leaders. Otherwise, online voting for party members will close on Friday, October 28.
The winner of the competition will be the fifth Conservative Prime Minister in six years and the third in this term of Parliament. But who might be the next leader? Here are some of the leading runners and riders:
Sunak has proven to be a prophet of the government’s demise, as many of the predictions he made about Truss’ economic plans during his leadership this summer came true.
The former Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance Minister) has warned that Truss’ unfunded tax cuts will lead to a run on the pound, panic in the bond market and concerns for the International Monetary Fund. Maybe even he will be surprised by the speed at which he is proven right.
Sunak has experience dealing with economic crises, having guided the UK through the Covid-19 pandemic.
He also garnered the most votes from MPs in the last leadership election – easily clearing the new threshold with 137 votes. While Truss ultimately won the decisive member vote, Sunak narrowly lost with 43 percent of the vote.
His trust among MPs — and the validation of his predictions — could make him the next most likely to be at the helm.
The House of Commons leader may have rehearsed for the prime minister this week after speaking for the absent Liz Truss at the debate.
“The prime minister is not under the desk,” Mordault confirmed on Tuesday — in a performance that appeared to be both promoting himself and helping the prime minister.
Mordaunt came third in the last leadership election and nearly missed the chance to be put in front of the members. In the last election, she received 105 votes from MPs, and she is also expected to pass the new threshold. She is expected to excel among party members, in part because of her military credentials. Mordaunt was a Royal Navy reservist who briefly served as Minister of Defence.
Like Sunak, she hails from the more moderate wing of the party. The pair’s MPs have even discussed a vote to form a “dream team”, though that has yet to materialise – and it’s unclear if anyone would accept being prime minister instead of the top job.
Badnock ranks fourth in this summer’s leadership election – garnered just 59 votes from MPs – but pollsters consistently rate it as the favourite among grassroots Tory members.
As one of the young MPs in the race, Badnock quickly won the backing of long-serving Conservative dignitary Michael Gove, who hailed her as a “brilliant talent” in the party.
Badenoch hails from the right wing of the Conservative Party – in her previous leadership campaign, she suggested the government’s climate targets could prove too costly.
With Truss picking up votes from MPs, Badnoch may have an outside chance to clear the threshold and get into the MPs’ vote.
Multiple allies have proven Johnson could be a united candidate who can bring stability to the country, although his humiliating resignation a few months ago after a series of scandals came together made his position untenable foot.
Asked by CNN how they could justify Johnson as prime minister again, one MP who ran for Johnson in the 2019 leadership race said: “Socialists are going to destroy our economy, if you don’t understand that , then I’m really worried about our future.”
Another MP who backed Johnson in 2019 said he was the only candidate who could easily win Conservative MPs and members of the Conservative Party.
Johnson’s closest allies said they knew Truss was lobbying aggressively in the hours after his resignation speech, proving to him that he represented the party’s best chance of achieving stability in the mid-term.
In his final speech as Prime Minister outside 10 Downing Street, Johnson made one of the classic hints of ancient history. He said he would “return to his plough” like the Roman statesman Cincinnatus – suggesting a quieter life in the back seat. But that’s not how Cincinnatus sees his days. He was recalled from his plowshares to return to Rome for a second term – this time as a dictator.
Some suspect the new 100-vote threshold is an attempt by the Conservatives to make another term for Johnson impossible. He is expected to do well in the party membership vote – but the high threshold for MPs to vote means it is unlikely to reach that stage.
It was a sign of the chaos in the last days of the Truss government, which promoted Grant Shapps to home secretary – despite not offering him any sort of ministerial position when she first took office.
Shapps was transport secretary under Boris Johnson. He offered himself to succeed him in the previous leadership election – only to drop out of the race three days later after failing to secure the 20 MPs needed to advance to the next round.
The new bar may be too high for Shapps – but his criticism of the Truss government from the start may have won more MPs than the last time.
Sarah Braverman Resigning as home secretary on Wednesday night could be a precursor to a possible leadership bid. The former attorney general has not run before – but her hardline stance on immigration may look to drag the party further to the right.
Tom Tugendhat Despite finishing fifth in the last leadership election, it became an unexpected favourite among Conservative Party members and the wider public. Tugendhat, who had not been in cabinet before that campaign, distanced himself from the moral chaos of Johnson’s government and promised a “clean start” for Britain. After serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, Tugendhat was appointed as Truss’s security minister.
Ben WallaceThe defence secretary and another ex-military, who was seen as taking over from Johnson in the last leadership race – polled very well among Conservative Party members. However, he never ran in that election, and it is unclear whether his position will change since then.
ex PM Theresa May Also considered a possible “Unity” candidate to succeed Truss. May’s attempt to bring together the warring wings of the Conservative Party over Brexit has eventually led to her being replaced by Boris Johnson. If the party proves unable to resolve its dispute in this round, another compromise attempt could soon follow.