Who will replace Boris Johnson?

Boris Johnson has announced he will resign, which means there will now be a leadership election to decide who becomes the next Conservative leader and prime minister.

They will have to secure the backing of Tory MPs, with the final two candidates going to a ballot of Conservative members. But who are the potential candidates?

Remember, most of these MPs and ministers have not yet said whether they want the job of Tory leader and PM – but they are the ones to watch. Others may also come forward.

Meet some of the possible candidates

Rishi Sunak

Former Chancellor of the Exchequer

  • Once seen as a favourite to replace Boris Johnson as Conservative leader
  • Reputation dented by a controversy over his wife’s tax affairs and being fined for breaching lockdown rules
  • Became an MP in 2015 – for the North Yorkshire constituency of Richmond
  • Was chancellor of the exchequer less than five years later in 2020
  • Grappled with the coronavirus pandemic, spending huge amounts to keep the economy afloat
  • One of the first to quit the cabinet with minister and friend Sajid Javid, paving the way for the stream of resignations

Liz Truss
Foreign Secretary

  • Only the second woman to lead the Foreign Office, taking credit for securing the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe from Iran
  • Has held a series of cabinet positions, including negotiating post-Brexit trade agreements as international trade secretary
  • First elected in 2010 as MP for South West Norfolk and popular among Conservative Party members
  • Mocked for giving a speech at the 2015 Conservative conference on UK cheese imports
  • Early declaring her support for Boris Johnson after his chancellor and health secretary resigned

Sajid Javid

Former Health Secretary

  • Became MP for Bromsgrove in 2010 after a career in the City
  • Born in Rochdale to a first generation Pakistani immigrant family
  • Made a bid for the leadership in 2019, making it to the final four before dropping out to support Boris Johnson
  • His endorsement was rewarded with the role of chancellor, but he quit after six months in a row over his advisers
  • Made a return to the front benches as health secretary in 2021 before resigning again, saying he had lost faith in Mr Johnson’s leadership

Michael Gove

Former Levelling Up Secretary

  • Since being elected as MP for Surrey Heath in 2005, Mr Gove has served in various cabinet positions under David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson
  • Made his name as a radical education secretary, bringing in major changes to exams and the curriculum
  • Proved a key advocate of Theresa May’s Brexit deal and most recently served as levelling up secretary
  • In 2016, he scuppered the leadership hopes of his friend Boris Johnson, by announcing his own candidature on the morning of Mr Johnson’s own campaign launch
  • Lost out to Mr Johnson in the Conservative leadership campaign in summer 2019
  • Recently sacked from the cabinet by Mr Johnson after he urged the prime minister to step down

Nadhim Zahawi

New Chancellor of the Exchequer

  • Born in Iraq, Mr Zahawi and his family were forced to flee when Saddam Hussein came to power
  • After setting up a firm selling Teletubbies merchandise and founding polling company YouGov, he became MP for Stratford-on-Avon in 2010
  • Cemented his reputation as vaccines minister in the pandemic, leading to a promotion to the cabinet as education secretary
  • Another promotion to chancellor did not stop him from joining a group of ministers 24 hours later telling Mr Johnson to go

Jeremy Hunt

Member of Parliament

  • Entered the Commons in 2005 as MP for South West Surrey
  • Joined the government as culture secretary in 2010 and has also served as health and foreign secretary
  • Came second to Boris Johnson in the 2019 leadership contest and has remained an influential backbencher
  • Scrutinised government policy throughout the pandemic as chair of the Commons Health Committee
  • The son of an admiral, he made his fortune by setting up Hotcourses – a website connecting prospective students with educational institutions

Suella Braverman

Attorney General

  • Has served as MP for Fareham in Hampshire since 2015
  • Became a minister at the Department for Leaving the EU under Theresa May but resigned over Mrs May’s EU withdrawal deal
  • The former barrister replaced Geoffrey Cox as attorney general in 2020 and remains in that role
  • Confirmed she would join a Tory leadership race, saying “it would be the greatest honour”
  • Called for Boris Johnson to quit following a series of ministerial resignations

Penny Mordaunt

Minister of State

  • Became MP for Portsmouth North in 2010
  • Made history becoming the UK’s first female defence secretary in 2019
  • A naval reservist, she had already served as armed forces minister under David Cameron
  • She is a former magician’s assistant and head of the Conservative Party’s youth wing
  • Best known outside Westminster for appearing on ITV’s celebrity diving show Splash!
  • Formerly a press officer for William Hague when he was party leader and Kensington and Chelsea Council

Ben Wallace

Defence Secretary

  • The former soldier became an MP in 2005 – for Wyre and Preston North, formerly Lancaster and Wyre
  • Led Boris Johnson’s unsuccessful 2017 leadership campaign, before being rewarded with a cabinet post in 2019
  • Served in Germany, Cyprus, Belize and Northern Ireland where he helped thwart an IRA bomb attack
  • Was also one of the main army personnel involved in recovering Princess Diana’s body from Paris
  • While in the Scots Guards, he is said to have broken the record for the largest ever bill at the bar in the officers’ mess

Tom Tugendhat

Member of Parliament

  • Became an MP in 2015 – for the constituency of Tonbridge in Kent
  • A former Territorial Army officer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and has been talked up for years as a potential future Conservative leader
  • Chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee since January 2020
  • A moderate who projects pragmatism rather than populism
  • Told MPs of the grief and rage felt by veterans at the “abandonment” of Afghanistan in withdrawal by western forces last year

Steve Baker

Member of Parliament

  • Elected as the Conservative MP for Wycombe in 2010 after 10 years as an engineering officer in the Royal Air Force
  • Following the 2015 general election, he co-founded Conservatives for Britain, a group of 50 Tory MPs putting pressure on David Cameron to renegotiate UK membership of the EU
  • A member of the Eurosceptic European Research Group, he later became one of the so-called “Spartan” holdouts fighting against Theresa May’s Brexit deal
  • Made it known that colleagues have “implored” him to stand for the leadership

Priti Patel

Home Secretary

  • Elected to the seat of Witham in Essex in 2010 after several years in PR for the Conservative Party and lobbying for tobacco and alcohol industries
  • Served as Theresa May’s international development secretary, but forced to quit over unauthorised meetings with Israeli politicians
  • A prominent Brexiteer, she once argued Boris Johnson was the only person who could save Brexit and the Tories
  • Rewarded with the position of home secretary in Mr Johnson’s first cabinet
  • Recently sided with a delegation of Cabinet ministers urging Mr Johnson to step down

Steve Barclay

New Health Secretary

  • Elected MP for North East Cambridgeshire in 2010, he has served as Brexit secretary under Theresa May and Boris Johnson
  • A Brexit supporter, the lawyer and former banking executive has been seen as a rising star
  • Was made health secretary following the recent resignation of Sajid Javid, who stepped down after saying he had lost faith in Boris Johnson’s leadership
  • Before that he had been working as the chief of staff at Number 10, a powerful role in which he advised the prime minister
  • Served in the Army before reading history at Cambridge University and qualifying as a solicitor

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace appears to be the favourite to replace Boris Johnson as PM and party leader among Tory party members.

A YouGov poll of 716 Conservative party members placed Ben Wallace just ahead of Penny Mordaunt, who was followed Rishi Sunak.

YouGov poll shows Ben Wallace a favourite among Tory party members

Under the current rules, candidates need the support of eight Conservative MPs to stand.

If there are more than two candidates, Tory MPs hold a series of votes until just two remain.

At that point there is a ballot of the wider Conservative party membership to select the winner.

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