Jul 11, 2022 - World

Contenders to replace Boris Johnson scramble for support as race begins

Rishi Sunak (L) with Boris Johnson in happier times for the PM. Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Contenders to replace U.K. Prime Minster Boris Johnson will need the support of 20 Conservative members of Parliament by Tuesday to qualify for the following day's first round of the Conservative leadership election, according to rules announced Monday.

How it works: That will likely eliminate several of the 11 candidates. Even fewer will clear the 30-vote threshold in Wednesday's first ballot. The bar will continue to be raised in subsequent ballots until two candidates are left, likely within a week. The full party membership will select the winner, with the results expected on Sep. 5.

  • Rishi Sunak, who helped fire the starting gun on the race by resigning as Johnson’s finance minister last Tuesday, was fastest out of the gate and has already 39 declared supporters, according to the Telegraph's tally.
  • Penny Mordaunt, a trade minister and former defense secretary who is positioning herself as a unity candidate, has 24 backers of her own and came first in an informal poll of party members today.
  • Tom Tugendhat, a foreign policy specialist and former army officer running as the moderates' choice, has 21 backers.
  • The arch-Brexiteer wing of the party looks divided, while other favorites like Foreign Secretary Liz Truss (15 backers) and Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi (14) will need to win votes quickly to survive past Wednesday.

Three notes on the race:

  • Six of the 11 candidates are immigrants or the children of immigrants.
  • Defense Secretary Ben Wallace elected not to run despite being one of the oddsmakers’ favorites. He’s likely to stay in that job no matter who wins.
  • Many have noted that senior Conservatives turned on Johnson while Republicans never abandoned Trump during scandals that were arguably more serious. One key point: Johnson’s approval rating fell to 50% among his party’s voters, while Trump’s remained around 90%.

Go deeper: How it all fell apart for Boris Johnson

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