Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak lead race to become Britain’s next prime minister

  • To date, no candidate has declared their intention to run
  • Doubts Johnson will reach goal of 100 lawmaker nominations
  • Sunak is the bookies favourite
  • Winner would be Britain’s fifth prime minister in six years

LONDON, Oct 21 (Reuters) – Boris Johnson and former Finance Minister Rishi Sunak on Friday led potential contenders to succeed Britain’s Prime Minister Liz Truss, with the candidates courting support in an accelerated contest for the Conservative leadership to take over the party.

After Truss completed her six-week term on Thursday, those she wanted to replace were trying to find the 100 votes from Conservative lawmakers needed for a contest the party hopes will restore its ailing fortunes.

With the Conservatives nearly wiped out in the next national election, according to opinion polls, the race for Britain’s fifth Prime Minister in six years is on.

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The winner will be announced next week Monday or Friday. Continue reading

In an extraordinary comeback, Johnson, who was ousted by lawmakers just over three months ago, stormed up the ranks alongside Sunak to be crowned the next prime minister.

“I think he has that proven track record of turning things around. He can turn it around again. And I’m sure my colleagues are hearing that message loud and clear,” Conservative lawmaker Paul Bristow said of Johnson on LBC radio.

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“Boris Johnson is the character the Labor Party fears, Boris Johnson can win the next general election,” he said.

Johnson, who left office and compared himself to a Roman dictator who came to power twice to ward off crises, may struggle to reach the 100 votes after his three-year tenure was riddled with scandals and allegations of misconduct.

One of his former advisers, who no longer speaks to Johnson and asked not to be identified, said he is unlikely to achieve the goal, having alienated dozens of Conservatives during his scandal-ridden tenure.

But Will Walden, who also worked for Johnson, told Sky News the former Prime Minister was returning from furlough and doing soundings.

The competition began on Thursday, just hours after Truss stood outside her Downing Street office and said she could not go on.

Sunak, the former Goldman Sachs analyst who had just become Treasury Secretary when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Europe, is the favorite among bookmakers, followed by Johnson. In third place is Penny Mordaunt, a former Secretary of Defense popular with Conservative Party members.

No one has officially declared their candidacy.

TRUSS FINISHED

Truss resigned on Thursday after the shortest and most chaotic tenure of any UK prime minister, after her economic program shattered the country’s reputation for financial stability and left many people poorer. Continue reading

Truss said she could no longer run her program after her economic plan roiled markets and ended up on the cutting room floor when she was forced to hire a new Treasury Secretary.

“I have therefore spoken to His Majesty the King to inform him that I am resigning as leader of the Conservative Party,” said Truss, who was supported only by her husband while her aides and loyal ministers were noticeably absent.

The sight of another unpopular Prime Minister delivering a resignation speech at Downing Street – and the start of a new race for leadership – underscores just how volatile British politics has become since the 2016 vote to leave the European Union.

Some Conservative lawmakers are hoping the race to replace her will be quick and easy, urging hopefuls to band together around a candidate to ease the pain of yet another bruising contest.

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Sunak, who was right in his warnings that Truss’ financial plan was threatening the economy, is the favorite but remains deeply unpopular with some Conservatives after helping to start the Summer Rebellion against Johnson.

Mordaunt is viewed as a fresh pair of hands, largely unsullied by previous governments. But it’s also untested and has so far lagged behind Sunak and Johnson when it comes to finding backers.

Whoever takes over the party has a mountain to climb to try to restore or renew the reputation of the Conservative Party, which holds a large majority in Parliament and will not have to call national elections for the next two years.

“Whether a leadership change is enough to actually make the Conservatives credible in an election is certainly highly controversial,” political scientist John Curtice told LBC.

“The problem for the Conservatives is that their brand as a party that can take care of the economy is very, very badly hit now and it can be very difficult to recover in two years.”

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writing from Elizabeth Piper; additional reporting by Muvija M and Sachin Ravikumar; Adaptation by Toby Chopra

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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