A new leadership contest will be held within a week, Liz Truss said in her resignation speech.
This will be the fifth Conservative prime minister in just over six years – and the third of this term.
But who could be the next leader? Here are the main runners and drivers.
Sunak has proven to be something of a prophet of doom for the government, as many of the predictions he made about Truss’s economic plan during his tenure this summer have come true.
The former Chancellor of the Exchequer (Treasury Secretary) warned that Truss’ unfunded tax cuts would lead to a rush in sterling, panic in the bond market and concern from the International Monetary Fund. Perhaps even he would have been surprised at the speed with which he was proved right.
Sunak has experience tackling economic crises, having guided the UK through the Covid-19 pandemic. He is also popular with MPs as he received more votes in Parliament than Truss before the choice between the final candidates was put before Members and narrowly lost in the final vote.
The confidence he has among MPs – and the confirmation his predictions have won – could make him the likely next couple to steer the ship.
The leader of the House of Commons may have had a dress rehearsal for prime minister this week after filling in for an absent Liz Truss in a debate.
“The Prime Minister isn’t under a desk,” confirmed Mordaunt on Tuesday — in a performance that seemed as much about putting himself up as it was about helping the Prime Minister.
Mordaunt came third in the last leadership election, narrowly missing out on being placed ahead of the members – among whom she was expected to do well, in part due to her military credentials. Mordaunt is a reservist in the Royal Navy.
Like Sunak, she belongs to the more moderate wing of the party. There was even talk of the two forming a “dream team” ticket among MPs, although that has yet to be done – and it’s unclear if Sunak would settle for becoming chancellor again.
It is a sign of the disarray of the Truss government’s final days that it appointed Grant Shapps Home Secretary – despite not offering him any ministerial post when he took office.
Shapps served as Minister for Transport under Boris Johnson. He presented himself as the successor in the previous leadership election – only to withdraw from the race three days later after failing to secure the requisite 20 MP votes to advance to the next round.
Badenoch finished fourth in this summer’s leadership elections – but has been consistently voted a favorite among Conservative citizens by pollsters.
One of the younger MPs in the running, Badenoch quickly won the support of long-time Tory grandee Michael Gove, who praised her as an “outstanding talent” in the party.
Badenoch is on the right of the Tory party – and hinted in her previous lead candidate that the government’s climate targets could prove too costly.
Just a few months ago, Johnson enjoyed a comfortable majority in Parliament and even claimed he was considering his third term — to widespread derision. Despite being plagued by a seemingly endless series of scandals, Labor still lagged behind in the polls – and Johnson had no obvious competitor in the party.
In his last speech as Prime Minister outside 10 Downing Street, Johnson made one of his characteristic references to ancient history. He said he would “return to his plough” like Roman statesman Cincinnatus – and suggested a quieter life in the back benches.
But that’s not what Cincinnatus’ days looked like. He was recalled from his plow to return to Rome for a second term – this time as dictator.
Memories of Partygate, the ongoing scandal that eventually led to his downfall, may prove too fresh for MPs to call Johnson back.
But as the Tory party fades into oblivion in the election, the man who delivered an 80-seat majority in 2019 could prove an enticing option for many MPs.
Other names in the hat
Suella BravermannHis resignation as interior minister on Wednesday evening may have heralded a possible leadership bid. The former attorney general has not previously run – but with her tough stance on immigration, it could look like she is pulling the party further to the right.
Tom Tugendhat emerged as the surprise favorite among Tory members and the general public despite finishing only fifth in the last leadership election. Having not served as a cabinet minister before that contest, Tugendhat distanced himself from the moral mess of Johnson’s government and promised a “clean start” for Britain. After serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, Tugendhat was appointed Minister of Security by Truss.
Ben Wallace, Secretary of Defense and another ex-military, was named Johnson’s successor in the most recent leadership contest — doing very well among Conservative members. However, he never ran in that election and it is unclear if his position has changed since then.