LONDON (AFP) — Boris Johnson resigned on Thursday as leader of Britain’s Conservative party, paving the way for the selection of a new prime minister after dozens of ministers quit his scandal-hit government.
“It is clearly the will of the parliamentary Conservative party that there should be a new leader of that party, and therefore a new prime minister,” Johnson said outside 10 Downing Street.
Johnson, 58, announced that he would step down after a slew of resignations from his top team in protest at his leadership but would stay on as prime minister until a replacement is found.
While several possible successors have been suggested, there is no clear favorite.
The UK’s first Hindu chancellor of the exchequer, who quit on Tuesday, was until recently the bookmakers’ favorite.
But his prospects were dented by questions over his private wealth and family’s tax arrangements. His resignation has seen him return as one of the bookies’ frontrunners for the top job.
Sunak, 42, has a high profile on social media, and won plaudits for shoring up the economy during the pandemic.
But his refusal initially to authorize more support over a surging cost-of-living crisis has hurt his popularity.
Former foreign and health secretary Jeremy Hunt, 55, lost to Johnson in the 2019 leadership contest, when he branded himself as the “serious” alternative.
Hunt sent a thinly veiled campaign message for a new leadership bid last month, arguing that under Johnson “we are no longer trusted by the electorate” and “we are set to lose the next general election.”
But the fluent Japanese speaker lacks Johnson’s charisma. His pre-pandemic record as health secretary was recently savaged by a Johnson ally.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, 46, is popular among Conservative party members, liked for her outspokenness and willingness to go on the political attack.
But that has also stoked questions about her judgment, for instance when in February she encouraged Britons to fight in Ukraine. Critics say her leadership posturing is too overt.
When she headed the Department for International Trade, some MPs dubbed it the “Department for Instagramming Truss” because of her prolific output on the social media site.
Away this week at a G20 meeting, she has reportedly cut her trip short to return to Westminster and make a statement later Thursday.
Javid, who also quit as health secretary on Tuesday, had previously resigned as finance minister in 2020.
The 52-year-old is the son of a Pakistani immigrant bus driver who went on to become a high-flying banker.
Like Sunak, he also faces questions about his personal wealth and tax affairs.
The defense secretary, 52, has narrowly topped some recent polls of Tory grassroots’ preferred next leader due to his role in the Ukraine crisis.
The former army officer and Johnson ally has downplayed wanting to lead the party but is seen as straight-talking and competent.
Newly appointed as finance minister, Nadhim Zahawi, 55, was praised for overseeing Britain’s pandemic vaccines rollout, before helming the education department.
Zahawi is a former refugee from Iraq who came to Britain as a child speaking no English. Before entering politics, he co-founded the prominent polling company YouGov.
But his private wealth has also drawn adverse attention, including when he claimed parliamentary expenses for heating his horse stables.
The former army officer, 49, is a prominent backbencher who chairs parliament’s influential Foreign Affairs Committee.
Tugendhat has indicated he will stand in any leadership contest but there is no love lost between him and Johnson loyalists.
A hawk on China, he has been critical of the government’s handling of the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
#Boris has just resigned.. what a rollercoaster!
Who will be next?#TomTugendhat's style is the polar opposite of Boris Johnson's – a moderate who projects pragmatism rather than populism @TomTugendhat https://t.co/Pg6ZnmeB0w#BBC pic.twitter.com/FxmHRqGm3K
— Patty ???????? ???????? (@LatinZest) July 7, 2022
Mordaunt, 49, is the first woman to have been UK defense secretary and is currently a junior trade minister.
The Royal navy reservist is seen as likely to run but considered a long shot.
A strong Brexit supporter and key figure in the 2016 “Leave” campaign, she has been tipped as a potential unity candidate who could draw support from the Conservative party’s warring factions.
Deputy prime minister and justice secretary Dominic Raab, 48, led the country when Johnson was in intensive care in hospital with COVID-19 in 2020.
The former lawyer and karate black belt is seen as a reliable ally.
But his move to justice from the post of foreign secretary was seen as a demotion after he initially failed to cut short a holiday as the Afghan capital Kabul fell to the Taliban.
Attorney General Suella Braverman has revealed she intends to stand in a party leadership contest during media interviews since Wednesday in which she urged Johnson to go.
The arch-Brexiteer, 42, is another long-shot candidate, popular within the party for her Euroscepticism.
She is one of 28 so-called “Spartan” Tory MPs, who refused to back ex-prime minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal on all three occasions it was voted on in parliament.