Skip to main content

Home Politics Politics News

Who are the Tories vying to replace Boris Johnson as Prime Minister?

Eleven Tories have launched campaigns to take over from Boris Johnson as Prime Minister

By Tom Skinner

The candidates in the Conservative Party leadership race. (top, left to right) Former chancellor Rishi Sunak, newly appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer Nadhim Zahawi, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, Attorney General Suella Braverman, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace , and Penny Mordaunt, (bottom, left to right) Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, former health secretary Sajid Javid , Tom Tugendhat, Jeremy Hunt, Kemi Badenoch and Rehman Chishti.

Eleven Tories are currently in the running to succeed Boris Johnson as both the next Conservative Party leader and, by extension, the next Prime Minister.

It comes after Johnson stepped down as PM last Thursday (7 July) following the resignation of over 50 Tories, including Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Both Javid and Sunak are now in the running for the top job along with nine other candidates, including Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

However, nominations will not officially open until the rules for the leadership contest are confirmed by the 1922 Committee today (July 11).

Then, in every round of MP voting, the candidate who secures the least support among MPs will be eliminated from the race until just two remain. The final two are subsequently voted on by party members, a longer process involving a series of hustings events.

In 2019, when Johnson replaced Theresa May, the entire leadership process lasted approximately six weeks.

In the meantime, the 11 hopefuls have outlined what they would bring to the table as the next PM. Here’s what they’ve said.

Rishi Sunak

The former Chancellor, who’s long been rumoured to be eyeing up the top job, was quick off the mark to launch his #Ready4Rishi campaign on Friday (July 8).

“Let’s restore trust, rebuild the economy and reunite the country,” he wrote alongside an almost-three-minute video in which he discussed the “huge challenges” that the UK faces, “the most serious for a generation.”

He continued: “Because the choices we make today will decide whether the next generation of British people will have more opportunities than the last.

“Someone has to grip this moment and make the right decisions. That’s why I’m standing to be the next leader of the Conservative Party and your Prime Minister.”

Sunak went on to say that he would “lead this country in the right direction”, adding: “My values are non-negotiable: patriotism, fairness, hard work.” He explained how he’d “restore trust in our politics” while rebuilding the economy.

While Sunak says he is keen to rebuild the economy, it’s hard to say how much his argument will convince voters, given that it was under his chancellorship that Britain descended into a cost of living crisis.

Sajid Javid

The recently-departed Health Secretary, who took over that role from Matt Hancock, has said he’ll be “setting out [his] plans for the UK’s future” this week, with tax cuts being “a foundation of that plan”.

He’s promised to push forward a planned 1p income tax cut to 2023, slash corporation tax by 1p a year, and bring in a “significant” temporary reduction on fuel duty.

Announcing his leadership bid, Javid cited his “integrity” and “cross-government experience” – having previously held positions such as Home Secretary, Chancellor, and Culture Secretary.

Liz Truss

Today (July 11), the current Foreign Secretary detailed her #LizForLeader campaign in an article she wrote for The Telegraph. “I can lead, deliver and make the tough decisions,” she said on Twitter.

“I have a clear vision of where we need to be, and the experience and resolve to get us there. And I will govern as a Conservative.”

Within the piece, Truss vowed to cut corporation tax, reverse the national insurance hike and overhaul business rates: “Under my leadership, I would start cutting taxes from day one to take immediate action to help people deal with the cost of living.”

Truss is one of the bookies’ favourites to become the next PM along with Sunak.

Jeremy Hunt

Backbencher Jeremy Hunt was one of the final two candidates in the 2019 leadership election alongside Johnson. Should he come out on top this time around, Hunt said he’ll make the “necessary” move in cutting corporation tax to 15 per cent (via Sky News).

“No Conservative should promise unfunded tax cuts,” he explained. “Because an unfunded tax cut is just an increase in borrowing that is paid for by future generations. But I also think that no Conservative should raise taxes.”

On the importance of corporation tax, Hunt said it’s “the tax that matters most to businesses, and defines whether we are a pro-enterprise economy”. He added that he would be publishing all of his costings.

Additionally, he’s set out to remove business rates in worse-off communities for a five-year period.

Hunt has claimed that not serving under Johnson gives him an edge over his fellow candidates.

“I am the only major candidate who has not served in Boris Johnson’s government,” he said. “I called out what was going wrong long before any of the other major contenders and I have not been defending the indefensible”.

Grant Shapps

“My case for the leadership is simple,” wrote the Transport Secretary while detailing his “vision” for the United Kingdom. “I can plan. I can communicate. I can campaign. I can deliver. And I can win an election for our party in tough times.”

Shapps acknowledged the “huge challenges” that the UK faces, but said it’s possible that the nation’s “best days” are yet to come under the “right leader”.

He has set out to bring forward the 1p income tax cut to “now” and “freeze” the proposed corporation tax increase.

“I believe in a lower tax, lower regulation, cut the red tape economy, where… the government essentially actually lowers the barriers for individuals and businesses to achieve the best possible things they can in their own lives,” Shapps told Sky.

“And I think the role of the Government is to help with that. But sometimes that means reducing taxes, it means being able to reduce red tape, make it easier to deal with Government, get on with your life, start a business, bring up a family, bring up children.”

He has stood out for taking a measured response to LGBT+ issues such as trans rights, refusing to debate the issue in an interview with Sky News last weekend. “Let people live,” he instead responded. In contrast, other candidates have been accused of weaponising the issue to garner support.

Penny Mordaunt

The trades minister and MP for Portsmouth North launched her #PM4PM campaign yesterday (July 10), saying that “our leadership has to change”.

“Our leadership needs to be less about the leader and more about the ship,” a statement on Mordaunt’s official website reads.

“There are loads of good and talented people in the party, but we’ve not made the most of their skills and ideas. They deserve a leader that will unleash that talent. Just as our country deserves a leader that will enable talent and innovation to thrive.”

The Guardian writer Owen Jones last week described her as “the most dangerous opponent for Labour as Boris Johnson’s successor”.

However, she is also accused of weaponising trans rights and siding with gender-critical feminists in order to win support. On Twitter, she has said that trans women are not biological women.

“Penny Mordaunt has gone from rightly comparing transphobia to the old anti-gay moral panic to throwing trans people under a bus to advance her own career,” wrote Owen Jones on Twitter.

Nadhim Zahawi

The Chancellor only took on his current role last week, but has now put himself forward to become the Conservative leader and PM.

“My aim is a simple one: to provide the opportunities that were afforded to my generation, to all Britons, whoever you are and wherever you come from,” he said.

Zahawi has vowed to lower taxes for individuals, families and businesses as well as increase defence spending. Additionally, he says he’ll continue with education reforms that he started in his previous role as Education Secretary.

“We cannot tax our way into prosperity,” Zahawi tweeted. “As an entrepreneur and a businessman, I know that the only way we can create a thriving economy is through lower taxes for individuals, families and businesses.”

However, the success of his campaign will likely depend on the outcome of a HMRC investigation he currently faces.

As The Independent revealed, HMRC first became involved after a secret inquiry was initially launched into Mr Zahawi’s finances by the National Crime Agency (NCA) in 2020. It is believed that officers from the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigated the chancellor’s financial affairs.

This probe was then passed to HMRC, with a senior Whitehall source confirming that the tax investigation is currently “unresolved”.

Tom Tugendhat

The backbencher and ex-soldier has served as Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee since 2017, and has a record of opposing Johnson.

Outlining his ‘Time For Tugendhat’ bid, he said he’ll give the UK a “clean start” and “win back the trust of the public” following Johnson’s tumultuous reign. “It’s time for a government of integrity and character.”

Like the other candidates, his campaign has focused on the typical Conservative pillar of lowering taxes.

Tugendhat said: “Taxes, bluntly, are too high and there is an emerging consensus across the party that they must come down. We should immediately reverse the recent national insurance hike and let hard-working people, and employers, keep more of their money.

“Fuel tax must come down. And un-Conservative tariffs, that push up prices for consumers, should be dropped.”

Suella Braverman

The Attorney General is known for her tough right-wing stance on many issues. She is an ardent supporter of Brexit and supported recent unsuccessful plans to send cross-channel migrants to Rwanda.

“As Attorney General I’ve worked on the toughest decisions we have had to make: from Brexit delivery, criminal justice, to human rights reform,” Braverman said. “I have the experience and the conviction to get this country back on track.”

Speaking recently to ITV’s Robert Peston, she explained that the introduction of “proper tax cuts” is one of the first priorities that the next leader and PM should tackle, “so that people can deal with the cost of living challenges in a more feasible way.”

Braverman continued: “We need to shrink the size of the state and cut government spending so we can curb inflation. We need to solve the problem of the boats across the channel. We need to stop a foreign court interfering in our domestic affairs.”

She also said that “everybody” in the country should feel the “Brexit opportunities”. Elsewhere, Braverman explained a “need” to “get rid of all this woke rubbish, where describing a man and a woman – in terms of biology – does not mean that you’re going to lose your job.”

Braverman is considered to be an outside candidate and is unlikely to garner enough support for her bid.

Rehman Chishti

The MP for Gillingham and Rainham has never served as a minister or held a high-profile role in Parliament, but it hasn’t stopped him from launching an unlikely bid for the corridors of power.

In a campaign video shared on his official Facebook page, Chishti explained why he’s decided to “step up, and serve our great country as its next Prime Minister”.

Promising a “fresh start”, he’s said he’ll tackle “the issues which matter to people on a day-to-day basis”, including mental health.

“For me, it’s about aspirational conservatism, fresh ideas, fresh team for a fresh start taking our great country forward,” Chishti said.

He is yet to secure the vote of a single MP.

Kemi Badenoch

The former equalities minister is one of the many to have quit government ahead of Johnson’s resignation.

As i notes, Badenoch has launched her underdog leadership bid with a focus on “culture war” issues. She has previously made controversial comments in regards to colonialism and race.

“Exemplified by coercive control, the imposition of views, the shutting down of debate, the end of due process, identity politics is not about tolerance or individual rights but the very opposite of our crucial and enduring British values,” Badenoch wrote.

“Rather than legislate for hurt feelings as we risk doing with the Online Safety Bill, we must strengthen our democratic culture at a time when democratic values are under assault from without and within.

“We need to reinvigorate the case for free speech, free markets and the institutions that defend a free people because our values and our ideas are too precious not to fight for with all our heart.”

Boris Johnson had been under fire for appointing Chris Pincher as deputy chief whip, despite knowing about an investigation into inappropriate behaviour made against Pincher in 2019. The MP, who’s accused of groping two men at a private members club, resigned on June 30.

The outgoing Prime Minister had previously faced countless calls to leave Number 10 throughout the so-called Partygate scandal, which resulted in Johnson receiving a fixed penalty notice in April.

He survived a confidence vote last month, but 40 per cent of his MPs submitted a vote against him.

Announcing his resignation outside Number 10, Johnson said: “It is clearly now the will of the Parliamentary Conservative Party that there should be a new leader of that party and so a new Prime Minister.

“I’m immensely proud of the achievements of this government in getting Brexit done, to settling our relations with the continent… reclaiming the power for this country to make its own laws in Parliament.”

He continued: “To [the] new leader… I say I will give you as much support as I can. And to you, the British public. I know that there will be many people who are relieved and perhaps quite a few who will also be disappointed.

“And I want you to know how sad I am to be giving up the best job in the world. But them’s the breaks.”