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Johnson resignation: How will the next Tory leader be selected?

There is set to be a crowded field of Tory MPs in the upcoming leadership contest.

Liz Truss, Rishi Sunak, Penny Mordaunt and Ben Wallace
Liz Truss, Rishi Sunak, Penny Mordaunt and Ben Wallace
Image: PA via PhotoJoiner

“THEM’S THE BREAKS,” UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said as he announced his resignation on the doorstep of No 10 Downing Street earlier this afternoon.

Following two landmark days in UK politics, Johnson had opted to stand down after almost 60 resignations from within his Government, including his Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid.

In his resignation speech this afternoon, Johnson said that it was “clearly now the will” of the Tory party to have him removed as leader of the party and as Prime Minister.

“It’s clearly now 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.

With Johnson’s resignation, there will now likely be moves within the parliamentary party to nominate candidates for the leadership, with the likes of Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and former Chancellor Rishi Sunak likely to vie for the top job.

While Johnson has said that he plans to remain as Prime Minister until his successor is chosen, there are still rumblings among the Tories that he will need to be replaced with an interim Prime Minister ahead of the election.

Newly appointed Secretary of State for Wales, Robert Buckland, told Sky News that it was “unclear” whether or not Johnson could continue on as a caretaker.

With a Tory leadership contest now looming, how will the next UK Prime Minister be selected and who are some of the likely contenders for the role?

Election process

In his resignation speech, Johnson said that he had agreed with Graham Brady, the head of the Tory backbench committee, about setting forward a timetable for the leadership contest.

“I’ve agreed with Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of our backbench MPs, that the process of choosing that new leader should begin now and the timetable will be announced next week,” said Johnson.

Until that timetable is set out, it is not clear how long it will take to elect Johnson’s successor, however the previous leadership contest took 40 days.

A Tory leadership contest takes place in two separate stages.

The first stage, shortlisting, sees Tory MPs who are seeking to become leader of the party put their name forward as a candidate.

To do this, a prospective candidate must have the support of eight other Tory MPs.

Currently, there are 358 Tory MPs elected to Westminster, a slight drop from the 365 who were elected in 2019.

When all candidates are put forward, MPs will then whittle them down through a series of parliamentary party ballots.

Under this process, candidates in the first ballot must gain 5% (18 MPs) of the vote to avoid being eliminated and then 10% (36 MPs) in the second ballot.

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Any additional rounds will see the candidate with the least votes eliminated until two candidates remain.

When the remaining two candidates are selected, Conservative Party members will then be balloted, but they must have been a member for at least three months to be given a vote.

In the 2019 leadership election, which saw Boris Johnson face Jeremy Hunt in the final ballot, Johnson beat Hunt with 66% of the vote.

Crowded field

Like 2019, where there were 10 candidates for the Tory leadership, it’s set to be a crowded field of candidates for the 2022 race.

While only one candidate has publicly declared that they will run, the current Attorney General Suella Braverman, it is expected that there will be several candidates from across the Tory party including arch-Brexiteers and Remainers.

In a snap YouGov poll of Conservative Party members this morning, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is currently leading the pack, with 13% support.

Behind him is former Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt on 12%, former Chancellor Rishi Sunak on 10% and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on 8%.

Individual matchups between candidates however see Wallace beating Mordaunt, Truss and Sunak by wide margins, leaving him as the favourite to take over the Tory party and become Prime Minister.

About the author:

Tadgh McNally

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