Boris Johnson’s resignation starts the race to replace him as British Prime Minister

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson departs after making a statement in Downing Street in London, Britain, July 7, 2022.

Peter Nicholls | Reuters

LONDON — The race to replace outgoing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is wide open.

Johnson resigned as leader of the Conservative Party on Thursday, eventually succumbing to immense political pressure after an unprecedented wave of resignations and a cabinet uprising.

“Them’s the breaks,” Johnson said as he addressed the British public outside Downing Street. He added that he was “sad to give up the best job in the world” and admitted that “no one is remotely indispensable” in politics.

The 58-year-old former mayor of London said he plans to stay on as interim prime minister while a successor is elected, defying calls from across the political spectrum – including from some within his own party – to leave immediately. .

Johnson’s critics have urged that he be pushed out as soon as possible, with Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab acting as janitor in the meantime. However, other Tory lawmakers insist that replacing Johnson could create even more instability, arguing that Johnson should remain in office over the summer.

A timetable for the Tory leadership match will be confirmed next week and a new prime minister is expected to take office in September.

Who’s going to run?

The battle to succeed Johnson as leader appeared to be underway before his resignation was confirmed, with Attorney General Suella Braverman surprising many on Wednesday night by announcing her intention to flee.

As many as 10 candidates are expected to throw in their hats, although there is currently no clear frontrunner to replace Johnson.

Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and a prominent critic of Johnson, launched his leadership bid Friday in The Daily Telegraph. Tugendhat, a former soldier, said he hoped to answer the call as prime minister with “new energy and ideas” for the government.

Other likely contenders include former health minister Sajid Javid, finance minister Nadhim Zahawi, former finance minister Rishi Sunak, foreign secretary Liz Truss, former foreign minister Jeremy Hunt, former Leveling Up secretary Michael Gove, minister of International Trade Penny Mordaunt, Secretary of Defense Ben Wallace and even Arch Brexiteer Steve Baker.

Political analysts believe most have been secretly planning their campaigns for weeks.

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace.

Ian Forsyth | Getty Images News | Getty Images

A quick YouGov poll asking 716 Conservative Party members who they would like to succeed Johnson found that Wallace and Mordaunt came out neck and neck, with 13% of those polled, respectively, supporting each of them. Sunak followed with 10% and Truss got 8%.

However, a separate YouGov poll comparing the individual candidates found that Wallace was the clear favorite among Conservative Party members to become the next party leader.

How does it work?

A party leader is first elected by Conservative MPs and then voted on by Conservative party members.

To become the next party leader, candidates must have a proposer, supporter and a certain number of supporters. These terms are meant to avoid an overly long list. Once the candidates are known, the 358 Tory MPs in parliament will narrow them down to two over a run of votes.

Jonathan Portes, professor of economics and public policy at King’s College London, questioned the sense of the system.

“I don’t think it really makes sense to impose some kind of prime minister in a week or two,” he told CNBC’s Squawk Box Europe on Friday.

“Of course you could make the broader argument that it’s simply not a particularly good system to have 100,000 almost exclusively white male and middle-aged conservative male members or retired members decide who is the prime minister of the country is not a particularly good system and our not particularly good results in the recent past.”

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss departs at the end of a cabinet meeting in London’s Downing Street on 5 July 2022.

Justin Tallis | Afp | Getty Images

When it comes to the likely policy of the future leader, Mujtaba Rahman, director of Europe at political risk consultancy Eurasia Group, said he believed the candidates are likely to commit to the pledges of the 2019 Tory Manifesto. include balancing day-to-day expenses with income — with borrowing only allowed for capital projects — and lower debt by the end of the five-year parliament.

“In practice, this will be difficult to achieve; candidates will come under pressure to increase spending, especially on defense, a popular pledge in the party due to the new threat from Russia,” Rahman said.

“Policy towards Ukraine itself will not change after Johnson’s departure; his successor will want to remain the country’s staunch ally. The UK will continue to oppose a ‘bad peace’ that would allow Vladimir Putin to gain ground in Crimea and de Donbas, but senior The Tories admit privately that they “cannot be more Ukrainian than Ukraine” and accept that they will be guided by Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s wishes,” he added.

What about the opposition?

Labor opposition leader Keir Starmer has repeatedly called for Johnson’s departure from office, accusing the Tory party of “walling in sleaze” and criticizing Johnson over the so-called “partygate” scandal and because he was not telling the truth.

Rahman of the Eurasia Group said Labor is likely to follow developments nervously.

“Labour’s personal fear is that the new prime minister will be greeted with relief by voters, enjoy a honeymoon and give the Tories a chance to erode Labour’s average six-point lead in opinion polls,” Rahman said. .

Starmer’s failure to build a bigger cushion while the Tories were in turmoil under Johnson could haunt him again. However, the country’s new leader will take the helm amid an economic crisis that will hurt millions of voters for change’ message after 14 years of Tory rule through 2024 general election,” he added.

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