Rishi Sunak leads race to replace UK PM Boris Johnson, but road to 10 Downing Street not easy


The contest to replace UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is going full steam ahead. Eleven candidates have thrown their hats into the ring, but some might fail the numbers game at the very outset.

With the new British PM to be announced on September 5, time is of the essence, and the Conservative Party has set a grueling schedule. The one who becomes the leader of the ruling Tory party will also take on the premiership of Britain. He or she will possibly lead the next elections. An astute choice is must, for which the stage is set.

THE TIMELINE

The 1922 committee of backbench Tory MPs, which organises the leadership contest, has raised the bar. On the evening of July 11, it was announced that the nominations for the post can be filed on July 12, between 12 noon and 6 pm.

Only a window of around six hours has been given to file the nomination for the leadership battle. Each candidate will require the support of at least 20 MPs to do so and each candidate will be allowed to spend £300,000 on their campaign, which could last about eight weeks for the two who reach the finishing line.

This time around, the support required by each candidate has been raised from eight MPs to 20. The first round of voting takes place on Tuesday. Anyone who then received less than 30 votes will be eliminated before another vote follows on Thursday.

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The first elimination round would increase the support number to 30 MPs. Sir Graham Brady, the committee chairman, insisted this only keeps “serious candidates” in the race.

The process of elimination could be wrapped by next Monday, when the world would know who the top two contenders for the post of prime minister are.

THE CONTENDERS

If one was to go by numbers now, only two candidates have managed to garner the support of 20-plus MPs: Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt.

Ex-finance minister Rishi Sunak is leading with the support of close to 40 MPs. He has already launched the ‘Ready for Rishi’ campaign to harness early support. However, there are many free-floating votes, signaling that the corridors of Westminster could get very busy on July 12.

READ | Rishi Sunak launches campaign for UK PM’s post. So why are people complaining?

In the betting world though, junior trade minister Penny Mordaunt has taken over Rishi Sunak, who also lags behind in a sample survey conducted by a British newspaper amongst grassroots Tory activists. Mordaunt leads this survey with 19.6 per cent, while former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch (18.7 per cent) is a close second, followed by Rishi Sunak holding on at third position (12.1 per cent). Attorney General Suella Braverman, also of Indian origin, and foreign secretary Liz Truss rounded out the top five.

Home Secretary Priti Patel is still contemplating throwing her hat into the ring as the number 20 is proving to be a hindrance.

Once the candidates in the race are reduced to two and parliament goes into recess on July 21, the choice will move into the hands of around 200,000 Tory party members, which is why such a survey is believed to be a good indicator of the mood on the ground.

Meanwhile, sitting Prime Minister Boris Johnson has refused to throw his support behind any candidate. “I wouldn’t want to damage anybody’s chances by offering my support,” Johnson said in his first media appearance since last week, when he announced his decision to step down.

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