Boris Johnson’s resignation sparks race to replace him as UK PM

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves after delivering a statement at Downing Street in London, Britain July 7, 2022.

Peter Nicholl | 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, ultimately bowing to immense political pressure after an unprecedented spate of government resignations and a cabinet revolt.

“It’s the breaks,” Johnson said, addressing the British public outside Downing Street. He added that it was “sad to be giving up the best job in the world” and conceded that “no one is absolutely indispensable” in politics.

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

Johnson’s critics have insisted he must be expelled as soon as possible, with Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab set to act as gatekeeper in the meantime. However, other Tory lawmakers insist replacing Johnson could create even more instability, arguing that Johnson should remain in office through the summer period.

A timetable for the Tory leadership race is due to be confirmed next week and a new prime minister is expected to be in place by September.

Who will run?

The contest to succeed Johnson as leader seemed to start even before his resignation was confirmed, with Attorney General Suella Braverman surprising many on Wednesday night when she announced her intention to run.

No less than 10 candidates are expected to throw their hats in the ring, although there are currently no clear favorites to replace Johnson.

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

Other likely candidates include former Health Secretary Sajid Javid, Finance Minister Nadhim Zahawi, former Finance Minister Rishi Sunak, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, former Leveling Up Secretary Michael Gove, International Trade Secretary Penny Mordaunt, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace and even arch Brexiteer Steve Baker.

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

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace.

Ian Forsyth | Getty Images News | Getty Images

A YouGov snap poll that asked 716 members of the Conservative Party who they would like to succeed Johnson found Wallace and Mordaunt to be neck and neck, with 13% of those polled backing each of them, respectively. Sunak called with 10% and Truss had 8%.

Notably, however, a separate YouGov poll comparing individual candidates showed Wallace to be the clear favorite among Conservative Party members to be the party’s next leader.

How it works?

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

To become the next leader of the party, candidates must have a nominator, a linebacker and a certain number of supporters. These conditions are designed to avoid an overly long list. Once the candidates are known, the 358 Conservative MPs in parliament will narrow them down to two in a series of votes.

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

“I think imposing some kind of sewn-on prime minister on the country in a week or two doesn’t particularly make sense,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” on Friday.

“Of course, you could make the larger argument that simply allowing 100,000 almost exclusively male, middle-aged or retired Tory members to decide who is the country’s prime minister is not a system particularly good and hasn’t given us particularly good results in the recent past.”

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

Justin Tallis | AFP | Getty Images

Regarding the likely policies of the future leader, Mujtaba Rahman, chief executive of political risk consultancy Europe Eurasia Group, said he believed the candidates would likely commit to the promises of the Conservative 2019 manifesto. These include balancing day-to-day spending with revenue – with borrowing only allowed for capital projects – and reducing debt by the end of the five-year legislature.

“In practice, this will be difficult to achieve; candidates will be pressured to increase spending, including on defence, popular commitment to the party due to the new threat posed by Russia,” Rahman said.

“Policy on Ukraine itself will not change after Johnson leaves; his successor will want to remain the country’s staunchest ally. UK will continue to oppose ‘bad peace’ that allows Vladimir Putin to retain territorial gains in Crimea and Donbas Tories privately admit they ‘can’t be more Ukrainian than Ukraine “and accept that they would be guided by the wishes of Volodymyr Zelenskyy,” he added.

What about the opposition?

Britain’s opposition Labor Party leader Keir Starmer has repeatedly called for Johnson’s departure, accusing the Conservative Party of “wallowed in foolishness” and criticizing Johnson for the so-called “partygate” scandal and for not telling the truth.

Rahman, of Eurasia Group, said Labor was likely to follow developments nervously.

“Labour’s private fear is that the new Prime Minister will be greeted with relief by voters, enjoy a honeymoon period and allow the Tories to erode Labour’s six-point average lead in the polls. opinion,” Rahman said.

“Starmer’s failure to build a bigger cushion as the Tories were in turmoil under Johnson could come back to haunt him. However, the country’s new leader will take over during an economic crisis that will hurt millions of voters for change’ after 14 years of Conservative rule by the 2024 general election,” he added.

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Edward L. Robinett