Here are the candidates for the next U.K. leader. Yes, Boris Johnson is one of them
LONDON — Following the resignation of Liz Truss as Britain's fourth prime minister in a little over six years, her Conservative Party — in power since 2010 — is racing to select a replacement.
Candidates have until Monday to put their name forward, but party officials have announced that in order to be considered they will have to show they have the backing of 100 Conservative legislators, about a third of the party's lawmakers in the House of Commons.
At most, this means there can only be three contenders for the first round of voting to decide the new party leader — who will also become prime minister. That is designed to avoid a repeat of the earlier, drawn-out selection process this summer to replace former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, which ended with Truss as the victor.
This week, after the second resignation of a Conservative prime minister in just four months, leaders of Britain's major opposition parties are demanding a general election instead, and calling the new selection process a Conservative "coronation." (There isn't another election due until January 2025 unless the government calls an earlier one.)
Here is a list of some possible replacements for Truss in No. 10 Downing Street.
He announced his resignation in a swirl of scandals just this past July and faces a parliamentary investigation into his behavior involving his public statements about social gatherings in Downing Street amid COVID-19 lockdown when he was prime minister. But Johnson retains supporters inside the parliamentary party and among ordinary grassroots members.
He stepped down under a tidal wave of pressure when dozens of members of his own government quit. They were angry with months of scandal involving breaches of lockdown among his staff — and Johnson himself was also penalized by police — and for questions about his honesty and judgment after placing a man accused of sexual assault into a senior government role.
Johnson won a significant majority for his party during the 2019 general election, and his supporters contend that he is therefore the only real figure inside the Conservative Party who can claim to have a mandate from the British people. Some critics have said they will leave the party if he returns.
And although Johnson was unwilling to leave Downing Street earlier this year, there has been little public indication that he wants to take up once more what many will consider a poisoned chalice, given the country's obvious economic and political challenges.
Mordaunt became the first Conservative lawmaker on Friday to formally launch her candidacy to replace Truss as prime minister.
This summer she was a well-supported third-place contender to replace Johnson, but eventually endorsed Truss.
Earlier this week, she appeared in the prime minister's place in Parliament to answer pointed questions from opposition politicians. To the amusement of many, she insisted that Truss was not hiding "under a desk."
Under Truss, she served in a Cabinet position as leader of the House of Commons, essentially responsible for overseeing government business in Parliament's lower chamber, and with another largely honorary role, lord president of the Privy Council, she also oversaw a ceremony that approved King Charles' legal accession to the throne following his mother's death.
Mordaunt had served as a naval reservist and in 2019 became the first woman to serve as the country's defense secretary. Her candidacy has already received several public endorsements from other legislators.
Sunak was Johnson's high-profile and largely popular finance minister during the pandemic, but lost out to Truss in the race to replace him. He secured far more votes from Conservative legislators but did not command the same level of support from the grassroots party members, who ultimately decided the contest in her favor.
Considered more of a centrist and pragmatic politician than Truss, he repeatedly warned that her policy proposals around tax cuts and spending would leave a hole in the country's finances. His statements to that effect were largely vindicated when financial markets reacted so negatively to Truss' tax cuts announcements last month.
Having only been elected as a member of Parliament in 2015, after a career in banking and hedge funds, his political rise to become finance minister by 2020 was meteoric. In that role he took unprecedented action to support Britain's economy during the pandemic, with months-long programs to replace workers' wages and incentivize consumer spending.
Like Johnson, he received a financial penalty from police for breaching COVID-19 social-distancing rules, and he faced criticism after details of his very wealthy wife's international tax affairs were published in the British media.
Braverman served as the attorney general under Johnson and was then elevated to the role of interior minister — known in the U.K. as home secretary — under Truss' premiership.
That left her responsible for police, the criminal justice system and immigration, and had already earned a hard-line reputation as a hawk on immigration. She publicly promised to reduce migration to the U.K. in recent weeks and advocated vociferously for a controversial policy that would send asylum-seekers arriving in Britain to the African nation of Rwanda for their claims to be processed there.
She resigned earlier this week, ostensibly for having sent a sensitive, but not secret document from a personal email account. But in her public resignation letter, she seemed to sharply criticize Truss for not engaging in "serious politics" and for failing to take responsibility for her government's mistakes, including the tax and spending proposals that had roiled financial markets in recent weeks.
She served as a lawyer before entering Parliament and was among the staunchest supporters of Brexit. She ran as a candidate to replace Johnson earlier this year, but was voted out in an early round by her fellow party lawmakers.