Eight candidates entered the race to succeed British Prime Minister Johnson

  • Johnson had to announce his resignation because of the scandal
  • Eight have enough nominations to replace him, two withdraw
  • Promises of tax cuts dominate the divisive party contest
  • Favorite Sunak says that inflation must be curbed

LONDON, July 12 (Reuters) – Eight Conservatives will battle it out to succeed Boris Johnson as party leader and British prime minister after winning enough nominations from their peers to advance to the first round of voting on Wednesday.

Only two hopefuls failed to secure the necessary 20 nominations, leaving a wide field of candidates seeking to win the party’s support with promises of tax cuts, fairness and serious government – the opposite of Johnson, who was forced to announce his resignation after a series of scandals. read more

Former finance minister Rishi Sunak is the bookies’ favourite, with his successor Nadhim Zahawi and foreign secretary Liz Truss among those to battle in what is becoming increasingly bitter and divisive.

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Britain’s next leader faces a daunting challenge as support for the Conservatives also falls, polls show.

Britain’s economy faces rising inflation, high debt and low growth as people grapple with the biggest strain on their finances in decades. All this is set against the backdrop of an energy crisis that has been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, which has sent fuel prices soaring.

As the contest tightens, rival campaigns have stepped up private criticism of each other and pointed to financial or other issues that loom over their opponents.

Sunak began his campaign by presenting himself as a serious candidate, promising “grown-up” honesty “and not a fairy tale,” seeking to match the big tax cuts promised by most other candidates.

“It is not credible to promise much more spending and lower taxes,” Sunak said, saying tax cuts could only come after rising inflation is tackled.

As Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sunak set Britain on course to have its biggest tax burden since the 1950s after overseeing a huge increase in government spending during the coronavirus pandemic, and most other hopefuls turned their fire on him by saying he would oversee cuts immediately.


Sunak has the widest support among colleagues who have publicly stated their position.

Penny Mordaunt, the junior trade secretary who is also heavily tipped, topped a poll of Conservative Party members and she also tried to strike a more measured tone on taxes, saying now was not the time to cut government spending.

“The others will obviously try to secure votes, they will try to pick up torches for certain parliamentary groups,” she told LBC radio. “This is not the time to make radical tax policies and promises.”

Attorney General Suella Braverman; former Secretary of State for Health and Foreign Affairs Jeremy Hunt; Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs; and Kemi Badenoch, a former junior minister who receives support from the right wing of the party, are the other candidates to enter the first round of the competition.

Transport Minister Grant Shapps earlier became the first candidate to end his candidacy, endorsing Sunak, while Home Secretary (Minister of the Interior) Priti Patel announced she would not run.

Foreign Secretary Truss was supported by two ministers closest to Johnson – Nadine Dorries and Jacob Rees-Mogg – who both criticized Sunak.

Dorries accused Sunak of using “dirty tricks” to manipulate the leadership contest, with votes being lent to Hunt’s campaign because they believe he is easier to beat.

Sunak’s team did not respond to a request for comment.

The 1922 Committee of Conservative Members of Parliament, which organizes the contest, says the field will soon be whittled down by a repeat vote over the next few weeks, with the final two then chosen by fewer than 200,000 party members by July 21.

The winner and the new British Prime Minister will be announced on September 5, read more

Meanwhile, the opposition Labor Party said the government was “scared” after blocking an attempt to call a confidence vote in Johnson on Wednesday to force him out of office immediately. read more

The government said Labor was trying to “play politics” and would allow Labor to vote on confidence if the wording of the motion was changed to remove the reference to Johnson.

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Additional reporting by William James and Kylie Maclellan; Writing by Michael Holden; Editing: Angus MacSwan, Alison Williams, David Evans and Mark Heinrich

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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