How will the race for the UK’s next prime minister unfold?

The race to succeed Prime Minister Liz Truss is under way, with several senior Conservatives mulling bids to become the party’s next leader.

Truss quit on Thursday after 44 days in office dominated by an economic crisis largely caused by her tax-cutting plans that had to be scrapped part by part after a market turmoil and her party’s revolt.

Here are the main things to know about what comes next:

What is the process like for choosing the UK’s next leader?

Candidates to succeed Truss as the UK’s prime minister have until 2pm (13:00 GMT) on Monday to produce at least 100 nominations from their fellow Tory MPs.

That means a maximum of three candidates will emerge from among the 357 Conservatives in the House of Commons.

The MPs will vote to shortlist two candidates and hold another “indicative” vote to pick their final choice.

If a single candidate is not decided on, the rank and file will then have their say in an online ballot over the course of next week.

The final result will be known on October 28.

Who are the likely candidates?

Rishi Sunak, who had warned against the disastrous consequences of Truss’s unfunded tax promises during the previous leadership race, has emerged as an early favourite to succeed her.

The former PM, Boris Johnson, who officially left the top office on September 6, is also expected to seek a dramatic comeback despite leaving Downing Street with dismal poll ratings.

Johnson ally Nadine Dorries told Sky News broadcaster that the party should pick him because “he is a known winner” who led the Conservatives to a big election victory in 2019.

But some other Conservative legislators said they would leave the party if Johnson – who faces an ongoing inquiry by a standards committee over whether he lied to Parliament – returned as leader.

“I cannot see any way forward in government, at any level, for somebody who is under that kind of scrutiny, and I think highly divisive,” Conservative legislator Roger Gale told Times Radio. “And I think that there would be people, indeed like myself, who would find ourselves in the awful position of having to resign the Conservative whip.”

A selection of the front pages of British national newspapers showing the reaction the the resignation of Prime Minister Liz Truss
The front pages of British newspapers showing the reaction to Truss’s resignation [David Cliff/AP]

House of Commons leader Penny Mordaunt on Friday announced her intention to take part in the contest and former interior minister Suella Braverman is reportedly mulling her own run, while some including new finance minister Jeremy Hunt and defence minister Ben Wallace have already ruled themselves out.

Former minister Tim Loughton urged the “big beasts” – meaning the main likely candidates – to agree on a unity candidate so that “we can get back to some degree of normality”.

But Brexiter right-wingers and other factions “need to park all those egos” and work together given the gravity of the economic situation, Loughton told BBC radio.

“We need to have a united and talented cabinet of grown-ups who come together and get us back on course,” he said.

What is the opposition’s stance like?

For Labour and other opposition parties, the governing party is showing contempt towards the electorate.

Demanding an immediate general election, more than two years ahead of schedule, Labour leader Keir Starmer said Britain “cannot have another experiment at the top of the Tory party”.

“This is not just a soap opera at the top of the Tory party – it’s doing huge damage to the reputation of our country” and to people’s livelihoods, he said.

Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from London, said the Conservative Party was “split, damaged and still shaken”.

“The last thing it needs is a general election,” he said. “The opinion polls show it would be decimated.”

Under Britain’s parliamentary system there does not need to be one until 2024, five years after the 2019 contest that was won by the Conservatives under Johnson.


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