Britain’s transport secretary on Saturday became the fifth Conservative MP to launch a bid to succeed Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a long-shot addition to the growing and already acrimonious leadership race.
Grant Shapps, an experienced lawmaker who first served in the cabinet under former premier David Cameron back in 2010 but not among the current frontrunners in the polls to replace Johnson, vowed to provide “strategic” and “sober” government.
His announcement came hours after Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who has impressed in the role amid the war in Ukraine and has been one of Tory members’ favourites in several recent surveys, said he will not run after discussing standing with colleagues and family.
“It has not been an easy choice to make, but my focus is on my current job and keeping this great country safe,” he added on Twitter.
The likely months-long campaign, potentially pitting more than a dozen Conservative MPs and multiple factions of the ruling party against each another, is set to be formalised on Monday when a committee of backbenchers will meet to agree the timetable and rules.
Sunak frontrunner for the position
The early frontrunner is former finance minister Rishi Sunak, who helped kickstart the cabinet revolt that led to Johnson's forced resignation on Thursday.
Mr. Sunak resigned late on Tuesday, triggering dozens of more junior colleagues to follow suit and forcing his ex-boss to then quit as Tory leader 36 hours later.
But Mr. Johnson, whose three-year premiership has been defined by scandal, the country’s departure from the European Union and COVID-19, said he would stay on until his successor is selected.
A summer of rancorous campaigning now looms.
Party members will eventually choose their new leader — from a two-person shortlist whittled down in multiple rounds of voting by all 358 Tory MPs — before the Conservatives’ annual conference in early October.
Taxation is set to be a key feature of the race, alongside candidates’ Brexit credentials, as Britain faces the toxic combination of high inflation and rampant cost-of-living increases alongside stagnant growth and relatively high tax rates.
Alongside Mr. Sunak, attorney general and arch-Brexiteer Suella Braverman, the relatively unknown former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch and backbench Tory MP Tom Tugendhat have announced their candidacies.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and new finance minister Nadhim Zahawi — who replaced Sunak in the treasury — are expected to join the crowded field.
Former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, who was runner-up to Boris Johnson in 2019, is also “virtually certain” to run again, allies told U.K. media.
Former finance and health minister Sajid Javid, who also quit Mr. Johnson’s government on Tuesday, may also stand but had been asked by Mr. Sunak’s allies to step aside to give him a clear run at the leadership, The Times reported.