The runners and riders who could replace Boris Johnson as the next Tory leader

·6 min read
Boris Johnson - Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images
Boris Johnson - Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

Boris Johnson’s premiership has been rocked by the resignation of two of his most senior Cabinet ministers within moments of each other.

On Tuesday night the Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, announced he was standing down, closely followed by the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak.

Mr Javid said he can “no longer continue in good conscience”, and moments later Rishi Sunak said the public “rightly expect Government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously”.

Both resignations came just minutes after the Prime Minister attempted to draw a line under the Chris Pincher scandal by apologising for appointing him as deputy chief whip and admitting it was a “mistake” to hand him a ministerial post despite the allegations about his conduct.

With a leadership contest on the horizon, who are the runners and riders who could replace him? The Telegraph takes a look at the Tory leadership odds.

Rishi Sunak – 3/1

Rishi Sunak - Reuters/John Sibley
Rishi Sunak - Reuters/John Sibley

The Chancellor since Feb 2020, Mr Sunak was long considered a natural heir to succeed Mr Johnson as a future leader of the Conservative Party.

Offering his resignation on Tuesday evening, he said: “I am sad to be leaving Government but I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that we cannot continue like this.”

He went on to say that the public “rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously” and added that “these standards are worth fighting for”.

Earlier this year, Mr Sunak’s leadership credentials were dented by a backlash over his wife’s non-domicile tax status and the revelation he had held an American green card while still Chancellor.

However, his low-tax, Thatcherite instincts are popular among the Conservative membership and his popularity among members increased again this month amid a wealth of measures to support Britons through the cost of living crisis.

Sajid Javid – 10/1

Sajid Javid - Reuters/Hannah McKay
Sajid Javid - Reuters/Hannah McKay

Sajid Javid has now held two of the four great offices of state and was brought back into Mr Johnson’s Cabinet as Health Secretary in summer 2021 as Covid restrictions were lifted.

He was the first Cabinet minister to resign amid the Pincher scandal on Tuesday night, saying that he “can no longer continue in good conscience”.

During his time as Health Secretary, he adopted a more hawkish approach towards Covid than Matt Hancock, his predecessor, and was vocal in resisting calls for a full lockdown.

He is a former Chancellor, resigning in February 2020 after Mr Johnson asked him to sack all of his advisers. On June 6, Mr Javid stressed his loyalty to the Prime Minister and said a confidence vote was an “opportunity... to draw a line under all this”.

Jeremy Hunt – 8/1

Jeremy Hunt - Jay Williams for The Telegraph
Jeremy Hunt - Jay Williams for The Telegraph

Mr Hunt, a former health secretary, lost to Mr Johnson in the final round of the 2019 Conservative leadership contest.

Since then, he has been on the backbenchers and has been critical of the Government, not least in his role as chairman of the health and social care select committee, in which he lambasted its response to Covid.

Earlier this month, he told The Times magazine that while it was not the “right time” for a leadership challenge due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, but said he would “be very open with you that I don’t rule out a return in the future”.

Liz Truss – 8/1

Liz Truss - Rii Schroer for The Telegraph
Liz Truss - Rii Schroer for The Telegraph

A darling of the grassroots, Ms Truss has a strong base within the party among both MPs and members. She has been Foreign Secretary since September and has had a prominent role in Britain’s response to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

In December, she was accused by Downing Street of using her position on Plan B Covid regulations to woo Tory backbenchers and she has reportedly used “Fizz with Liz” events to canvas the policy positions of backbenchers.

But when asked recently about the prospect of her own bid to become prime minister, Ms Truss insisted that Mr Johnson retained her “100 per cent” confidence.

Nadhim Zahawi – 10/1

Nadhim Zahawi - Leon Neal/Getty Images
Nadhim Zahawi - Leon Neal/Getty Images

Widely regarded as a safe pair of hands, Mr Zahawi was the vaccines minister during the pandemic before his promotion to Education Secretary and then Chancellor after Mr Sunak's exit.

He unveiled an education White Paper earlier in the year and has taken an evangelical approach to the Government’s levelling up agenda, with a renewed focus on standards in schools and the multi-academy trust policy.

However, Mr Zahawi has staunchly defended Mr Johnson throughout the partygate scandal with regular appearances on broadcast media in the months since the initial Downing Street party revelations.

Ben Wallace – 8/1

Ben Wallace - Fernando Alvarado/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Ben Wallace - Fernando Alvarado/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Mr Wallace has been Defence Secretary for the entirety of Mr Johnson’s premiership, assuming the role in July 2019 when the Prime Minister entered Downing Street.

His handling of the response to the Ukraine invasion has seen him widely touted as a future prime minister, although he has played down any interest in the top job.

One Tory backbencher told The Telegraph there would be a “coronation” from Mr Wallace in the event of a leadership vacuum, as he would be capable of attracting support from all wings of the party.

Penny Mordaunt – 9/2

Penny Mordaunt - Department for International Trade
Penny Mordaunt - Department for International Trade

Ms Mordaunt was a supporter of Jeremy Hunt in the 2019 leadership election, which saw her leave the Cabinet. She later became paymaster general in 2020 and then moved to the Department for International Trade.

She has at times been critical of government policy and there have been reports that allies of rival purported leadership campaigns have compiled a dossier of all of these occasions.

On May 28, after the publication of the full Sue Gray report, Ms Mordaunt told the BBC that she was “angry” at those in Downing Street who ignored Covid rules while blocking “reasonable requests to relax restrictions”.

Tom Tugendhat – 8/1

Tom Tugendhat - John Lawrence/The Telegraph
Tom Tugendhat - John Lawrence/The Telegraph

Mr Tugendhat is regarded as one of the leading lights of the so-called “moderate” wing of the party and holds the Foreign Office to account as chairman of the cross-party Commons foreign affairs committee.

He has been strongly critical of Mr Johnson throughout his premiership, and in an email to constituents on May 30, he accused him of “a lack of respect it showed for the British people or The Queen”.

Mr Tugendhat did not explicitly say whether or not he had sent a letter of no confidence to Sir Graham Brady, instead writing: “I have made my position clear to those who need to hear it.”

Priti Patel – 40/1

Priti Patel - Danny Lawson/PA Wire
Priti Patel - Danny Lawson/PA Wire

The Home Secretary since Mr Johnson took office, Ms Patel has introduced a points-based immigration system and was the architect of the Channel migrant deal with Rwanda, which sees deportation flights begin as soon as this month.

Ms Patel was the last member of the Cabinet to confirm her support for Mr Johnson on Monday, but her spokesman insisted he continued to enjoy her full backing.

Dominic Raab – 28/1

Dominic Raab - Leon Neal/Getty Images
Dominic Raab - Leon Neal/Getty Images

The Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary has also served as Foreign Secretary under Mr Johnson and stood in the 2019 Conservative election, finishing sixth.

During his time as Justice Secretary, he has introduced a series of tough reforms aimed at clamping down on “wokery” in the legal and prison systems. He has urged the public to forgive the Prime Minister over partygate.

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