Which Tory MPs could be in line to replace Boris Johnson as party leader?

Who are the Tory leadership runners and riders? Credit: PA

Following months of speculation and growing anger among Tory MPs, Boris Johnson has announced he will resign as party leader but will stay as a caretaker prime minister until a new leader is elected.

The PM has been under intense pressure to resign since mass Cabinet walkouts in the wake of his response to allegations about Chris Pincher, who quit as deputy chief whip following claims he groped two men at an exclusive private members’ club.

A new Tory leader is set to be in place by the party conference in October, a No 10 source said, as leadership elections will take a number of weeks.

With Mr Johnson preparing to pack his bags and leave Number 10, who will replace him as Tory leader? Here are the favourites to replace him.

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Who has confirmed they will run?

Nadhim Zahawi, chancellor and former education secretary

Chancellor and former education secretary Nadhim Zahawi Credit: PA

The chancellor, appointed in the wake of Rishi Sunak's resignation, has thrown his hat into the ring saying: "The Conservative Party has made me who I am today".

Prior to being handed the keys to No 11, the MP for Stratford-Upon-Avon had perhaps the easiest job in Cabinet when he was vaccines minister during the largely successful Covid jab roll-out.

Promoted to education secretary after Gavin Williamson was sacked, Mr Zahawi has been an unwavering ally of Mr Johnson - until he called for him "to go" on the morning the PM eventually resigned.

Grant Shapps, transport secretary

Transport secretary Grant Shapps. Credit: PA images

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced his Conservative Party leadership bid via The Times, saying he will end “tactical government by an often distracted centre”.

By July 12, however, he pulled out of the race to throw his backing behind Mr Sunak.

In a tweet, Mr Shapps said: “Huge thanks to my team for helping to pull together my leadership bid in literally no time!

“Amongst a field of brilliant candidates I’ve spoken to Rishi Sunak who I believe has the competence and experience to lead this country.”

Rishi Sunak, former chancellor of the exchequer

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At one point, Mr Sunak - riding high on his pandemic generosity - was favourite to replace Boris Johnson. But his star has waned in recent months as the cost-of-living crisis took hold.

The former chancellor has been criticised for being slow to react to rising energy bills and not doing enough to help the poorest households and also faced controversy over his wife's tax affairs after it was claimed she could have saved millions in UK contributions.

He resigned in protest over Mr Johnson's leadership following the allegations around Mr Pincher. In his glossy launch video he set out his family history, saying: “Our country faces huge challenges, the most serious for a generation.

Sajid Javid, former health secretary

Sajid Javid leaving his home in London. Credit: PA

Sajid Javid declared his candidacy the Telegraph, promising to cancel Mr Sunak’s planned rise in corporation tax, and instead cut the 25% rate to 15%.

Like Mr Sunak, Mr Javid’s resignation caused chaos in Number 10, as the health secretary left the government.

State school-educated Mr Javid – known as “The Saj” in some circles – is the son of a bus driver who arrived in England from Pakistan in the 1960s. He made it to the final four in the contest to replace Theresa May as Tory leader in 2019, but dropped out and subsequently endorsed Mr Johnson.

Jeremy Hunt, former health secretary

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Jeremy Hunt is by far the most experienced backbencher in the running having held numerous senior roles in government since becoming an MP in 2005.

He was previously the UK's longest-standing health secretary - where he gained enemies in the NHS over battles to change junior doctor contracts - and, before that, was culture secretary.

He finished second in the 2019 leadership contest after seeing off competition from nine other candidates before being defeated by Mr Johnson. He lost with 33.6% of the vote.

As chair of the Commons Health Committee, he has used his position to make a number of critical interventions on the government’s handling of the pandemic, although his strong support for lockdown measures will not have pleased all Tory MPs.

Suella Braverman, Attorney General

The QC was elected as MP for Fareham in May 2015 before being appointed as the top legal official by Mr Johnson in February 2020.

She became the first Cabinet-level minister to take maternity leave and was reappointed to her ministerial position in September. The Euro-sceptic had been a staunch supporter of Mr Johnson since her days as the chair of the Brexit-backing European Research Group. During last month’s confidence vote, Ms Braverman expressed hope the PM would win the poll with a large margin.

But after calling for him to resign on Wednesday night, she told ITV's Peston show that if there is a leadership contest she will put her name into the ring.

Kemi Badenoch, former equalities minister

Suella Braverman and Kemi Badenoch during the launch of the Centre for Policy Studies' ‘New Generation’. Credit: PA

Former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch has announced her Tory leadership bid. Ms Badenoch, who resigned from her post on Wednesday, confirmed her decision to run in The Times.

She told the newspaper she would lower taxes alongside “tight spending” and that she wanted to run a “limited government focused on the essentials”.

Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee

Tom Tugendhat Credit: House of Commons/PA

Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee since 2017, he announced back in January his intention to stand for leader should Mr Johnson be turfed out, something he reiterated following Boris Johnson's resignation.

A Remainer in 2016, the former soldier has been a trenchant critic of Mr Johnson – a stance that would appear to have cost him any chance of ministerial preferment under the current leadership.

He was particularly critical of Mr Johnson's withdrawal from Afghanistan where he served before becoming an MP for Tonbridge and Malling, a safe Conservative seat in Kent, at the 2015 General Election, describing the fall of Kabul as Britain's "biggest foreign policy disaster since Suez".

Penny Mordaunt, currently trade minister who has held numerous senior roles

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International Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt launched her widely-anticipated bid to become the next prime minister with a Twitter video on Sunday morning.

The 49-year-old MP for Portsmouth North has held various ministerial positions under the past three prime ministers and has wide grassroots Tory support due to her role in the Royal Navy reservists.

Ms Mordaunt is no stranger to the limelight, having appeared on the Tom Daley-fronted reality ITV diving show Splash in 2014.

Liz Truss, foreign secretary

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Liz Truss has been a favourite among party members well before her appointment as foreign secretary and she has made little secret of her leadership ambitions, with a series of high-profile interventions and photo opportunities in which she appeared to be channelling late prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

Popular with grassroots party members, she has been cultivating support among MPs, reportedly hosting potential backers for “fizz with Liz” in her Commons office earlier this year.

Shortly after it emerged that Mr Johnson is set to resign, sources close to the foreign secretary said she is cutting short an official trip to Indonesia and will issue a statement - prompting speculation around her leadership ambitions.

She became the tenth Tory to declare her intentions for Downing Street, pledging to reverse the controversial national insurance hike if made Tory leader, as she insisted she can be “trusted to deliver”.

Rehman Chishti, Foreign Office minister

Rehman Chishti previously stood as a Labour candidate in the 2005 general election before defecting to the Conservatives in 2007 Credit: PA

The newly appointed Foreign Office minister made an even unlikelier bid for the Tory leadership on Sunday evening in a video posted on Facebook.

Mr Chishti said the right candidate would have “a proven track record of coming to the table with ideas and creativity to help improve people’s lives”.

The MP for Gillingham and Rainham has an unusual political background, having previously stood as a Labour candidate in the 2005 general election before defecting to the Conservatives in 2007.

In 2020 he resigned as Mr Johnson’s special envoy for freedom of religion over the Government’s stance on the Northern Ireland protocol.


Priti Patel, home secretary

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Priti Patel is a divisive figure in UK politics; generally speaking she is liked by the right and loathed by the left.

The 50-year-old is tough on crime and immigration as home secretary, something that sits well with Tory members. She was also a prominent figure in the Vote Leave campaign for Brexit in 2016.

She was found to have broken the ministerial code in 2020 after an investigation agreed with accusations she had bullied staff, but the PM showed her loyalty by keeping her in his Cabinet.

The home secretary has been an MP since 2010 and held other senior roles such as international development secretary before being sacked by Theresa May for holding unofficial meetings with Israelis.

Tobias Ellwood

Former minister Tobias Ellwood Credit: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

One of the most vocal critics of Mr Johnson, Mr Ellwood, who serves as the chair of the Commons Defence Select Committee, has raised his profile over the past few months.

The MP for Bournemouth East did not stand in the 2019 leadership election, but instead endorsed Matt Hancock, then subsequently Rory Stewart.

A Remainer in 2016, he recently called for the UK to rejoin the EU single market.

Michael Gove

Michael Gove and Boris Johnson worked closely together on the Vote Leave campaign. Credit: PA

Michael Gove, former levelling up secretary before being sacked by Mr Johnson on Wednesday, is not expected to run for leadership for a third time, but the result will be greatly influenced by who he chooses to back.