Boris Johnson has finally admitted the game is up and announced he is resigning as Conservative Party leader and will step down as Prime Minister in the autumn.
Speaking outside No 10, Mr Johnson told of his sadness at “giving up the best job in the world” but vowed to give his replacement his support “whoever he or she may be”.
However, he also highlighted his scorn that Tory MPs had forced his hand with a flood of resignations, and said he had told colleagues that to change leader “would be eccentric”.
Mr Johnson said he “regrets not to have been successful in those arguments” and added: “The herd instinct is powerful and when the herd moves, it moves.”
The PM intends to cling on to the keys to No 10 until the Conservative Party conference in October, when a new Tory leader will be elected and formally take office.
But Conservative MPs are already condemning this plan and are plotting for him to be removed sooner, over fears he will preside over a “zombie government” that will be powerless to act.
With Mr Johnson on the way out, a Tory leadership contest will now be launched and senior MPs are preparing to ignite their campaigns as they vie for the top job.
here Yo takes a look at who has already announced their candidacy, who has ruled themselves out, and which MPs are expected to throw their hat in the ring in the coming days.
Who has officially launched a leadership bid?
Just two MPs have so far kickstarted their campaigns: Tom Tugendhat and Suella Braverman.
The chair of the foreign affairs committee officially launched his leadership bid by writing in the Daily Telegraph on Friday, having announced back in January his intention to run.
“I have served before – in the military, and now in Parliament. Now I hope to answer the call once again as prime minister,” he said.
In the article he explained he was putting together a “broad coalition” offering a “clean start” and promised tax cuts and “new energy and ideas” for government.
While Mr Tugendhat has never held a ministerial office during his seven years in the Commons, he has built a public profile as chair of the defense select committee.
He became a leading commentator on Afghanistan, as well as the Ukraine war.
The Attorney General revealed her intentions to run on Wednesday night, before Mr Johnson had even announced his resignation.
Speaking to Robert Peston on ITV’s Peston programme, she said: “I owe a debt of gratitude to this country and to serve as prime minister would be the greatest honour, so yes, I will try.”
She said she believed Britain needed to “get rid of all this woke up rubbish” and make the country a safe place for people to espouse anti-trans views.
A Suella Braverman for PM Twitter account has already sprung up, with Tory MP Sir Desmond Swayne becoming the first to tweet his support for her bid.
Who is expected to announce their candidacy?
While only two Tory MPs have officially launched their bid, at least 11 are expected to run. These are the most likely to announce their candidacy, alongside their current odds according to Ladbrokes.
Steve Baker – 1/20
The senior backbencher and staunch Brexiteer has said he is “seriously” considering running after being asked by people to do so.
I have told TimesRadio it would be “dismissive and disrespectful” if he did not heed expressions of support, though he said he regards the prospect with “something akin to dread”.
Mr Baker is relatively unknown in government, having served as a junior minister for just 12 months, so is unlikely to attract a strong support base.
Sajid Javid – 10/1
Mr Javid was the first Cabinet minister to resign this week and is widely expected to announce his candidacy.
His decision to quit as health secretary triggered the deluge of resignations that ultimately toppled Mr Johnson.
He further stuck the knife in with an emotional resignation speech in the Commons on Wednesday.
Mr Javid has a wealth of experience, having led six government departments under at least three Tory prime ministers, but he has faced criticism that he has not stayed in a Cabinet job long enough to make an impact.
He came fourth in the 2019 leadership race.
Liz Truss – 8/1
The Foreign Secretary is a favorite among the Tory grassroots and is regularly near the top of polls of party members carried out by the Conservative Home website.
She become popular in the party as a result of the post-Brexit deals she agreed to as trade minister, and she has further bolstered her support after her promotion.
Ms Truss has been preparing to launch a leadership bid for months, trying to show herself as Margaret Thatcher’s heir and conducting an aggressive social media campaign.
She cut short her trip to the G20 summit in Indonesia to return to the UK to assemble her campaign.
Rishi Sunak – 9/2
Mr Sunak was once the clear successor to Mr Johnson, having won favor with his pandemic policies.
However, his fortunes changed when the cost of living crisis hit and he was criticized for not doing enough to help struggling families, and details of his family’s tax affairs were leaked.
Mr Sunak received stinging criticism about his wife’s non-dom tax status, which she has now rescinded, and the fact he had held a US green card until last year.
But his popularity appears to be on the up again, and is seen as one of the favourites. Many view him as calm and unflappable and the perfect antidote to Mr Johnson’s premiership.
He is understood to have set up a temporary leadership campaign office in a Westminster hotel.
ben wallace – 5/2
The Defense Secretary has seen his popularity soar in recent months, having won plaudits for overseeing the evacuation of refugees and British nationals from Afghanistan and for leading the UK’s response to Russian’s invasion of Ukraine.
He has even been praised by longstanding Tory critics such as the SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, who said: “He gets why it’s important we are in the room, united against Putin and in support of Ukraine.”
Because of his ties to Scotland, Mr Wallace could also be the person to fend off a second Scottish independence referendum and ensure the Union remains united. He first entered politics as an MSP in 1999 and was also an officer in the Scots Guards.
He is emerging as the early favourite, having been at the top of Conservative Home’s poll of members’ favorite Cabinet ministers for much of the year.
Penny Mordaunt – 6/1
The MP for Portsmouth North has eight years of ministerial experience under and ticks the box for being a staunch Brexiteer.
She is known for her independent spirit, criticizing Dominic Cummings’s Barnard Castle trip, football fans’ response to players taking the knee, and the PM’s conduct over Partygate.
Ms Mordaunt is also seen as a unifying candidate with few enemies.
nadhim zahawi – 12/1
Mr Zahawi has swiftly risen to the top, having received a boost during the coronavirus pandemic, winning plaudits for heading the UK’s vaccine rollout.
He also has a vote-winning backstory, fleeing Saddam Hussein’s Iraq with his family, joining a UK school without knowing English and later building a successful business career.
Mr Zahawi recently hinted that he could throw his hat in the ring, when he said it would be “a privilege” to be PM – but he did state that he was keen to see through his brief in education.
But his popularity fell this week when he agreed to take on Mr Sunak’s job as Chancellor. He did eventually call on Mr Johnson to quit, however.
He is regarded as a “safe pair of hands” among Tory backbenchers.
Jeremy Hunt – 12/1
Mr Hunt is no stranger to the Tory leadership contest, having come second to Mr Johnson in 2019.
The former health secretary and foreign secretary resigned from the Cabinet after his defeat but he has kept a steady profile as a backbencher.
As chairman of the Health and Social Care Select Committee he has criticized the Government’s apparent failures in the early stages of the pandemic and has continued to win support from Tory members.
Though he had been the bookies’ favorite to replace Mr Johnson, his support base appears to be waning and he has kept a relatively low profile during this week’s high drama.
- Grant Shapps – Transport Secretary (66/1)
- Kemi Badenoch – former minister (40/1)
- Robert Buckland – Welsh Secretary (200/1)
Who are the frontrunners?
As the bookies odds suggest, Mr Wallace and Mr Sunak are emerging as the early frontrunners to become prime minister. Ms Truss and Ms Mordaunt are also near the top of the table.
The contest is all to play for as Mr Johnson has not left a clear successor. It is also likely to be a bruising contest, with Johnson loyalist Jacob Rees-Mogg already showing the gloves are off.
The Brexit Opportunities Minister launched a stinging attack on Mr Sunak’s record at the Treasury and told Channel 4 News: “Rishi Sunak was not a successful chancellor. He was a high-tax chancellor, and he was a chancellor who was not alert to the inflationary problem.”
Who has ruled themselves out?
The Deputy Prime Minister has confirmed he is not planning to stand. Mr Raab might not have proven a popular candidate, having recently been ranked as the 25th most popular Conservative politician in a YouGov poll.
The former leveling up secretary, who was sacked after urging Mr Johnson to step down, has also ruled himself out of the contest.
During the 2016 Tory leadership campaign, Mr Gove had been expected to fully support Mr Johnson’s leadership bid. But at the last minute he announced his own candidacy – which prompted Mr Johnson to postpone his leadership ambitions as other MPs with drawn their backing from him.
Mr Gove has recently said his decision to run was a mistake.
The former minister, who had to resign as health secretary for breaching Covid rules on social distancing, is also understood to have no plans to run for the leadership.
On Friday morning Mr Cleverly ruled himself out from the Tory leadership race due to his personal circumstances. The Education Secretary told Sky News: “No, I won’t be.
“I put myself forward last time, I don’t regret that, I really enjoyed it. As you know, my wife has been going through cancer treatment and whilst that is progressing well, it hasn’t concluded.
“It’s not the right time for me. And I feel comfortable that actually we have a range of candidates within the party that would make excellent prime ministers.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.