The Tory leadership hopefuls circling marooned Boris Johnson

The Tory leadership hopefuls circling marooned Boris Johnson: Ministers Ben Wallace, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak tipped to join former high-fliers Jeremy Hunt and Penny Mordaunt in any run to succeed PM if he loses confidence vote TONIGHT

Tory MPs have been licking their lips at the thought of entering No10 as Prime Minister for months as Boris Johnson’s backing within the party collapsed as a result of Partygate and other scandals.

Possible candidates to succeed him come from all wings of the party, from the libertarian right to the One Nation Tory centre.

Among the front-runners are Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and one of her predecessors in the post, Jeremy Hunt, both of whom have made little secret of their desire to take the top job.

Other candidates expected to join a leadership race include Defence Secretary Ben Wallace – who like Truss is very popular with grassroots Tories due to his tough position over the Ukraine war.

And outsiders could include people like Tom Tugendhat, the former British Army officer and chairman of the foreign affairs committee, and Mark Harper, the former chief whip turned critic of the PM’s handling of the Covid pandemic.

But that could be part of the problem facing Conservative MPs who will cast their ballots in the no confidence vote tonight – who is the alternative to Boris Johnson who can unite the party?

The PM sounded defiance after backbench chief Graham Brady confirmed this morning that at least 54 MPs have asked for a full ballot, and one will be held between 6pm and 8pm.

With the results declared shortly afterwards, it raises the possibility that Mr Johnson’s tenure could come to a crashing end less than three years after he won a stunning 80-strong Commons majority.

However, if 50 per cent of MPs back him in theory he is safe for a year – with some insurgents fearing they have moved too early ahead of key by-elections later this month.

Cabinet ministers immediately rallied round, with Ms Truss, Mr Wallace and Chancellor Rishi Sunak all giving him their backing.

The PM (pictured at a Jubilee event yesterday) sounded defiance after backbench chief Graham Brady confirmed this morning that at least 54 MPs have asked for a full ballot

Boris Johnson is the only member of the Cabinet in negative territory in the latest ConservativeHome grassroots poll

But there is speculation that some might be about to quit to join the insurrection, with trade minister Penny Mordaunt seen as on ‘resignation watch’.

However, as tonight’s ballot is confidential, there is no need for ministers to resign to vote against him, other than as a signal of intent.

Here we look at the potential runners and riders in the unlikely event 

Liz Truss: Instagram-friendly Foreign Secretary who loves a Maggie-themed photo 

  • 46-year-old Foreign Secretary and South West Suffolk MP
  • Has persistently been linked with a leadership challenge
  • Has used role to recreate some classic images of ex-PM Margaret Thatcher
  • Has faced a tough time with comments on the Ukraine conflict 

Ms Truss has been regularly linked with a tilt at No10. The former international trade secretary was promoted last year to succeed Dominic Raab.

The South West Norfolk MP has held a string of Cabinet posts under successive party leaders and is popular with the party grassroots.

But while she has been hawkish over the war in Ukraine, the conflict has hit her prospects after several stumbles. 

Prior to the February 24 invasion she visited Russia for talks with her Kremlin counterpart Sergei Lavrov, in which she overtly channeled the style of Margaret Thatcher on a similar trip 35 years previously.

Her use of Instagram to share images of her looking tough and commanding has also drawn comment. 

The South West Norfolk MP has held a string of Cabinet posts under successive party leaders and is popular with the party grassroots.

Liz Truss posed on a tank during a visit to British troops on deployment to Estonia last November, which drew comparisons with Margaret Thatcher (below)

But she received a bit of a mauling from Putin’s attack dog, who said their talks had been like ‘the deaf talking to the blind’.

She was also criticised early in the conflict for urging Britons to go to fight for Russia even if they have no military experience, advice later contradicted by senior military figures.

But the Remain voter from 2016 has become a born-again Brexiteer in the years since, something that will aid her in any vote. 

As Foreign Secretary she has taken on responsibility for negotiating changes to the Brexit agreement with the EU to sort out the political impasse in Northern Ireland. A deadlock-breaking agreement is unlikely but unilateral action by the UK is being mooted, which could help boost her credentials.  

Jeremy Hunt: Former Cabinet minister who wants another go after losing to Boris in 2019

  • Former foreign secretary and longest-serving health secretary in history
  • 53-year-old lost heavily to Mr Johnson in 2019 leadership vote final
  • Former Remainer who has become a convert to the Brexit cause 
  • Has made no secret of desire to run again with increasingly high profile

Jeremy Hunt lost heavily to Boris Johnson in the 2019 leadership election that followed the resignation of Theresa May. 

But he is showing no signs of letting the mauling at the hands of Tory members dissuade him three years later.

The former minister turned Health Committee chairman has made a series of increasingly high profile public interventions on health policy in recent weeks. 

And he has consistently refused to rule out running to replace Boris Johnson if he quits. This morning he tweeted: ‘Today’s decision is change or lose. I will be voting for change.’

The former minister turned Health Committee chairman has made a series of increasingly high profile public interventions on health policy in recent weeks.

How could Boris Johnson be ousted by Tory MPs?  

What is the mechanism for removing the Tory leader? 

 Tory Party rules allow the MPs to force a vote of no confidence in their leader.

How is that triggered? 

 A vote is in the hands of the chairman of the Tory Party’s backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady.

A vote of no confidence must be held if 15 per cent of Tory MPs write to the chairman. Currently that threshold is 54 MPs.

Letters are confidential unless the MP sending it makes it public. This means only Sir Graham knows how many letters there are. 

What happens when the threshold is reached? 

A vote is held, with the leader technically only needing to win support from a simple majority of MPs

But in reality, a solid victory is essential for them to stay in post.

What happens if the leader loses? 

The leader is sacked if they do not win a majority of votes from MPs, and a leadership contest begins in which they cannot stand.

However, they typically stay on as Prime Minister until a replacement is elected. 

Last month he refused to say whether Boris Johnson was ‘honest’ as he warned the Prime Minister has a ‘big mountain to climb’ in winning back Tory voters.

The South West Surrey MP cast doubt on the PM’s ability to once again prove a Tory vote winner as he insisted it would be a ‘mistake’ to dismiss the party’s local election losses as ‘mid-term blues’. 

But the former Cabinet minister insisted now was not the time for renewed efforts to topple Mr Johnson and said he ‘hoped’ the PM would lead the Tories into the next general election.

The comments were seen as a warning shot to the PM – and a clear message to Tory MPs – that he is waiting in the wings should Mr Johnson continue to stumble. 

Like Truss he is a former Remain voter who has become a convert to the Brexit cause. He also has his own fair share of gaffs in his locker, including describing his Chinese wife Lucia – with whom he has three children – as ‘Japanese’ in an interview.   

Ben Wallace: Hawkish Defence Secretary who has talked tough about ‘tonto’ Putin

  • 52-year-old former British Army officer is Defence Secretary
  • He is currently the most popular minister with the Tory grassroots 
  • Sandhurst-educated father of three has led efforts to arm Ukraine to fight off the Russian invasion
  • Was targeted by Russian pranksters who managed to speak to him on a video call in March

Currently the most popular minister with Tory grassroots, according to the Conservative Home website. 

The Defence Secretary’s low profile has risen into full view as he emerged as one of the foremost Cabinet hawks on the Ukraine War. 

The 52-year-old former Scots Guards officer has been at the forefront of efforts to supply Kyiv with weapons and expertise to fight off the Russian invasion, which has boosted his support base and name recognition.

The Sandhurst-educated father of three has overcome a Russian attempt to humiliate him after a Kremlin-backed prankster managed to get through to him on a video call, parts of which were later broadcast on YouTube.

He was asked if he supported Ukraine’s ‘nuclear aims’ by a man claiming to be the PM of Ukraine.

He has also avoided being implicated in the worst failures of the UK’s retreat from Afghanistan last summer, with blame being generally laid at the door of the Foreign Office.

The Defence Secretary’s low profile has risen into full view as he emerged as one of the foremost Cabinet hawks on the Ukraine War.

Last week he confirmed Britain is to arm Ukraine with precision-guided M270 rockets that have a range of up to 50 miles to help match Russia’s artillery arsenal.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has demanded heavier weapons to counter Russia’s artillery. Germany and the US have also pledged long-range weapon systems.

Today he tweeted: ‘In 2019 Boris won with a majority of 80. He has delivered victories in seats we have never held before. 

‘On Covid, on Ukraine he has helped deliver a world leading response. He has my full confidence.’

Rishi Sunak: Once high-flying Chancellor who was hit by controversies over tax

  • Chancellor was top-rated minister at the end of 2021 after Covid largesse
  • But profile has gone into freefall after a series of controversies in 2022
  • Wife revealed to be a non-dom taxpayer living in Downing Street
  • Sunak himself also faced questions over US Green Card possession 

At the end of 2021 the Chancellor was the number one candidate to succeed Boris Johnson. 

His largesse with taxpayers’ cash during the Covid crisis – furlough payments and other measures – and slick social media campaigns made him widely popular within the party and with the wider electorate.

It was a rapid rise to the top for a minister who only became Chancellor weeks before lockdown kicked in early in 2020. 

But the popularity of ‘Brand Rishi’ has taken a tumble in 2022 amid a series of controversies and rows with No10.

In the spring it was revealed his multi-millionaire heiress wife Akshata Murty was revealed to be living in Downing Street while having non-dom tax status.

At the end of 2021 the Chancellor was the number one candidate to succeed Boris Johnson.


Rishi Sunak was hit by a political backlash over the news that his heiress wife Akshata Murty was domiciled in India for tax purposes

She has legally avoided paying a huge UK tax bill by paying £30,000 a year to register as based in India.

He insisted she hasn’t ‘done anything wrong’ while accusing his critics of ‘smearing her to get at him’. She later agreed to pay full UK tax.

Later it emerged Mr Sunak, a father of two and former international banker, himself held a US Green Card for a year into his term leading the Treasury. 

While the status would not save him any money on his tax bill, it carries a responsibility to make the United States ‘your permanent home’.

There were also a series of rows with No 10 after recovery spending and his involvement with Partygate: he received a £50 fine for attending Boris Johnson’s surprise – and rule-breaking – birthday party in No10 in June 2020, even though he claimed he was just passing through on his way to a meeting.

His supporters blamed No10 for embroiling him in the controversy, souring an already acidic relationship within Downing Street.  

Today he tweeted: ‘From the vaccine rollout to our response to Russian aggression, the PM has shown the strong leadership our country needs.

‘I am backing him today and will continue to back him as we focus on growing the economy, tackling the cost of living and clearing the Covid backlogs.’

Penny Mordaunt: popular Brexiteer trade minister who pointedly refused to back Boris today

  • Trade minister and Royal Navy reservist who backed Jeremy Hunt in 2019
  • Ignored other ministers tweeting support for PM to instead write about D-Day
  • She was the first woman to serve as defence secretary and was also international trade secretary
  • Appeared on reality TV show in 2014 wearing just a swimsuit 

Penny Mordaunt has already emerged as possibly one of the least subtle potential candidates to run.

While other ministers spend this morning tweeting their support of the Prime Minister, she pointedly tweeted … about attending a D-Day ceremony in Portsmouth, where she is an MP. 

‘Today I will be attending Portsmouth’s commemoration service to remember the efforts and sacrifice of #DDay,’ she wrote.

The Brexiteer, 49, a naval reservist who once appeared on reality TV in a swimsuit, is popular with party members.

She was the first woman to serve as defence secretary and was also international trade secretary and is currently a trade minister. 

Supporters have pushed her credentials as the potential unity candidate any leadership race appears to lack – she is a Brexit voter who backed Jeremy Hunt in 2019. 

She was the first woman to serve as defence secretary and was also international trade secretary and is currently a trade minister.

While other ministers spend this morning tweeting their support of the Prime Minister, she pointedly tweeted … about attending a D-Day ceremony in Portsmouth, where she is an MP.

The Brexiteer, 49, a naval reservist who once appeared on reality TV in a swimsuit, is popular with party members.

Ms Mordaunt has already been on resignation watch once this year. In January she spoke out against a proposed £1.2 billion underwater electricity cable project backed by a Russian oligarch and major Tory donor.

She opposed plans by Aquind, co-owned by Alexander Temerko, to construct the interconnector under the Channel between Normandy and Portsmouth.

Temerko, who previously ran a firm producing weapons for Russia’s military, and Aquind have given more than £1 million to the Tories and the oligarch has regularly featured in photos at fundraisers with Prime Ministers and their Cabinets.

Government sources said Mordaunt was ready to quit if the cable was approved. The project was later rejected.

Source: Read Full Article