With Boris Johnson poised to step down as the leader of the Conservative Party, the spotlight is on who might succeed him as prime minister.
There will most likely be a number of candidates for the top job, including many who reflect the changing face of the Conservative Party — one that is more representative of the population of the country. But here are some of the people considered favorites to take over the party leadership.
Jeremy Hunt, 55, the former foreign secretary whom Mr. Johnson defeated in the last party leadership contest, was at one point the bookmakers’ favorite for the top job. After losing the 2019 leadership contest, he moved to Parliament’s backbenches, criticizing the government’s approach to the Covid pandemic as chairman of the Health and Social Care Select Committee. His past as a supporter of remaining in the European Union may hurt him with Conservative members, though he says he now supports Brexit.
Rishi Sunak, 42, the former chancellor of the Exchequer whose resignation on Tuesday dealt a heavy blow to Mr. Johnson, has long been seen as a potential party leader, gaining popularity through his role in delivering aid packages for businesses and individuals during the pandemic. But he was injured politically this year by controversies over the tax status of his wealthy wife and news that he himself had continued to hold a U.S. green card, allowing him to live and work in the United States, for months after he became Britain’s top finance official.
Liz Truss, 46, who was appointed by Mr. Johnson as foreign secretary last year, is seen as a rising political star. Her championing of sanctions against Russian oligarchs at the start of the war in Ukraine was cheered by the public. But she also expressed strong support for Mr. Johnson after the departure of two of his cabinet ministers on Tuesday, so it remains to be seen whether that loyalty might wound her.
Nadhim Zahawi, another Conservative rising star, was in the thick of the maneuvering around Mr. Johnson’s departure. Mr. Johnson appointed him chancellor of the Exchequer hours after Mr. Sunak’s resignation, but on Thursday morning, Mr. Zahawi revealed that he had tried to convince the prime minister to step down and publicly urged him to “go now.”
Mr. Zahawi, 55, was previously the education secretary and served as the vaccines minister during the height of the pandemic. He was born in Iraq in 1967 and emigrated to Britain with his family in the 1970s when Saddam Hussein came to power.
Sajid Javid, 52, the former health secretary whose departure on Tuesday alongside Mr. Sunak helped set off an avalanche of government resignations, has held a number of cabinet positions under both Mr. Johnson and his predecessors Theresa May and David Cameron.
Mr. Javid is a son of Pakistani immigrants who arrived in Britain in the 1960s. He became the first ethnic minority to hold the post of home secretary when he was appointed to that role in 2018, and unlike many of his fellow Conservative lawmakers, he comes from a modest background: His father was a bus driver.
Other potential contenders
A survey of Conservative Party members by the polling company YouGov on Thursday suggested that their favored candidates would be Ben Wallace, Britain’s current defense secretary, and Penny Mordaunt, a former defense secretary and prominent supporter of Brexit who is now the minister for trade policy.
Party members, however, choose only between a final pair of candidates selected in a series of ballots by the party’s lawmakers, and it was unclear whether Mr. Wallace and Ms. Mordaunt would emerge in that final two, if indeed they chose to run.
Britain’s attorney general, Suella Braverman, said on Wednesday that she would also “put my name into the ring” were Mr. Johnson to resign; she had previously called on him to do so, though without resigning herself. Ms. Braverman, who as a lawyer defended the Home Office in immigration cases, was appointed attorney general in February 2020, having become a lawmaker five years earlier.