Race for PM heats up as Tories race to take sides

The Tories are racing to take sides in the race to become the new prime minister after Rishi Sunak said he was aiming for the top job.

Former equality minister Kemi Badenoch is said to be the latest to throw her hat in the ring, with a plan for a smaller state and a government ‘focused on what matters most’.

Meanwhile, former cabinet minister Steve Baker has backed Attorney General Suella Braverman’s campaign – although he has previously said he is seriously considering running for the top job.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is also expected to run for the lead.

Tory MPs Chloe Smith and Julian Knight both voiced support for the Cabinet minister on Friday, although she has yet to make a bid.

Ms Smith said Ms Truss was ‘the right person to move our country forward’, while Mr Knight said she would ‘keep the promise we made to our constituents’.

Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely also told BBC Newsnight he believed Ms Truss was most likely to provide ‘leadership clarity’, and he suspects she will announce her candidacy during the weekend or early next week – although that is “up to her”.

Mr Baker, a prominent Brexiteer, had told the Palestinian Authority news agency that the conservative blog ConservativeHome ‘systematically puts me in their top 10 for the next Prime Minister, they sometimes put me in their top five’.

But he said it would be “very difficult” to persuade his colleagues to back him for the party-wide poll without Cabinet experience.

On Friday night, he tweeted: “I’ve been considering running for leadership. My priorities were to stick to our manifesto with our mandate, cut taxes and see through Brexit.

“Fortunately, I no longer need to stand. @SuellaBraverman will provide these priorities and more.

Earlier, Mr Sunak had announced his leadership bid on Twitter, saying, “Let’s restore confidence, rebuild the economy and bring the country together.”

His decision came as allies of former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who was runner-up to Boris Johnson in 2019, said he was “virtually certain” to run again this time around.

Among those publicly backing Mr Sunak are Commons Leader Mark Spencer, former Conservative Party co-chair Oliver Dowden, former chief whip Mark Harper, former ministers Liam Fox and Andrew Murrison and MPs Sir Bob Neill and Paul Maynard.

The former chancellor posted a glossy launch video in which he told his family story, saying: “Our country is facing huge challenges, the most serious for a generation.

“And the decisions we make today will decide whether the next generation of Britons will also have the chance for a better future.”

Those who support Mr Sunak shared a link to his campaign website, www.ready4rishi.com.

It appears that a site with a slightly different name, www.readyforrishi.com, which links to the official campaign page, was set up in December 2021.

Sunak’s team said domains are being bought all the time, adding that a number have been transferred.

Asked about the progress of Mr Sunak’s campaign, Mr Spencer told BBC Radio 4’s PM program that he was only approached by the former chancellor ‘very late last night’.

He added: “There are a lot of people expressing their support for him and I’m sure they will say so in the very near future.”

Mr Spencer said there were ‘no secrets’ for Mr Sunak, adding ‘there are no skeletons in that closet’.

Former Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA)

Mr Sunak, whose name on Twitter now reads “Ready For Rishi”, entered what is likely to be a crowded field, with several competitors already apparent.

Even before making his official announcement, he had come under fire from Johnson loyalists, with Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg denouncing him as a ‘high-tax chancellor’ who failed to curb the inflation.

Mr Rees-Mogg told the BBC’s Any Questions on Friday: ‘I will not support Mr Sunak as Prime Minister.

“I belong to a party that believes in low taxation and the former chancellor talked about low taxation and imposed higher taxation.

“I will support a leader who believes in controlling public spending, which I believe is essential to deal with inflation.”

The Times reported that Ms Badenoch launched her campaign with a promise to drastically reduce the size and influence of the state.

She would preside over a “restricted government focused on the essentials”, specifies the newspaper.

The lack of a clear favorite in the leadership race has tempted a number of less fanciful contenders to volunteer – with backbench MP John Baron saying he would “take polls” over the course of the weekend.

Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, has already announced that he will nominate his name.

Others are expected in the coming days, including Mr Sunak’s successor as chancellor, Nadhim Zahawi and Ms Truss.

While Mr Zahawi has yet to put in a bid, Tory peer and cabinet minister Lord Goldsmith said on Friday night he ‘stands out from most rivals’.

Following elections for the 1922 Backbench Committee Executive on Monday, the new body will set a timetable for the election of officers.

After his acrimonious resignation speech on Thursday, many MPs are eager to see Mr Johnson out of No 10 as quickly as possible – fearing a summer of ‘chaos’ if he stays.

Downing Street, however, insisted it would not step down to allow Mr Raab to take over as caretaker Prime Minister.

Labor has confirmed they will table a House of Commons vote of no confidence in the government if Mr Johnson refuses to go there voluntarily.

However, to succeed would require Tory MPs to vote with them – or at least abstain in large numbers – which seems unlikely given that it could lead to a general election they risked losing.

About Lillian Coomer

Check Also

Blockchain Trading Card Game Kingdom Hunter Launches This Month On WEMIX PLAY – European Gaming Industry News

Reading time: 2 minutes Kingdom Hunter, the brand new blockchain collectible card game developed by …