Nadhim Zahawi and Sajid Javid join race to be UK prime minister

Iraqi-born Zahawi has often said that his own story has deeply influenced his view of Britain

Nadhim Zahawi is among those who want the top job in British government. Reuters
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Five big names have entered the contest to replace Boris Johnson as UK Prime Minister and lay out the course Britain will take as it tackles the war in Ukraine and rampant inflation.

Nadhim Zahawi, the Iraqi-born Chancellor, and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced their candidacies on Saturday, joining former chancellor Rishi Sunak. They were followed by Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt, who immediately criticised candidates who have been Cabinet members in Mr Johnson's administration.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss also said she intended to run. Attorney General Suella Braverman, former minister Kemi Badenoch and senior Conservative figure Tom Tugendhat have already launched bids and more names are expected in the coming days. But Defence Secretary Ben Wallace ruled out standing in the race.

The contest has taking shape since Mr Johnson was forced to resign after an avalanche of resignations among his government, by MPs angry at the latest scandal to surround the administration.

Mr Zahawi, born to a Kurdish family who fled the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, was promoted to chancellor last week in the hours before Mr Johnson bowed to intense pressure and resigned.

“My aim is a simple one: to provide the opportunities that were afforded to my generation, to all Britons, whoever you are and wherever you come from, to steady the ship and to stabilise the economy,” he said.

He pledged to lower taxes for people, their families and business, boost defence spending and continue with the education reforms he started in his previous role.

He has often said that his own back story has deeply influenced his view of Britain and he recently spoke of the debt he owed poet Philip Larkin as he improved his English as a teenager.

Mr Zahawi has had a tumultuous week — first being promoted to chancellor after Mr Sunak's resignation on Tuesday, then defending Mr Johnson on Wednesday, before publicly calling for him to stand down on Thursday morning.

Mr Shapps, a Johnson loyalist, announced his run in The Times newspaper by taking a swipe at Mr Sunak, whose resignation along with Health Secretary Mr Javid on Tuesday kick-started Mr Johnson’s downfall.

“I have not spent the last few turbulent years plotting or briefing against the prime minister,” said Mr Shapps. “I have not been mobilising a leadership campaign behind his back.”

Ms Truss is preparing a bid to become next party leader, pledging that she will advocate “classic Conservative principles”, the Mail on Sunday reported.

Mr Javid says he will cut levies, including corporation tax, fuel duty, income tax and cancel an increase in National Insurance.

Mr Hunt portrays himself as a tax-cutter who wants to help business, but he also said he was a backbench MP without the baggage of ever being a member of Mr Johnson's Cabinet.

“We have to be honest that over the last year, we lost the trust of many swathes of people who voted Conservative in 2019," he said.

“I am the only major candidate who has not served in Boris Johnson's government. I called out what was going wrong long before any of the other major contenders and I have not been defending the indefensible.

“So by choosing me, the Conservative Party is sending a signal to those voters that we have listened to your concerns and we have changed.”

Mr Sunak declared his candidacy on Friday in a slick video that raised eyebrows among Tory MPs who suggested plans had been in the works for longer than a few days.

Others tipped to stand include Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt.

Mr Sunak has been tipped as favourite to enter No 10.

On Friday, Britain's former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch put herself forward as a candidate tobecome the new Conservative leader, promising “limited government” and “a focus on the essentials”.

The MP said she supported lower taxes “to boost growth and productivity, and accompanied by tight spending discipline”.

Writing in The Times, she hit out at “identity politics” and said Mr Johnson was “a symptom of the problems we face, not the cause of them”.

“People are exhausted by platitudes and empty rhetoric. Loving our country, our people or our party is not enough,” she said.

She said governing Britain today requires “a nimble, centre-right vision” that “can achieve things despite entrenched opposition from a cultural establishment that will not accept that the world has moved on from Blairism”.

Ms Badenoch’s declaration capped off a day on which many Tories declared allegiance in the leadership race.

Conservative MP Mark Francois said he believes at least 12 people will put their names forward in the coming days. “It looks like this is going to be the Grand National but without the fences, so we are probably heading for at least a dozen candidates at the moment,” he said.

Updated: July 10, 2022, 9:10 PM
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