Conservative leadership race: eight contenders on shortlist to become PM

Eight names will be on the ballot paper when Tory MPs vote on Wednesday to elect a new prime minister

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The race for leadership of the Conservative Party narrowed to eight candidates late on Tuesday, with Rishi Sunak leading in the number of endorsements.

The contenders required 20 nominations from fellow MPs to reach the first round of voting, with former health secretary Sajid Javid withdrawing with minutes before the 6pm deadline.

In addition to Mr Sunak, the MPs who made it through the first hurdle were Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Trade Secretary Penny Mordaunt, Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi, former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, former minister Kemi Badenoch, Solicitor General Suella Braverman and former army officer Tom Tugendhat.

The Iraqi-born chancellor Mr Zahawi tweeted after the announcement that he was “delighted to be nominated by my colleagues to stand for the leadership of our party and the country”.

He added: “For the country that has given me so much, I am deeply honoured. I am British by choice, but I am #conservativebyconviction. I look forward to tomorrow’s ballot.”

Contenders began to drop out throughout the day, including Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, after they failed to reach the required number of endorsements. Mr Shapps was joined by the relatively unknown but respected Foreign Office minister Rehman Chishti.

Political observers noted that Mr Javid, whose resignation last week ultimately triggered Boris Johnson’s downfall, was victim of the adage that “he who wields the knife does not get the crown”.

Mr Shapps was among a number of ministers who pledged their support to Mr Sunak, who now appears on course to be one of the last two candidates.

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee that sets Conservative Party rules, announced the candidates in alphabetical order in the same committee room where, on June 6, Mr Johnson faced a vote of confidence that eventually led to his resignation last week.

Sir Graham stated the first ballot would be on Wednesday between 1.30 and 3.30pm BST, with the result announced shortly afterwards.

There was also some reported underhanded dealings, with suggestions that Mr Hunt was given votes by Mr Sunak’s many MP supporters to ensure he was in the race, as the team know he would certainly be beaten in the final pairing.

In the latest polling of Conservative members, Mr Sunak and Ms Truss came out on top.

An Opinium survey showed that 28 per cent had chosen Mr Sunak, 20 per cent had chosen Ms Truss and with Ms Mordant favoured by 14 per cent.

The final pair will face six weeks of hustings across the county, where they will be questioned by Conservative Associations. The 200,000 Conservative Party members will then vote by postal ballot on who they want to become their leader and hence prime minister.

The person who eventually replaces Mr Johnson will be announced on September 5, becoming the fourth British prime minister in six years.

Updated: July 13, 2022, 7:23 AM