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Who could replace Rishi Sunak as Conservative Party leader? | Politics News

Rishi Sunak has announced his resignation after the Tories’ defeat to Labour in the general election.

With the party now heading into opposition for the first time since 2010, the race is on to find its next leader.

So who is likely to throw their hat into the ring, what do they believe in and, crucially, do they have the backing of party members?

Kemi Badenoch

Ms Badenoch, the ex-business secretary, is seen as a darling of the right and has impressed some in the party with her no-nonsense approach.

One of her strongest advocates is Michael Gove, the former levelling up secretary who stood down as an MP at the election.

Ms Badenoch held on to her safe seat of Essex North West in the election.

She ran in the first Tory leadership contest of 2022 following Mr Johnson’s resignation. She finished fourth out of eight candidates in the first ballot of MPs, before eventually being eliminated in the fourth round of voting.

Ms Badenoch has been outspoken on issues including women’s rights, equality and identity politics.

Suella Braverman

Ms Braverman has cultivated a reputation on the right as someone who is not afraid to voice controversial opinions on immigration and law and order.

She was brought in by Mr Sunak to cater to the right of the party as home secretary, where she commanded support.

Her sacking in November 2023 following comments that homelessness was a “lifestyle choice” – may have affected her standing among Tory MPs.

However, her hardline stance on immigration went down well with parts of the party membership.

She held her Fareham and Waterlooville seat despite a challenge from the Liberal Democrats.

Before the election, Ms Braverman called for the Tories to work with Reform UK – and said the Conservatives should welcome Nigel Farage to the party.

Speaking after her re-election, she apologised and said that her party “didn’t listen” to the country.

“The country deserves better and we’ve got to do better and I will do everything in my power to rebuild trust. We need to listen to you – you have spoken to us very clearly,” she added.

James Cleverly

The recent former home secretary – and also former foreign secretary – is being talked about in moderate Tory circles as a candidate who could unify the party.

He held his seat in Braintree, Essex, in the election.

Mr Cleverly is one of the most experienced former cabinet ministers in the party and has also been its chairman.

A key part of his brief as home secretary was the plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda – something he is said to have had reservations about in private, despite his denials.

He caused controversy last year – and was forced to apologise – after making a joke about date rape, which he admitted may have undermined the government’s work to tackle drink spiking.

It was reported before the election that he would not stand to replace Mr Sunak – but we are still waiting for an official announcement.

He said after his victory that he was “not going to rush to any quick judgements” about the result.

Robert Jenrick

Mr Jenrick held several ministerial roles, including communities secretary – a position he lost in one of Mr Johnson’s reshuffles.

He was originally a Sunak loyalist and was appointed immigration minister, partly to keep the more right-wing Ms Braverman in check, according to reports.

However, Mr Jenrick later hit the headlines when he resigned over Mr Sunak’s Rwanda bill, saying he could not continue in his post when he had such “strong disagreements with the direction of the government’s policy on immigration”.

By the election, he too was acting as a voice on the right of the party.

His Newark seat in the East Midlands had been fairly safe in 2019 – but the result was much closer this time around.

However, his past actions – like fast-tracking a £1bn housing development proposed by a Tory donor – might come back to bite him.

It was unclear if Jeremy Hunt would be able to win his Godalming & Ash seat.

However, he managed to fend off the Liberal Democrats to stay in parliament.

He has run to lead the party on several occasions, but has never done so successfully.

In his victory speech, he appeared to hint he would stand for the top job in opposition.

He said: “Some Conservatives will wonder whether the scale of our crushing defeat was really justified.

“But when you lose the trust of the electorate, all that matters is having the courage and humility to ask yourself, why? So that you can earn it back again.”

Priti Patel

The former home secretary was a key torchbearer for the right before she was eclipsed by Ms Braverman following the demise of Mr Johnson.

She flew below the radar but made several interventions, including on tax, towards the end of the Conservatives’ time in power.

Dame Priti is seen as one of the more traditional right-wing MPs in the party, compared with her successor Ms Braverman, who holds appeal with some of the Tory MPs elected in 2019.

Her seat in Witham, Essex, has been one of the safest in the country, and she held it in the election despite a challenge from Labour.

Another key factor is that she remained loyal to Mr Johnson, and was also popular with Tory members.

Tom Tugendhat

Mr Tugendhat is regarded highly among the One Nation group of moderate Tory MPs.

He previously ran to be Tory leader after Mr Johnson was ousted, but was knocked out of the race early and later threw his support behind Ms Truss.

He held his seat of Tonbridge in Kent.

Mr Tugendhat is notable for his hawkish stance on China, although this became more muted once he entered government.

He is also a former soldier.

Lord Cameron was brought in by Mr Sunak to be foreign secretary in the dog days of the Conservative administration, in what was a shock return to frontline politics following his resignation as prime minister in 2016 following the EU referendum.

A return as party leader would be even more of a shock – and should be viewed as a remote possibility at this stage.

It is unclear how much support the former PM would get in a vote among Tory members, but he may be seen as a steadying hand.

What are the odds for the next leader (via Sky Bet)

  • Kemi Badenoch: 2/1;
  • Tom Tugendhat: 10/3;
  • Priti Patel: 5/1;
  • Suella Braverman: 6/1;
  • Jeremy Hunt: 8/1;
  • Robert Jenrick: 8/1;
  • James Cleverly: 10/1

While he is not an MP, he could technically still lead the Conservatives as a member of the Lords.

The last time a peer led the party on their own was in the late 19th century, under the third Marquess of Salisbury.

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