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Who could be the next Tory leader?  

Welcome to Wednesday’s Early Edition from i.

The Conservative party has undergone a brutal transformation since last week’s election results. The Tories now have only 121 MPs – a staggering 251 less than they did a week ago. Among those gone were a raft of cabinet ministers and big beasts, including Liz Truss and Grant Shapps, and the latest resignations from the front bench – Lord Cameron and Richard Holden – have radically altered it again. And on top of it all – although unsurprisingly – Rishi Sunak tendered his resignation as Tory leader. “I have heard your anger, your disappointment, and I take responsibility for this loss,” he said on Friday. One characteristic of the party has remained the same however – bitter divisions. One MP has already accused the committee that sets the rules for the leadership contest of being “bent” while Kemi Badenoch reportedly used the first shadow cabinet meeting to criticise Sunak’s decision to call an election, saying it was almost “unconstitutional”. The former PM has said he will step down once the arrangements for selecting his successor are in place. But when will that be? And who could replace him? We’ll take a look, after the headlines.

 Today’s news, and why it matters

The boss of Thames Water has taken a £195,000 bonus for his first three months in post at the same time as urging regulators to allow the troubled utility to hike customer bills by nearly 60 per cent. Campaigners have condemned the latest financial performance of the country’s biggest water supplier accusing it of using its vast debt pile to “blackmail” the new Government and Ofwat into this week signing off on its plans to raise the funds it needs to avert collapse.

Ofcom has halted BBC plans to launch a Radio 2 “golden oldies” spin-off station after complaints from commercial rivals. The “pop nostalgia” digital station would target older listeners with music from the 1950s to the 1970s, voiced by some of the “best-known presenters” of the era.

The UK’s health and safety watchdog is meeting its Australian counterparts to discuss the country’s ban on kitchen worktops linked to a deadly lung disease in hundreds of workers, after the first British cases were identified. A report by policy body Safe Work Australia recommending that engineered stone be banned led to the country becoming the first to outlaw the material in December.

National Security Adviser (NSA) Sir Tim Barrow has been told he will not become the UK’s next ambassador to the US, as Downing Street gears up to make a political appointment. Sir Tim had been appointed at the tail end of Rishi Sunak’s administration to the frustration of Labour officials who argued the incoming government should make the appointment to the most senior British posting.

The Tory government crackdown on so-called “woke” lanyards in the civil service has been dropped by Labour, i understands. Ministers are also set to consider whether or not they should revoke guidance on Whitehall diversity and objectivity which critics claimed was an attempt to push the civil service to the right.

Junior doctors in England have said they have no plans to hold any more strikes after “positive” introductory talks with new Health Secretary Wes Streeting. Officials negotiations have not yet begun but both sides emerged from an initial meeting suggesting a deal can eventually be done to end the long-running dispute over pay.


Three questions over the Tory leadership contest:

How long could it take? It’s not yet entirely clear how long we will have to wait to see a new leader of the opposition. The rules and timeline of the race need to be set out by the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee, which has just elected its new chair – Bob Blackman. That contest has already become controversial after Tory MP Mark Francois accused it of being “bent” after he was turned away from voting. According to the PA news agency, MPs were told in an email they could vote until 6pm, but the vote took place between 5pm and 5.30pm on Tuesday.  In usual Tory leadership races, MPs vote to select the top two candidates, while the party membership chooses the ultimate winner. However, i understands that Rishi Sunak may hand over to a caretaker party chief rather than stay until a permanent successor is named. The Conservative party has never previously had such an arrangement, unlike Labour where the deputy leader automatically takes over on an acting basis when the leader resigns. Sir Oliver Dowden, the outgoing Deputy Prime Minister, could be a contender for the interim role, as could former Home Secretary James Cleverly. Read the full story here.  

Who could run? Jeremy Hunt has already ruled himself out of the race, saying “that time has passed”. The former Chancellor had stood twice unsuccessfully before, positioning himself as a centrist option. Without him in the race, Tom Tugendhat – once described as ‘loathed by Boris Johnson’ may be the most likely moderate to make a bid. The former Security Minister is seen as having the most well-developed campaign operation so far. Meanwhile Kemi Badenoch has long been seen as one of the likely frontrunners for the job. On Tuesday the Times and Telegraph reported that she had called Sunak’s decision to leave commemorations early “disastrous” and that some Tory MPs would have kept their seats if he hadn’t made the blunder. She was also quoted as saying Suella Braverman appeared to be having a “very public” nervous breakdown – but more on her later. Badenoch’s habit of going on the attack has previously drawn criticism from colleagues in the parliamentary party. James Cleverly has used a piece in the Times to show himself as a unity figure in the party, urging Tories to “get our act together”. He wrote: “It will take humility and hard work, to recover our reputation for competence and integrity, to rebuild trust in our party, and unite behind a broad platform that will give people a reason to vote Conservative again.” Take a look at all the potential candidates to take over from Sunak, here.  

Is Suella Braverman already out? She’s one of the most high-profile Conservatives but in recent days the chances of the former home secretary becoming leader appear to have taken a huge dive. Her attacks on the party and the LGBT+ movement in a speech in the US have prompted fury from many in the party (and those outside of it). Braverman said flying the Progress Pride flag was “monstrous”. Broadcaster Iain Dale responded angrily saying: “Moderate Conservatives need to stand up and be counted. This will not stand.” In a piece for i he continued: “I, for one, am fed up with her self-indulgent and hateful approach and I won’t stop calling it out. She is expected to enter the race to succeed Rishi Sunak, but she is not fit to lead the Conservative Party.”  A senior Tory strategist told i: “It’s over for Suella,” and questioned whether she would even secure two MPs to support her attempt to run. Danny Kruger, MP for Devizes, has pulled his support for her, backing Robert Jenrick instead, while her long standing ally Sir John Hayes has also thrown his weight behind the Jenrick camp. Read the full story here.  

The former home secretary blamed ‘liberal Conservatives’ for the election defeat and branded the flying of the Progress Pride flag as ‘monstrous’ (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty)

 Around the world

Joe Biden has promised the US and other Nato allies will send Ukraine a “historic” donation of air defence equipment, including at least four of the powerful Patriot systems that Kyiv has been desperately seeking. The US President, whose performance is under the spotlight amid concerns over his mental acuity, delivered a strong address to the opening of the Nato summit in Washington.

Biden’s mental decline has brought dangerous delusion. Joe Biden’s life story – one of hard knocks and comebacks – may explain why calls for him to quit are falling on deaf ears, writes Michael Day.

Russia has ordered the arrest in absentia of the widow of the late opposition leader Alexei Navalny on charges of participating in an extremist group. The ruling by a court in Moscow means Yulia Navalnaya, 47, who lives outside Russia, would be arrested were she to set foot in her home country.

Singapore’s state food agency has approved 16 species of edible insects for sale and consumption in the country. They include locusts, grasshoppers, mealworms and several species of beetle. 

 Thoughts for the day

Why Peter Mandelson could land US role to deal with Donald Trump. Labour’s veteran master of strategy is seen by some in government as a wily enough operator to handle a Trump White House, writes Kitty Donaldson.

Being late isn’t rude, it’s a sign of affection. Nearly half of Gen Z workers believe that being five to 10 minutes late is effectively the same as being on time, explains Zing Tsjeng.

A trigger warning on Midsomer Murders is the death of common sense. Perhaps a cosy crime drama in which a woman is squashed to death by a giant wheel of cheese is not one we should be taking too seriously, argues Emily Baker.

John Nettles as DCI Barnaby and Daniel Casey as Sergeant Gavin Troy in a 1998 episode of Midsomer Murders (Photo: YTV)

 Culture Break

The encore is dying out – but I’m not applauding. A farcical encore is becoming an increasingly rare event at big artists’ shows – but the loss of the tradition comes at the cost of spontaneity, writes Emily Bootle.

Coldplay at Glastonbury 2024 (Photo by Joe Maher/Getty Images)

 The Big Read

Nine reasons taxing private school fees will not be straightforward for Labour. Keir Starmer will not give in protests against his flagship education policy – but now his party must deliver it.

Sir Keir Starmer wants the tax on private schools to fund new teachers and improvements for state schools


I asked England fans if they care the football is ‘boring’ – here’s what they said. Gareth Southgate’s side will not care if pedestrian football helps them win a first men’s international tournament since 1966.

England are ‘two boring performances from glory’ (Photo: Getty)

 Something to brighten your day

‘Most complete dinosaur’ in a century discovered on Isle of Wight. New species Comptonatus chasei was a grazing giant that roamed the floodplains of Britain 125 million years ago, study finds.

An artist’s impression of a Comptonatus chasei, unearthed in the cliffs of Compton Bay (Photo: John Sibbick/University of Portsmouth/PA)

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