As Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced rapidly mounting pressure from members of his own party to resign on Wednesday, the spotlight turned to who might succeed him as Conservative leader and prime minister.
Mr Johnson has vowed to keep fighting as a handful of ministers and their aides quit, but if he is forced to step down, here are some of the lawmakers seen as candidates for the party’s top job.
Liz Truss, the secretary of state appointed by Mr Johnson last year, is seen as a rising political star. She held positions under former prime ministers David Cameron and Theresa May, and drew comparisons to Margaret Thatcher. After she posted photos from a trip to Russia last year.
Ms. Truss is the first female secretary of state in a conservative government, and her advocacy of sanctions against the Russian oligarchy at the start of the war in Ukraine was welcomed by the public. But she has also expressed strong support for Johnson after the departure of two of his ministers on Tuesday, so it remains to be seen if that loyalty may wound her politically.
Nadim Zahawi, who was appointed Treasury minister hours after Rishi Sunak’s resignation, has risen through the ranks of the Conservative Party over the past decade and is seen as a strong contender for party leadership. He has stood by Mr Johnson but made clear on Wednesday morning that his main focus was the public service of the country.
Al-Zahawi, 55, was a former education minister and served as the minister of vaccines at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. He was born in Iraq in 1967 and immigrated to Britain with his family in the 1970s when Saddam Hussein took power. He has spoken often of how Britain has given him and his family “everything” and feels a duty to serve the nation.
Jeremy Hunt, the former foreign secretary who was defeated by Mr Johnson in the latest party leadership contest, is also seen as a potential leader of the party and the bookmaker’s favorite for the top job. After losing the 2019 leadership contest, he took to the backbenches of the party but continued to be an influential member.
Mr Hunt has chaired the Health and Social Care Select Committee since January 2020. Throughout the pandemic, he has been an outspoken critic of the government’s approach to Covid-19. Mr Hunt opposed Brexit in a pivotal 2016 referendum, but in the years since, he has come out in support of it. His public slips have offended him in the past, including when He accidentally described his Chinese wife as Japanese.
Rishi Sunak, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer whose resignation on Tuesday dealt a heavy blow to Mr Johnson, has long been seen as a potential leader of the party, although his reputation has been tarnished by recent controversies.
He got hit politically earlier this year when it became public that his wealthy wife evaded taxes by claiming special status and that he himself continued to hold a US green card, allowing him to live and work in the US, for months. After becoming Britain’s chief financial officer. He was also fined for breaching coronavirus lockdown regulations after briefly attending Mr Johnson’s 10 Downing Street birthday celebration in 2020.
However, Mr. Sunak’s air of competence and his role in delivering aid packages to businesses and individuals during the coronavirus pandemic has made him popular with the party and voters.