MPs are trying to replace Boris Johnson, the secretary of defense will not stand

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, one of the favorites in the polls to replace Prime Minister Boris Johnson, announced on Saturday that he would not throw his hat in an already fierce race for the lead.

The likely months-long campaign, which could see more than a dozen Tory lawmakers and several ruling party factions clash with each other, should be formalized on Monday when a committee of supporters meets to agree on a timetable and rules.

Boris Johnson replacement

Four applicants have so far declared that they are running. The first leader is former Treasury Secretary Rishi Sunak, who helped spark a cabinet uprising that led to Johnson’s forced resignation on Thursday.

Sunak resigned late Tuesday evening, prompting dozens of other junior colleagues to follow suit, and his former boss had to step down as Tory leader 36 hours later.

But Johnson, whose three-year premiership has been mired in scandal, the country’s exit from the European Union and Covid, said he would remain until a successor was chosen.

The summer of vicious campaigns is coming. Party members will eventually choose their new leader – from a two-man shortlist cut in several rounds of MP “votes” – ahead of the Conservatives’ annual conference in early October.

Taxation should be a key feature of the race, along with the reputation of the Brexit candidates, as Britain faces a toxic combination of high inflation and runaway cost of living, along with growth stagnation and relatively high tax rates.

Along with Sunak, Attorney General and Brexit supporter Swella Braverman, relatively unknown former Equality Minister Kemi Badenoch and Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat made their nominations.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and new Treasury Secretary Nadhim Zahavi, who replaced Sunak at the Treasury on Wednesday, are expected to join a crowded field of up to 15 applicants.

Allies have told British media that former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, who came in second to Boris Johnson in 2019, is also “virtually certain” to run again.

Secretary of Defense Ben Wallace

However, Wallace who impressed as chief of defense and was among the leaders in several recent polls, said he would not run after discussing the application with colleagues and family.

“It was not an easy choice, but I am focused on my current job and the security of this great country,” he added on Twitter.

Sunak, narrowly ahead of Truss in the latest party membership poll, received immediate support from several senior MPs after claiming to be standing in a deft social media video late Friday night.

He was also quickly attacked by Johnson’s supporters as a sign of bitterness that could spoil the competition.

Brexit Opportunity Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg denounced him as a “high-tax” treasury minister who has failed to curb inflation amid reports of coordinated efforts to derail his bid for the top job.

“Great Anger”

Financial Times said on Saturday there was “tremendous anger” in the outgoing prime minister’s team in Sunak over his resignation, with a senior official calling him a “treacherous bastard”.

After nearly 60 resignations that prompted his decision to leave, Johnson put together a new team for interim management, announcing a flurry of junior appointments late Friday night.

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At the first meeting of his hastily convened chief ministers, the 58-year-old admitted on Thursday that “major fiscal decisions should be left to the next prime minister,” Downing Street said.

In the upcoming contest, various Conservative candidates will go through several rounds of voting among all 358 Conservative MPs, with the candidate with the lowest ranking dropping out each time.

The last two survivors are then put to a vote by party members.

The Conservatives declined to say how many eligible members they have, but note it will be more than the 160,000 who voted in the last leadership contest in 2019.

As the list of candidates grows, some senior lawmakers are warning that the field of vision will have to narrow quickly.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, treasurer of the 1922 committee that runs the competition, predicted to Times Radio that the final two-man list to be presented to members could be determined within a few weeks, before the summer recess of Parliament, which starts after 21 July.