Another campaign for leadership of the British Conservative Party gets under way following the resignation of Liz Truss as Prime Minister.
No candidates have yet publicly declared they are standing – but former prime minister Boris Johnson is believed to be considering entering the race, along with former chancellor and runner up to Ms Truss in the last contest, Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt – who came third.
One website claimed Mr Johnson already has the support of 48 MPs.
However Mr Sunak, who can claim to have been proven right about Ms Truss’ economic plans, remains the bookies favourite.
Candidates will need to get 100 nominations from the party’s 357 MPs by next Monday to secure a place in the running.
If only one reaches that number then that person becomes leader, otherwise the last two will go to an online vote of members with the winner being announced by next Friday at the latest.
Ms Truss’ replacement is expected to be confirmed no later than next Friday.
Just six weeks after he left No 10 for the final time, forced out by his own MPs after one scandal too many, allies of Mr Johnson are urging him to run again for a second shot at the Tory crown.
Such a move would be highly divisive within the Conservative Party, with reports some MPs could resign the whip and sit as independents rather than serve under Mr Johnson.
But his supporters argue that he alone of the potential candidates to be the new prime minister has won a general election and has a mandate from the British public.
There was no immediate word from Mr Johnson – who was thought to be holidaying with his family in the Caribbean – on his intentions.
However diehard loyalist Nadine Dorries, the former culture secretary, said she had spoken to him following Ms Truss’s resignation and hinted strongly that he was preparing to run.
“He is a known winner and that is certainly who I’m putting my name against because I want us to win the general election. Having a winner in place is what the party needs to survive,” she told Sky News.
Veteran backbencher Roger Gale, a long-time critic of Mr Johnson, however warned that if he succeeds he could be met with a wave of resignations by Tory MPs.
“I think that there would be people, indeed like myself, who would find ourselves in the awful position of having to resign the Conservative whip,” he told Times Radio.
Labour leader Keir Starmer, who called for an immediate general election, said the potential return of a man deemed “unfit for office” by his own MPs “adds insult to injury” for voters.
For critics, a comeback would be particularly problematic as Mr Johnson still faces an investigation by the Commons Privileges Committee over claims he lied to Parliament over lockdown parties in Downing Street, which could potentially see him expelled as an MP.
As well as Mr Sunak and Ms Mordaunt, some MPs would like Defence Secretary Ben Wallace to stand, although he has given no indication he intends to do so.
Other names in the frame include Suella Braverman, who was forced to quit as home secretary by Ms Truss, and International Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch – both of whom stood in the last contest – although they may struggle to get the nominations.
Under the rules set out by Graham Brady – the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee – and party chairman Jake Berry, nominations will close at 2pm on Monday.
Read more: Truss’ shortest of political honeymoons
The first ballot of MPs will then be held between 3.30pm and 5.30pm on Monday – if there are three candidates with the required number of nominations the loser will be eliminated.
Once there are two candidates remaining, an indicative vote will be held so that the party membership know which is the preferred option among MPs.
Members will be able to take part in an online vote to choose their next leader and the country’s prime minister with the contest due to conclude by 28 October.
The rules appear designed to encourage the candidate who finishes second to stand aside for the winner, ensuring the new leader has the support of the majority.
But few believe that if that is Mr Johnson – who remains hugely popular among ordinary members – he would do so.
Veteran Tory Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, however, said it was important that the new leader commanded as much support as possible among the MPs.
“It is the Members of Parliament who have to work with a prime minister and I think it is very, very important that as many Members of Parliament are satisfied with the candidate,” he told BBC 2’s Newsnight.
Ms Truss’s resignation yesterday brings to an end the shortest premiership in British history.
It followed weeks of financial and political turmoil in the wake of then chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s calamitous £45 billion mini-budget giveaway which led to a collapse in support for Ms Truss among Tory MPs.
Additional reporting PA
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