The first ballot starts on Wednesday

LONDON – Britain’s ruling Conservative Party has begun its race to find its next leader and the country’s next prime minister, with eight candidates currently running for the top post.

The candidates all had to garner the initial support of at least 20 of their Conservative fellow MPs to move on to Wednesday’s first round of voting.

In a bid to reduce the number of candidates to just two, further votes are now taking place – starting on Wednesday – asking the 358 Conservative MPs to vote for their favorite candidate to take over the party.

Any candidate who receives fewer than 30 votes from their fellow MPs is eliminated in the first ballot. In the second round, the candidates with the fewest votes are eliminated. These rounds of voting will continue until two candidates remain, which is expected to be by the end of this week.

If two candidates remain, all Conservative Party members (around 200,000 people) will be asked to vote by post on their favorite. The winner is expected to be announced on September 5th.

Rishi Sunak delivers a speech to launch his bid for the Conservative Party leadership on July 12, 2022 in London, England. The former Chancellor became the second high-profile minister to resign from Boris Johnson’s cabinet last week, setting in motion the events that saw Johnson’s resignation as Conservative party leader.

Karl Hof | News from Getty Images | Getty Images

The eight candidates include familiar faces such as former Treasury Secretary Rishi Sunak – one of the favorites to win – and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and new Treasury Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, but also less prominent ones like Tom Tugendhat, Suella Braverman and Kemi Badenoch.

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is also in the running, as is International Trade Secretary Penny Mordaunt, another favorite popular with grassroots activists. Sajid Javid, former health minister, withdrew from the lead race on Tuesday.

Penny Mordaunt, a former Defense Secretary, showed some division among Tory MPs and grassroots Conservative Party members and activists, leading a poll of Tory members this week with 20% of the vote on who should be the next leader .

Former local government minister Kemi Badenoch got 19% of the vote, followed by Rishi Sunak with 12%, according to website Conservative Home’s poll of over 800 Tory party members on Tuesday.

“If Putin succeeds, there will be more misery across Europe and terrible consequences worldwide,” said British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.

Mateusz Wlodarczyk | Nurphoto | Getty Images

On Tuesday night, the eight candidates each had 12 minutes to try to convince their fellow MPs why they should be the next leader of the party and the country. Several pledged to cut taxes and unite the party after the spectacular ouster of Boris Johnson, who remains prime minister but plays only a caretaker role while his successor is found.

Summarizing the economic impact of the candidates, who are expected to advance to at least a second round of elections, Daiwa Capital Markets said that “at the time of writing, former Chancellor Rishi Sunak in all likelihood assumed it would advance to the second round to accomplish. There he will most likely face a challenger from the right-wing populist wing – most likely Secretary of State Liz Truss or Secretary of Commerce Penny Mordaunt.”

“While Sunak has argued against further short-term fiscal easing, Truss, Mordaunt and several others have argued for unfunded tax cuts that would arguably be inflationary and likely lead to more monetary tightening than would be the case under a Sunak Premiership,” Daiwa said in a note on Tuesday.

Open Race

The leadership contest comes after Johnson resigned last week after months of controversy over his behavior in office. His government has been plagued by party scandals during the Covid-19 lockdown and several party officials have faced sleazy allegations.

The final straw for many MPs, who had previously supported Johnson despite his less-than-conventional leadership style, was his appointment of an assistant chief whip (responsible for party discipline), against whom previous sexual misconduct allegations of which Johnson was aware had been leveled. That led to a wave of resignations, with ministers and officials saying Johnson no longer enjoyed their trust.

Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer labeled Johnson’s exit a “Bjexit,” commenting this week that “British politics is paralyzed in the short term by the lack of mandate from the caretaker government (whether led by Johnson or under a new interim Prime Minister” and that Economic, foreign and defense policies “are essentially in stasis until there is new leadership in the fall”.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a statement at Downing Street on July 7, 2022 in London, Britain.

Henry Nicholls | Reuters

“It’s an open race for the fall … but either way, Johnson’s two main foreign policy initiatives — on Europe and Ukraine — will not change. In the former, with Brexit and Euroscepticism already firmly entrenched in the Conservative Party, there is no sign of a softer European policy among the Premiership’s competitors, even on the controversial issue of Northern Ireland,” Bremmer said on Monday.

European leaders, and particularly France’s President Emmanuel Macron, are happy to turn their backs on Johnson and will have less dysfunctional personal diplomacy with his successor, but cross-cutting UK-EU relations will remain significantly strained, Bremmer added.

“That leaves a lot of uncertainty domestically – for example around fiscal easing and corporate tax policy. The first ballot starts on Wednesday

Joshua Buckhalter

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