Boris Johnson’s resignation has sparked feverish speculation over who could take over Downing Street, with MPs swaying early on towards Rishi Sunak and Ben Wallace emerging as a favorite among Conservative party members.
As a large number of candidates weigh up whether to challenge, current and former Cabinet ministers known to drum up support include Suella Braverman, Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid, Penny Mordaunt, Liz Truss and Nadhim Zahawi.
Grant Shapps is also considering proposing. But Michael Gove and Dominic Raab have dropped out of the running, along with prominent backbencher Tobias Ellwood.
A poll by JL Partners, a polling firm, suggests that Sunak, the chancellor who resigned from Johnson’s government this week, is the public’s top candidate among the main candidates and the only one slightly ahead of Labour’s Keir Starmer when prompted a head-to-head question.
It puts him one point ahead of Starmer when asked who would be the best prime minister, and ahead of all his main rivals when asked the direct question of who the leader should be.
Javid is in second place. The survey of 2,000 people was conducted on Wednesday and Thursday.
Sunak’s popularity plummeted among Conservative members after furor over his wife’s non-Dom tax status, but he has regained some of his standing after stepping down as one of the first two Cabinet ministers alongside Javid.
One Tory MP said he suspected he would want to launch a campaign involving many big-name MPs and a sophisticated operation, but only if they felt he had enough support.
Another MP from the party’s One Nation grouping said it supported Sunak, a Eurosceptic and far-right, “solely on the basis that he is clearly the most competent”.
Wallace, the secretary of defense, has not revealed if he is interested in running and does not appear to have a well-advanced campaign. But he became a bookies favorite based on polls of ConservativeHome party members.
He refused not to run for prime minister during a trip to northern England on Thursday.
The morning before Johnson confirmed he’d resigned at Downing Street, Wallace told reporters “let’s see what the Prime Minister says” when asked if he would aspire to the top job.
Truss, who cut short a trip to Indonesia to return to the turmoil at home, said Thursday: “We need calm and unity now and must continue to rule while a new leader is found.”
One of her supporters, Alec Shelbrooke, told GB News he backed her on the grounds that “she has tremendous experience and is truly leading the world on the foreign stage where our country is at the forefront of so many important international issues “. .
However, a Tory personality said Braverman, a leading Eurosceptic, soaked up many potential Truss supporters while she was out of the country.
Braverman, the attorney general, is also on the party’s Eurosceptic right and was also quick to announce her intention to run before Johnson even resigned.
She told ITV’s Peston she wants to shrink the size of the state and get rid of “woke up rubbish”.
Neither Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, nor Priti Patel, the home secretary, have signaled their intentions so far but may not have broad enough support for a run.
Quickly off the blocks to signal interest were backbenchers Steve Baker and Tom Tugendhat from opposite wings of the party.
Tugendhat, on the One Nation side and chairman of the foreign affairs committee, has previously said he would throw his hat in the ring.
On Thursday, he said the party needed a “clean start,” and three of his supporters publicly declared their support, including One Nation faction leader Damian Green, the former first foreign secretary.
Meanwhile, Baker, a leading Eurosceptic and former Brexit minister, said he was considering a leadership run after being pushed by colleagues and considering his recent appearances in ConservativeHome members’ list of preferred candidates.
He told Times Radio that people are asking him and it would be “disrespectful and disrespectful” if he disregarded statements of support, although he said he viewed the prospect with “something of a kind of fear”.
A source close to Jake Berry, who heads the Northern Research Group of MPs, told PoliticsHome he was considering a run.
The source said: “He appeals to people because he gets what matters. He is the only known member of the party who actually offered policies.”