Which conservatives could succeed the British Johnson in the event of a fall?


FILE – British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, listens to a question during a press conference with the Bishop of Truro Philip Mounstephen about the Bishop’s final report on the Foreign Office’s support for persecuted Christians in the world, in London, Monday, July 8, 2019. Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson managed to provoke a no-confidence vote from his own Conservative party – but the result dealt a blow to his authority, and questions are already being asked on who could succeed him. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, pool, file)


While British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been dealt a blow after surviving a vote of no confidence from his own Conservative party, questions are already being raised over who could succeed him if forced out of office.

Tory lawmakers voted 211 to 148 to keep Johnson in charge on Monday following revelations that he and his staff hosted Downing Street parties that broke Britain’s COVID-19 lockdown rules. But the scale of the revolt was deemed more damaging than expected.

Although leadership rules give Johnson a one-year reprieve from another such vote, he faces other risks.

Party rebels could change rules to force an early vote; it could be seen as a political handicap if the Conservatives lose a special election this month; he could be expelled if an ethics committee finds he lied to parliament about the partygate scandal; or he might just get fed up and quit.

This would trigger a leadership race to choose his replacement. Although there is no single favorite, here is a look at some possible contenders:



Truss, 46, took the top cabinet post in September after serving as trade minister. She has gained momentum as a candidate since then and has made no secret of her ambitions.

As Britain’s top diplomat in the Ukraine crisis, Truss received a chilly reception from his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, before the February 24 invasion of Moscow.

She is also the UK’s main negotiator with the European Union on lingering issues following Britain’s exit from the bloc. Once a campaigner to stay in the EU, Truss has become a Brexit champion. Her former role as International Trade Secretary saw her signing post-Brexit deals around the world and channeling Johnson’s ambitions for ‘global Britain’.

Truss is popular with many Tories, who see echoes of the party’s first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, in the free-market-loving politician. Truss supporters coined the slogan “In Liz We Truss”.



Until recently, Sunak was widely seen as the party’s brightest rising star, best-known contender – and bookmakers’ favorite to succeed Johnson.

Sunak, 42, was thrust into the limelight when he became head of the Treasury in 2020, charged with the unenviable task of steering the economy through its worst economic crisis on record due to the pandemic. He has spent billions of pounds in emergency spending to help businesses and workers, and his policies have generally been viewed in a positive light.

But “partygate” changed those fortunes. Like Johnson, he was fined by police for attending a lockdown-blighted birthday party in Downing Street in June 2020. He has also come under heavy criticism for his slow response to the severe crisis the cost of living in Britain.

Sunak has also come under pressure following revelations that his wife, Akshata Murthy, avoided paying UK tax on her overseas earnings and that the former investment banker kept his US green card while serving in government.

If successful, he would become Britain’s first colored prime minister. Born to Indian parents who moved to the UK from East Africa, Sunak attended the exclusive private school of Winchester College and studied at Oxford.

Some see his elite upbringing and past work for investment bank Goldman Sachs and a hedge fund as a deficit because he appears out of touch with mainstream voters.



Hunt, a former health secretary and foreign secretary, ran against Johnson in the 2019 leadership race, presenting himself as the strongest contender. He lost badly and was removed from the Cabinet when Johnson took over.

He openly said he would not support Johnson, warning that keeping him in power would destroy the party’s chances in the next general election.

He is expected to present a new candidacy for the leadership of the party. In an interview in January, the 55-year-old reportedly said his ambition to lead the country had not “completely disappeared”.

Hunt remained a lawmaker and kept himself in the public eye by grilling ministers and pundits to head the House Health and Social Care Committee.

As a critic of the government’s response to the pandemic, he may appeal to those seeking a change from Johnson, although some view him unfavorably for implementing unpopular policies as health secretary.



Wallace won admirers for his outspokenness, particularly among Conservative lawmakers who lobbied for the UK to increase defense spending.

A 52-year-old army veteran, Wallace has significantly raised his profile as a key government voice in Britain’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.



Tugendhat, 48, is a non-Cabinet Tory mentioned as a possible leadership candidate. Although he has no ministerial experience, Tugendhat is believed by some party members to be a good choice for a fresh start.

Opposing the 2016 Brexit referendum, the former soldier was a harsh critic of Johnson. He is also part of a group of key Tories urging the UK to take a tougher stance on China.



Zahawi, 55, rose to prominence as Minister of Vaccines during the pandemic and has been credited with playing a key role in the successful deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Co-founder of market research firm YouGov, Zahawi was elected MP in 2010. He was born in Iraq to a Kurdish family and came to the UK as a child when his parents fled Iraq under the reign of Saddam Hussein.

He is seen by some as a safe bet if other candidates such as Truss prove too divisive.



Javid, 52, has been Health Secretary since June 2021, leading Britain’s response to COVID-19. Prior to that, he was Treasury chief but stepped down in early 2020 after clashing with Johnson over his order to fire his team of advisers.

The fact that Johnson brought him back to government to handle the coronavirus response reflects his reputation for competence.

The son of Pakistani immigrants, Javid has cast himself as a mainstream alternative to his privately-educated rivals – although he had a lucrative career in investment banking before entering politics.



Gove, a party heavyweight, has held many key Cabinet posts and is currently tasked with delivering on the Government’s promise to ‘level’ Britain – to tackle inequality by increasing opportunities in deprived areas .

Gove, 54, played a key role in the Brexit campaign and is widely respected within the party, but not entirely trustworthy. During the 2016 Tory leadership campaign, he backed Johnson for the lead before deciding to run himself – a betrayal that many Tories have not forgotten.



Mordaunt, 49, emerged as a surprise potential candidate, with supporters saying she could help heal party divisions.

Mordaunt played a prominent role in the pro-Brexit campaign and had backed Hunt in the 2019 leadership race. She was removed as defense secretary as soon as Johnson became prime minister.

She has since returned to government as Minister for International Trade and is popular among Conservative lawmakers.

Lynn A. Saleh