Process to select new Conservative Party leader to begin on Wednesday

So far 11 candidates have come forward - a number that will be reduced by next week as MPs get to vote

Conservative MPs will start the process of choosing their next leader on Wednesday with the first of a series of exhaustive ballots to select two candidates to go before the entire party membership. Candidates will need the support of at least 20 MPs to get on to the first ballot and all those with fewer than 30 votes will be eliminated in advance of the second.

Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee, the group of Conservative backbench MPs which oversees leadership elections, said the aim was to complete the MPs’ stage of the process before parliament goes into recess at the end of next week.

“We do need to make sure there’s a decent period of time before the result is announced on September 5th,” he said, adding there was a need to make sure “the party and the country” had a reasonable chance to meet and question the candidates at regional hustings.

Eleven candidates had declared by Monday evening, among them foreign secretary Liz Truss, chancellor of the exchequer Nadhim Zahawi, transport secretary Grant Schapps, attorney general Suella Braverman and trade minister Penny Mordaunt. Former chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak had the most endorsements from MPs, followed by Ms Mordaunt and foreign affairs committee chairman Tom Tugendhat.


A poll of party members by the Conservative Home website put Ms Mordaunt in front on 20 per cent, one point in advance of former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch. Mr Sunak was on 12 per cent, one point in advance of Ms Braverman and Ms Truss and Mr Tugendhat was on 6 per cent. No other candidate was above 4 per cent.

A number of candidates have promised big tax cuts, and many have pledged to reverse the 1.5 per cent increase in national insurance contributions Mr Sunak introduced to fund the reduction of the National Health Service (NHS) backlog after the pandemic. Former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said he would cut the corporate tax rate to 15 per cent in an effort to attract the kind of foreign direct investment that came to Ireland during the Celtic Tiger years.

Former health secretary Sajid Javid said he would reverse Mr Sunak’s national insurance hike, cancel a planned increase in the corporate tax rate from 19 per cent to 25 per cent and cut income tax by a penny in the pound next year.

“We need a leader who makes credible promises, brings people together and makes tough decisions in the national interest,” Mr Javid said at the launch of his campaign in Westminster.

Mr Sunak is leading the field as the establishment candidate, drawing support from all sides of the party, while Mr Tugendhat is in advance of Mr Hunt on the party’s liberal wing. Ms Braverman, Ms Badenoch and Ms Truss are competing for votes on the right amid speculation that they could soon face further competition from home secretary Priti Patel and Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Steve Baker, who is managing Ms Braverman’s campaign, warned that the right-wing vote could splinter if too many candidates entered the field.

“I understand Jacob Rees-Mogg has been encouraged to stand but if it is not too indiscreet to say that, as I said to him this morning, I don’t think he would win but what he would do is split the votes,” he said.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times