Eight candidates will be on the ballot on Wednesday when Conservative MPs vote in the first round of the contest to succeed Boris Johnson. Former chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak has the greatest number of public endorsements from MPs, followed by trade minister Penny Mordaunt, foreign secretary Liz Truss and foreign affairs committee chair Tom Tugendhat.
Attorney general Suella Braverman, chancellor of the exchequer Nadhim Zahawi, former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt and former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch also made it onto the ballot. But former health secretary Sajid Javid withdrew minutes before nominations closed when he failed to secure the 20 required.
“It has been just seven days since I took the difficult decision to resign from the most important job I have ever had, as health secretary during a pandemic. Since then, I have set out the values and policies I think are right for the future of our great country. I believe the party must now look outwards, not inwards, if we are to win again,” he said.
Candidates will need to win at least 30 votes on Wednesday to progress to the next round of voting on Thursday. There can be further ballots next week until just two candidates go forward to a ballot of the entire party membership.
Mr Sunak launched his campaign on Tuesday at an event in Westminster that saw deputy prime minister Dominic Raab endorse him. Minutes before the launch, however, Brexit minister Jacob Rees-Mogg and culture secretary Nadine Dorries made an appearance outside 10 Downing Street to endorse Ms Truss.
“She has been my strongest supporter in the Cabinet in getting Brexit opportunities. When we discussed taxation, Liz was always opposed to Rishi’s higher taxes. That, again, is proper Conservatism,” Mr Rees-Mogg said.
Ms Truss has struggled to unite MPs on the right of the party behind her and she faces two right-wing rivals on Wednesday in the shape of Ms Braverman and Ms Badenoch. Although she campaigned for Remain in the 2016 Brexit referendum, Ms Truss has impressed Eurosceptics in the European Research Group (ERG) with her hardline stance on the Northern Ireland protocol.
Ms Mordaunt, who is the frontrunner among party members according to a Conservative Home survey, on Tuesday received the endorsement of fellow Brexiteer David Davis.
“We can’t afford any more scandals after the last two years, she’s a woman of incredible integrity. We need high competence, we’ve got really difficult problems coming up on the economic front and other fronts. She’s fantastic in the House of Commons but most of all she’s got a vision for Britain, she’s a patriot and she knows what sort of Conservatism she wants to stand for. And she’s the person in the party most likely to beat Rishi Sunak so it’s a formidable combination,” he said.
The candidates will be grilled by MPs in a series of hustings, the first of which was that of the Common Sense group which focused on their views on their approach to culture war issues including statues and the interpretation of British history.