Prime Minister race heats up as Conservatives rush to take sides

Conservatives are rushing to take sides in the race to become the new prime minister after Rishi Sunak declared he has set his sights on the top job.

Former equality minister Kemi Badenoch is said to be the latest to throw her hat in the ring, with a plan for a smaller state and government “focused on the essentials”.

Meanwhile, former minister Steve Baker has backed Attorney General Suella Braverman’s campaign, despite previously saying he was seriously considering running for the top job.

Chancellor Liz Truss is also widely expected to run for leader.

Conservative MPs Chloe Smith and Julian Knight voiced their support for the chief cabinet minister on Friday, although she has not yet put forward a bid.

Ms. Smith said that Ms. Truss is “the right person to move our country forward”, while Mr. Knight said that she would “deliver on the promise we made to our voters”.

Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely also told BBC Newsnight that he thinks Truss is more likely to provide “clarity of leadership”, and suspects she will announce her candidacy over the weekend or early next week, although that “depends on her”.

Baker, a prominent Brexit supporter, had told the PA news agency that the Tory blog ConservativeHome “always put me in the top 10 for the next prime minister, sometimes they put me in the top five.”

But he said it would be “very difficult” to persuade his colleagues to back him in the all-party vote without cabinet experience.

On Friday night, he tweeted: “Considered running for leadership. My priorities were to deliver on our manifesto with our mandate, cut taxes and get through Brexit.

“Happily I no longer need to stand. @SuellaBraverman will deliver on these priorities and more.”

Earlier, Sunak announced his candidacy for leader on Twitter, saying, “Let’s restore trust, rebuild the economy, and reunify the country.”

His move came as allies of former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who was runner-up to Boris Johnson in 2019, said he was “virtually certain” to run again this time.

Among those publicly backing Sunak are House of Commons leader Mark Spencer, former Tory Party co-chairman Oliver Dowden, former boss Mark Harper, former ministers Liam Fox and Andrew Murrison, and MPs Sir Bob Neill and Paul Maynard. .

The former chancellor posted a brilliant launch video laying out his family history, saying: “Our country faces enormous challenges, the most serious for a generation.

“And the decisions we make today will decide whether the next generation of Britons will also have a chance at a better future.”

Those who support Mr. Sunak have been sharing a link to his campaign website,

It seems that in December 2021 a site with a slightly different name was created,, which redirects to the official page of the campaign.

Sunak’s team said that domains are bought all the time, adding that several of them had been transferred.

Asked how far along Sunak’s campaign was, Spencer told BBC Radio 4’s PM program that the former chancellor had not approached him until “very late last night”.

He added: “There are many people expressing their support and I am sure they will in the very near future.”

Spencer said there were “no secrets” from Sunak, adding that “there are no skeletons in that closet.”

Former Equality Minister Kemi Badenoch (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA)

Sunak, whose Twitter handle now reads “Ready For Rishi,” has entered what is likely to be a crowded field, with several competitors already apparent.

Even before he made his formal announcement, he had been criticized by Johnson loyalists, with Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg denouncing him as a “high-tax chancellor” who failed to curb inflation.

Mr Rees-Mogg went on to tell the BBC’s Any Questions on Friday: “I will not endorse Mr Sunak for prime minister.

“I belong to a party that believes in low taxation and the former chancellor has spoken of low taxation and delivered higher taxation.

“I will support a leader who believes in keeping government spending under control, which I believe is essential to tackling inflation.”

The Times reported that Ms. Badenoch was launching her campaign with a promise to radically reduce the size and influence of the state.

She would preside over a “limited government focused on essentials,” the newspaper said.

The absence of a clear favorite in the leadership race has tempted several less fancied contenders to step forward, with MP John Baron saying he will “take polls” over the weekend.

Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, has already said he will present his name.

More are expected in the coming days, including Mr. Sunak’s successor as foreign minister, Nadhim Zahawi, and Ms. Truss.

While Zahawi has not yet launched a bid, Conservative minister Lord Goldsmith said on Friday night that he “sets himself apart from most rivals.”

Following elections for the backbench 1922 Committee executive on Monday, the new body will draw up a timetable for the leadership election.

After his bitter resignation speech on Thursday, many MPs are keen to see Johnson get out of No. 10 as quickly as possible, fearing a summer of “chaos” if he stays.

However, Downing Street insisted it would not step aside to allow Raab to take over as caretaker prime minister.

Labor have confirmed that they will present a motion of censure in the House of Commons to the Government if Johnson refuses to go voluntarily.

However, to succeed, it would require Conservative MPs to vote with them, or at least abstain in large numbers, which would seem unlikely given that it could lead to a general election which they would likely lose.

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