Several Tory heavyweights enter an already turbulent race to replace Johnson

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London (AFP) – A trio of Tory heavyweights, including former health ministers Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt, announced their candidacy to succeed Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday night, meaning eight candidates entered the already acrimonious leadership race .

Javid, also a former finance minister, and Hunt, who finished second to Johnson in the last competition in 2019, were joined on the growing list of candidates by current Chancellor of the Exchequer Nadhim Zahawi, who has not been appointed to this post only on Tuesday. .

None of the three members of the trio topped recent polls of Conservative Party members who will ultimately choose their new leader and Johnson’s replacement, but are among the most prominent to have launched campaigns so far.

Hours earlier, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps had announced he would run, adding another candidate to the usually unpredictable political contest. Shapps is a seasoned lawmaker who first served in cabinet in 2010 but is also not leading in the polls.

But Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, who impressed in the role and has been a Tory member favorite in several recent investigations, announced he would not stand after a discussion with colleagues and family.

The likely months-long campaign, potentially pitting more than a dozen Tory MPs against several ruling party factions, is set to be formalized on Monday when a backbench committee meets to agree the timetable and rules.

tax debate

The early favorite is former finance minister Rishi Sunak, who helped launch the cabinet revolt that led to Johnson’s forced resignation on Thursday.

Both Sunak and Javid quit on Tuesday night, prompting dozens of more junior colleagues to follow suit and forcing their ex-boss to resign as Tory leader 36 hours later.

But Johnson, whose three-year term as prime minister has been defined by scandal, the country’s departure from the European Union and the Covid pandemic, said he would stay on until his successor was chosen.

Rishi Sunak resigned as finance minister under Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday POOL BY JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP

Party members will ultimately choose their new leader – from a two-person shortlist narrowed down in several rounds by the 358 Tory MPs – before the Tories’ annual conference in early October.

Attorney General and arch-Brexiteer Suella Braverman, relatively unknown former equality minister Kemi Badenoch and Conservative backbench MP Tom Tugendhat have also announced their candidacies.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is among those still expected to join the crowded group.

Taxation is expected to be a key part of the race, alongside credentials from Brexit candidates, as Britain faces the toxic combination of high inflation and creeping increases in the cost of living, as well as a to stagnant growth and relatively high tax rates.

‘Tracing’

Announcing their offers separately in the Sunday Telegraph, Javid and Hunt both promised to cut corporation tax from 25% to 15%.

Javid said he would also reduce or change other taxes, including reversing a recent increase in National Insurance which is earmarked to increase funding for health services.

Zahawi also pledged to cut taxes for individuals, families and businesses, increase defense spending and continue the education reforms he began in his previous role as head of this ministry.

Sunak, narrowly edging out Truss at the top of the latest poll of party members, won the immediate support of several senior MPs after he said he was standing in a shrewd video on social media on Friday night.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is set to join the crowded group of suitors
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is set to join the crowded group of suitors JUSTIN TALLIS AFP

He has also been attacked by Johnson loyalists and rival contestants in acrimony that could spoil the contest.

The Financial Times said on Saturday there was “huge anger” within the outgoing prime minister’s team at Sunak over his resignation, with a senior official calling him a “treacherous bastard”.

In a veiled swipe at Sunak, Shapps said in his leadership announcement that he had “not spent the last turbulent years plotting or informing against the Prime Minister… (or) mobilizing a leadership campaign behind his back”.

Budget decisions delayed

Following the nearly 60 resignations that triggered his decision to step down, Johnson assembled a new team to govern on an interim basis, announcing a flurry of junior appointments on Friday night.

In a hastily summoned first meeting of his top ministers, the 58-year-old conceded on Thursday that “major budgetary decisions should be left to the next prime minister”, Downing Street said.

The Conservatives declined to say how many eligible members they have, but note it will be more than the 160,000 who voted in the last leadership race in 2019.

As the slate of nominees grows, some senior lawmakers have warned the field must be shrinking fast and have suggested that the final two-person slate to be submitted to members be decided in a few weeks, before the summer recess. of Parliament beginning after July 21.