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Homechevron_rightOpinionchevron_rightDeep Readchevron_rightWho will be the next...

Who will be the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom?

Who will be the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom?

The smart money was on quondam Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister) Rishi Sunak. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has resigned as leader of the Conservative Party. Whoever the party elects to replace Johnson as leader will become PM on or around 5 September. Sunak, 41, a British Indian is a moderate in the party. But fellow Conservatives (Tories) have assailed him for being insufficiently right wing. Sunak did more than anyone to bring down Johnson. It was Sunak's 5 July resignation that brought down the house of cards. 48 other ministers followed suit. Sunak was a leaver in 2016 but that belies his moderate image. But Sunak's path to victory is now less clear. Another candidate Penny Mordaunt is proving more popular among ordinary members of the Tory Party.

Johnson is determined that Sunak not get the top spot. There is an adage in the Tory Party: whosoever wields the knife never wears the crown. As Sunak felled Johnson, so Sunak shall be denied the Prime Ministership.

After two rounds of voting among Tory MPs, there are five candidates still in contention for the keys to Number 10 Downing Street. In order of popularity among the MPs they are: Sunak, Penny Mordaunt, Liz Truss, Kemi Badenoch and Tom Tugendhat.

Penny Mordaunt, 50, was a cabinet minister under Theresa May. She is a centrist in the party. She was an officer in the Royal Navy Reserve. Mordaunt is the most popular choice among Tory Party members. An opinion poll shows she would beat Sunak or any other Tory candidate for the leadership. Miss Penelope Mordaunt is unwed and childless. But some say she does not have enough cabinet experience, and her stance on transsexuals has been contentious. She did not attend Oxford or Cambridge. Every other Tory PM who went to university at all went to one of the two Great British universities. Mordaunt is neither mordant nor daunted. She campaigned for Leave in 2016 and that stands her in good stead among Tories.

Liz Truss is in 3rd place, only a few votes behind Mordaunt. Miss Truss, 47, is the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. She wants to tear up the Northern Ireland Protocol. That will impair relations with the European Union. Truss was pro-Remain in 2016, but is now a zealous Brexiteer. She is perceived as a hardliner and will slash taxes if she becomes PM. Some regard her as too ideological, too combative and fixated with channeling Maggie Thatcher. Whilst at Oxford, she was a Liberal Democrat.

Kemi Badenoch is a British Nigerian aged 41. She has held various ministerial posts. She is on the right of the party. Right-wingers have urged her to withdraw and throw her weight behind Truss in return for an important job in a Truss Administration. But Mrs. Badenoch says she is striving to be PM herself. She was a Leaver in the Brexit referendum. She is genial and the only black woman who is a Tory MP. She is married to a white British man. She personifies how the Tories have become far more diverse in the last 20 years.

Tom Tugendhat is the last in the race at the moment. It is a racing certainty that he will be removed from the race by coming last in the next ballot on July 18. Tugendhat, 46, is an old boy of St Paul's School and has a Master's degree from Cambridge University. Tugendhat is the only white boy still in the race. 20 years ago, 5/5 candidates would have been white males. Mr Tugendhat is arguably an ethnic minority: he is half-French and has some Jewish ancestry. He was an officer in the Territorial Army. He is a moderate in the party and campaigned for Remain.

Supporters of the bottom-ranked candidates Tugendhat and Badenoch will recognise that these two do not have a hope. Some of them will transfer their votes to one of the three main candidates. Left-wingers will vote for Sunak and right-wingers for Truss. Who will vote for Mordaunt? People who are in the middle or are determined to stop Sunak.

Sunak is the only candidate who MIGHT defeat Mordaunt. But if it is Sunak v Mordaunt in the final ballot, then Mordaunt has a 60% chance of winning. The question is who gets to the final two? The final two candidates are then voted on by the mass membership of the Conservative Party. 200,000 ordinary members of the party will vote by postal ballot.

If it is Truss against Sunak then Sunak will narrowly win. He would have a 55% chance of victory. Truss is the closest to Boris Johnson. Johnson has not officially given his imprimatur to any candidate. But he is bitter against Sunak. Because of this grudge, he will quietly back whoever stands the best chance of beating Sunak. The only one who can do that is Mordaunt.

If Truss gets a huge surge from all the Badenoch supporters and Mordaunt gets all the Tugendhat voters, then it would be Truss v Mordaunt in the final round. In that case, Mordaunt has a 70% chance of victory.

If anyone pulls out of the contest early, then the race will go a bit faster.

Johnson is enjoying a weekend in his official prime ministerial country retreat: Chequers. He is hosting a belated wedding party. He wed in 2021 when COVID-19 restrictions limited the number of guests he could have at his wedding.

The winner shall almost certainly be a white male. There have been testy TV debates between the candidates. If a woman wins the Tory Party will have its 3rd female leader. The Labour Party has never been led by a woman!

What are the chances of the three serious candidates winning? Mordaunt 50%, Sunak 40%, Truss 10%.

If Sunak wins, people say he will be the first Indian PM of the UK. That is not quite true. Lord Liverpool was PM 1812-27, and he was one eighth Indian.

The candidates eliminated thus far have been Chancellor of the Exchequer Nadhim Zahawi. He came bottom of the 8 candidates. In 7th place was Jeremy Hunt. What ignominy that is for the man who was runner-up to Johnson in 2019! Hunt was also once Foreign Secretary. In 6th place was Suella Braverman. Mrs. Braverman is a British Indian barrister and the only Buddhist in the UK Parliament. At 41, she still has decades in which she could win the premiership.

The big beasts who might have sought the premiership did not. Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab did not. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace did not, despite being the darling of the Tory grassroots. Home Secretary Priti Patel did not. No Asian woman has ever even stood for the leadership of a UK political part.

The author is a political analyst from the UK. You can watch him on YouTube. George from Ireland

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TAGS:ToriesUK conservative partyLabour Party
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