Britain’s Tories set to take top job if Johnson falls
Sunak, 41, is widely seen as the party’s brightest rising star, the public’s best-known suitor – and the bookmakers’ favorite to succeed Johnson.
Sunak was thrust into the spotlight when he became Treasury chief at the start of 2020, charged with the unenviable task of steering Britain’s economy through its worst economic crisis on record due to the pandemic.
Sunak has spent billions of pounds in emergency spending to help businesses and workers, and his pandemic policies have generally been viewed in a positive light.
A huge “Star Wars” fan, Sunak nurtures his personal brand with a nifty Instagram account. Opinion polls suggest he is one of the most popular Tory ministers among voters, although his elite upbringing and past work for investment bank Goldman Sachs and a hedge fund mean some le regard as disconnected from ordinary people.
He would be Britain’s first non-white prime minister. Born to Indian parents who immigrated to the UK from East Africa, Sunak attended the exclusive private school of Winchester College, studied at Oxford University and is married to Akshata Murthy, daughter of an Indian billionaire.
LIZ TRUSS, FOREIGN AFFAIRS SECRETARY
Truss, 46, took over as foreign secretary in September after serving as trade minister and has gained momentum as a candidate since.
As well as being Britain’s top diplomat, she is the UK’s new chief negotiator with the European Union to address lingering issues after Britain’s exit from the bloc.
Once a campaigner to stay in the EU, Truss has become a staunch supporter of Brexit. Her previous role as international trade secretary saw her sign post-Brexit trade deals around the world and channel Johnson’s ambitions for “global Britain”.
Truss is popular with many conservatives, who see the free-market-loving politician as echoes of the party’s first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher. Her followers coined the slogan “In Liz We Truss”.
She is less well known to the general public. “When you ask about Liz Truss, 50% of voters say ‘Liz who? ‘” said Chris Curtis, a pollster at Opinium Research.
SAJID JAVID, HEALTH SECRETARY
Javid, 52, has been Health Secretary since June, leading Britain’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Before that he was Treasury chief but stepped down in early 2020 after clashing with Johnson over the prime minister’s order to fire his team of advisers.
That Johnson brought him back to government to handle the coronavirus response reflects his reputation as a competent and safe person.
The son of Pakistani immigrants, Javid has presented himself as a mainstream alternative to his privately-educated rivals – although he had a lucrative career in investment banking before entering politics.
As with Sunak, he would go down in history if he won.
MICHAEL GOVE, LEVEL SECRETARY
Gove, a party heavyweight, has held many key cabinet posts and is currently tasked with delivering on the government’s promise to ‘level’ Britain – that is, tackling inequality by increasing opportunities in disadvantaged areas.
Gove, 54, played a key role in the campaign to get Britain out of the EU and is widely respected in the party, but not entirely trustworthy. During the 2016 Tory leadership campaign, he backed Johnson for the lead before deciding he’d rather run himself – a betrayal that many Tories have not forgotten.
To the public, he is perhaps best known for being filmed dancing to techno music at a nightclub in Aberdeen, Scotland, in August, in a clip that garnered plenty of laughs when he went viral on social media.
JEREMY HUNT, FORMER CABINET MINISTER
Hunt, a former health secretary and foreign secretary, ran against Johnson in the 2019 leadership race, presenting himself as the more sensible and serious candidate. He lost badly and was removed from the Cabinet when Johnson took over.
In a recent interview, the 55-year-old reportedly said his ambition to lead the country had not “completely disappeared”.
He remained a lawmaker and kept himself in the public eye by grilling ministers and pundits at the head of the Select Committee on Health and Social Care in Parliament.
As a critic of the government’s response to the pandemic, he may appeal to those seeking a change from Johnson – although some view him unfavorably for implementing unpopular policies when he was health secretary.