LONDON — Rishi Sunak leads a pack of eight candidates in the contest to become Britain’s next prime minister, the U.K. Conservative Party announced Tuesday night.
The former chancellor currently sits atop a league table of nominations from fellow Tory MPs, who will be tasked in the coming days with whittling down the number of candidates to a final two.
Seven other senior Conservatives met the required nomination threshold to continue in the contest to replace Boris Johnson as party leader, with voting among MPs due to begin Wednesday.
Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt, Commons foreign affairs committee Chairman Tom Tugendhat, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, former Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch, Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi, former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, and Attorney General Suella Braverman will join Sunak in the first round of voting — with a 50/50 gender and ethnic minority balance between the candidates.
Under rules set on Monday, leadership hopefuls needed the support of 20 fellow Conservatives to be included in the first round of voting among MPs.
The first ballot will take place Wednesday, with any of the eight who fail to secure 30 votes set to be eliminated. The second ballot is Thursday, with the bottom-ranked candidate next to drop out. The process will continue next week, until only two contenders remain.
The winner of the leadership contest will be announced on September 5, after approximately 200,000 Conservative Party members are given the opportunity to vote on the final two candidates chosen by MPs.
The former Health Secretary Sajid Javid dropped out of the leadership contest on Tuesday night after failing to win the backing of the 20 colleagues required to get on to the first ballot. Earlier Tuesday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps also withdrew and backed Sunak, while Home Secretary Priti Patel announced she had decided not to run.
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, who stood in for Johnson when he was sick with coronavirus, is supporting Sunak. He introduced the former chancellor at his campaign launch in London Monday morning.
Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has been highly critical of Sunak’s record as chancellor, and Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries , a key ally of Boris Johnson, have come out in support of Foreign Secretary Liz Truss’s leadership bid.
It comes after ministers blocked an attempt by the opposition Labour Party to hold a vote which could potentially have forced Johnson’s early resignation as prime minister.
Labour leader Keir Starmer planned to table a vote of no confidence in the U.K. prime minister after the Conservatives set a deadline of September 5 to replace him as leader of the Conservative Party.
But the U.K. government, which controls parliamentary time, denied Labour’s request for a debate and vote on Wednesday.