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Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak lead the race to become Britain's next prime minister

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  • No candidate has yet announced their intention to run.
  • Doubts Johnson could reach 100 nominations goal
  • The altar bookmaker’s favorite
  • The winner will become the fifth British Prime Minister in six years

LONDON, October 21 (Reuters) – Boris Johnson and former finance minister Rishi Sunak led potential contenders to replace British Prime Minister Liz Truss on Friday, as candidates were seeking support to lead the Conservative Party in a fast-paced contest.

After Truss ended his six weeks in power on Thursday, those seeking to replace him have been trying to find the 100 votes Conservative lawmakers need to compete in a contest the party hopes will reset its ailing fortunes.

The race is on track to become the fifth British prime minister in six years, as the Conservatives face complete extinction in the next national election, according to opinion polls.

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The winner will be announced on Monday or Friday next week.

In an extraordinary turnaround, Johnson, who had been impeached by lawmakers a little over three months ago, was on top with Sunak to be crowned the next prime minister.

Conservative MP Paul Bristow said of Johnson on LBC radio, “I think he has a proven track record of turning things around. He can turn things around again. And I’m sure my colleagues are hearing that message loud and clear.” Said.

“Boris Johnson could win the next general election,” he said.

Comparing him to a Roman dictator who left office and came to power twice to fend off crises, Johnson may struggle to reach 100 votes after his three-year tenure was ruined by scandals and allegations of abuse of power.

One of his former advisers, who no longer met with Johnson and asked not to be identified, said he was unlikely to achieve the goal, as he alienated dozens of Conservatives during his scandalous tenure.

The Financial Times, which called for a new election, said Boris’ return would be “nonsense”.

Will Walden, who also previously worked for Johnson, said the former prime minister was back from vacation and drilling.

“The country needs a grown up, serious leader. Boris had a chance, let’s go. I don’t think the Conservative party will do that, they can re-elect him,” he told the BBC.

Jobs minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said he supports Boris by tweeting his support with the hashtag ‘#Borisorbust’.

The competition kicked off on Thursday, hours after Truss said he could stand in front of his Downing Street office if he could continue.

Former Goldman Sachs analyst Sunak, who became finance minister as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic hit Europe and came second to Truss in the previous leadership contest this summer, is bookies favorite, followed by Johnson.

In third place is Penny Mordaunt, a former secretary of defense popular with party members. None of them officially announced their candidacy.


Truss resigned after the shortest, most chaotic tenure of any British prime minister, after his economic program shattered the nation’s reputation for financial stability and left many people poorer.

Truss said he could no longer run his program after his economic plan rattled markets and forced him to take a U-turn under a new finance minister after he sacked his closest political ally.

The resignation speech of another unpopular prime minister in Downing Street on Thursday and the start of a new leadership race underscore just how volatile British politics has become since the 2016 Brexit vote.

Some Conservative lawmakers hope the race to replace him will be quick and simple, and are urging hopefuls to rally around one candidate to lessen the pain of another bruising contest.

Justified in his warnings that Truss’s financial plan is threatening the economy, Sunak remains deeply disliked by some party members after he helped trigger the summer revolt against Johnson.

Mordaunt is seen as a fresh pair of hands largely untainted by previous administrations. But it’s also untested and so far lags behind Sunak and Johnson in finding supporters.

The next leader faces a tough economic situation that takes over an economy headed for recession, inflation exceeding 10%, rising interest rates, labor shortages and cost-of-living tightness.

Worse-than-expected public debt figures underlined the economic challenges ahead, as data released on Friday saw British customers sharply rein in spending and confidence levels near record lows.

Whoever takes over the party, the Conservative Party, which has a large majority in the legislature and does not need two more years of nationwide elections, also has a mountain to climb to try to regain or renew its reputation.

“Whether a change of leadership would be enough to really make the Conservatives credible in the election is absolutely debatable,” political scientist John Curtice told LBC.

“The problem for the Conservatives is that their brand as a party that cares about the economy is now very, very badly tarnished, and it’s very difficult to recover in two years.”

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Written by Elizabeth Piper and Kylie MacLellan; Additional reports by Muvija M, Sachin Ravikumar, and William Schomberg; Editing by Toby Chopra and Catherine Evans

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