Who Are The Candidates For Tory Leader And What Are They Promising?

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Rishi Sunak, Penny Mordaunt and Tom Tugendhat are just three of the runners in the race to be the next Tory leader and prime minister. (Photo: Getty Images)
Rishi Sunak, Penny Mordaunt and Tom Tugendhat are just three of the runners in the race to be the next Tory leader and prime minister. (Photo: Getty Images)

Rishi Sunak, Penny Mordaunt and Tom Tugendhat are just three of the runners in the race to be the next Tory leader and prime minister. (Photo: Getty Images)

The race to replace Boris Johnson as Conservative party leader has now formally kicked off and already bitter divisions between the candidates are coming to the fore.

Opponents of the frontrunner, Rishi Sunak, are already weaponising his decision to increase national insurance against him — while themselves promising tax cuts that the former chancellor regards as the stuff of “fairytales”.

Initially 11 candidates declared their intention to run, but that number now stands at eight after Grant Shapps, Sajid Javid and little-known MP Rehman Chishti all withdrew from the race. Priti Patel, who was also considering a bid, has now decided she will not run.

HuffPost UK takes you through all the contenders so far, what they are proposing and who is backing them.

Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak has won the most MP endorsements so far. (Photo: Hollie Adams via Getty Images)
Rishi Sunak has won the most MP endorsements so far. (Photo: Hollie Adams via Getty Images)

Rishi Sunak has won the most MP endorsements so far. (Photo: Hollie Adams via Getty Images)

Sunak has already emerged as the favourite in the race, having racked up over 40 endorsements from Tory MPs so far.

In a slick campaign video released on Friday, emblazoned with the hashtag ”#Ready4Rishi”, the former chancellor sought to capitalise on his reputation as a “serious” politician who steered the country through the coronavirus pandemic, saying the country could not tell itself “comforting fairy tales” — in an apparent swipe at his rivals’ promises to slash tax.

In his first policy pitch and dip into the culture war territory, Sunak also pledged to protect women’s rights and expressed his opposition to gender-neutral language.

Who is backing him?

Mark Harper, Jacob Young , Angela Richardson, John Glen, Laura Trott, Mark Spencer, Claire Coutinho, Liam Fox, Kevin Hollinrake, Paul Maynard, Robert Jenrick, Bob Neill, Oliver Dowden, Mel Stride, Julie Marson, Bim Afolami , Simon Jupp, Simon Hoare, Louie French, ,Andrew Murrison , Helen Whately, Maria Caulfield, Fay Jones, Peter Gibson, Craig Williams, Robert Goodwill, James Cartlidge, Gareth Davies, Siobhan Baillie , Simon Hart, Rebecca Pow, Anthony Browne, Ruth Edwards, Greg Hands, Gary Streeter, Laura Farris, Andrew Bowie, Alex Chalk, Victoria Prentis, Grant Shapps, Dominic Raab, Gavin Williamson, Lucy Frazer, Gillian Keegan, Matt Hancock, James Wild, Mark Menzies.

Penny Mordaunt

Penny Mordaunt has pledged to introduce a 50 per cent cut in VAT on fuel. (Photo: Aaron Chown - PA Images via Getty Images)
Penny Mordaunt has pledged to introduce a 50 per cent cut in VAT on fuel. (Photo: Aaron Chown - PA Images via Getty Images)

Penny Mordaunt has pledged to introduce a 50 per cent cut in VAT on fuel. (Photo: Aaron Chown - PA Images via Getty Images)

The international trade minister and former defence secretary is seen as a unifying candidate who can appeal to the Tories’ broad voter base in the north and south.

In her campaign video — which had to be tweaked after a series of unfortunate gaffes — Mordaunt played heavily on the themes of patriotism and duty. She said the leadership of the party “has to change”.

“It needs to become a little less about the leader and a lot more about the ship,” she said.

Mordaunt has pledged to introduce a 50 per cent cut in VAT on fuel.

Who is backing her?

Kieran Mullan, Nicola Richards, Andrea Leadsom, Michael Fabricant, Caroline Dinenage, John Lamont, Charles Walker, Alicia Kearns, Robbie Moore, George Freeman, Caroline Ansell, Harriet Baldwin, Craig Tracey, Elliot Colburn, James Gray, Damian Collins, Derek Thomas, Maria Miller, Theo Clarke, Duncan Baker, James Sunderland, Sarah Atherton, Kate Griffiths, Bob Seely, David Davis, Bob Stewart, James Davies.

Liz Truss

Foreign secretary Liz Truss has said she will cut taxes on
Foreign secretary Liz Truss has said she will cut taxes on

Foreign secretary Liz Truss has said she will cut taxes on "day one". (Photo: Dan Kitwood via Getty Images)

The foreign secretary, who has long been rumoured to have her eyes on the leadership crown, vowed she would“start cutting taxes from day one” if she succeeds Johnson as prime minister.

Truss said she would reverse the 1.25 percentage-point increase in national insurance increase brought in by Sunak if she enters No.10, and she also pledgedto “keep corporation tax competitive so we can attract business and investment into Britain”.

The rate is due to go up from 19 per cent to 25 per cent from next year.

Truss believes she is the only candidate who can unite Tory voters in the north and south with an economic plan “based on Conservative principles”.

A spokesman for her campaign said: “The next prime minister has to be someone who unites the Red and Blue Wall, has a clear vision for the country and economy based on Conservative principles, and has the experience and track record to deliver that vision and hit the ground running on day one.

“Liz is the only candidate who ticks all of those boxes.”

Who is backing her?

Alec Shelbrooke, Dehenna Davison, Jackie Doyle-Price, Julian Knight, Chloe Smith, Rob Butler, Dean Russell, Marcus Fysh, Darren Henry, Simon Clarke, Ranil Jayawardena, Therese Coffey, Kwasi Kwarteng, Wendy Morton, Vicky Ford, James Cleverly, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Nadine Dorries, Mark Pritchard, Paul Bristow, Brendan-Clarke Smith, Chris Chope

Suella Braverman

Suella Braverman, the attorney general, has said she wants to take the UK out of the EHCR. (Photo: CARLOS JASSO via Getty Images)
Suella Braverman, the attorney general, has said she wants to take the UK out of the EHCR. (Photo: CARLOS JASSO via Getty Images)

Suella Braverman, the attorney general, has said she wants to take the UK out of the EHCR. (Photo: CARLOS JASSO via Getty Images)

Braverman, the attorney general, is pitching to her party firmly from the right, as a “true Brexiteer” who has won the support of influential MPs and eurosceptics including Steve Baker, who dropped his own leadership bid to back Braverman.

She has already promised to take the UK out of the much-maligned European Court of Human Rights, a move that will appeal to MPs who were angered by the legal challenge that effectively grounded the government’s first charter flight to Rwanda. 

Braverman, who was the fist candidate to announce she was running, is also playing hard ball on Brexit — vowing to amend the Northern Ireland protocol from “day one”.

Who is backing her?

Desmond Swayne, Jason McCartney, Robin Millar, Henry Smith, Steve Baker, Julian Lewis, John Hayes, Philip Hollobone, Richard Drax, Danny Kruger, David Jones, Miriam Cates.

Tom Tugendhat

Foreign affairs select committee chair Tom Tugendhat said he had the
Foreign affairs select committee chair Tom Tugendhat said he had the

Foreign affairs select committee chair Tom Tugendhat said he had the "real world" experience to be PM. (Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS via Getty Images)

Tugendhat was one of the first candidates to announce his leadership bid. He has the benefit of being untainted by association with Johnson or his government, thereby allowing him to present himself as a “clean start” for the party.

The chair of the foreign affairs select committee is most likely the choice for the moderate, One Nation wing of the Conservative party — though recent comments that he would be prepared to stick with legislation to rip up the Northern Ireland protocol, as well as his support for the Rwanda policy, may trouble some.

Tugendhat, who said his military service in Afghanistan and Iraq gave him the “real world” experience to lead the country as prime minister, also vowed to “lower taxes across every aspect of society” and will slash fuel duty by 10p per litre if elected.

Who is backing him?

Damian Green, Aaron Bell, Robert Largan, John Stevenson, Stephen Hammond, Robert Syms, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Mark Logan, Chris Green, Anne Marie Morris, Nickie Aiken, Damien Moore, Karen Bradley, Jake Berry, Paul Holmes, Mark Pawsey, James Daly, Jo Gideon, Neil Hudson, Ben Spencer.

Nadhim Zahawi

Nadhim Zahawi is coming under pressure over his private financial affairs. (Photo: Stefan Rousseau - PA Images via Getty Images)
Nadhim Zahawi is coming under pressure over his private financial affairs. (Photo: Stefan Rousseau - PA Images via Getty Images)

Nadhim Zahawi is coming under pressure over his private financial affairs. (Photo: Stefan Rousseau - PA Images via Getty Images)

Zahawi, who was promoted to chancellor in Johnson’s new Cabinet after previously serving as education secretary, is also running on a ticket to cut taxes, which he proposes to fund by forcing every government department to reduce costs by 20 per cent.

He has also pledged to increase defence spending to 2.5 per cent of GDP by 2025, cut the base rate of income tax to 19p in 2023 and 18p in 2024. He will also scrap green levies and VAT on energy bills for two years.

The chancellor is already facing criticism over his financial arrangements after the Independent reported that his tax affairs are under investigation by HMRC.

He has also come under fire over reports he used he used taxpayers’ cash to heat his horse stables — something he said was a “genuine mistake”.

Zahawi has pledged to publish his returns annually if he becomes prime minister, but that he would not release his tax returns from over the last decade. He dismissed some of the reports against him as “smears”.

Who is backing him?

Jonathan Gullis, Sara Britcliffe , Brandon Lewis, David Johnston, Amanda Milling, Michelle Donelan, Mark Fletcher, Jesse Norman, Mark Jenkinson, Jack Brereton, Tobias Ellwood, Paul Scully, Maggie Throup, Ben Everitt.

Kemi Badenoch

Kemi Badenoch put free speech and her opposition to identity politics at the heart of her pitch. (Photo: UK Parliament via PA Media)
Kemi Badenoch put free speech and her opposition to identity politics at the heart of her pitch. (Photo: UK Parliament via PA Media)

Kemi Badenoch put free speech and her opposition to identity politics at the heart of her pitch. (Photo: UK Parliament via PA Media)

Badenoch is often touted as a rising Tory star and secured a massive coup when party heavyweight Michael Gove confirmed that he was backing her.

In an article for the Sunday Times, Badenoch, who served previously served as a local government and equalities minister, put free speech and her opposition to identity politics at the heart of her pitch, as well as tight spending and “strong but limited government focused on the essentials”.

“I’m putting myself forward in this leadership election because I want to tell the truth. It’s the truth that will set us free,” she wrote.

Who is backing her?

Tom Hunt, Michael Gove, Lee Rowley, Eddie Hughes, Lee Anderson, Julia Lopez, Justin Tomlinson, Ben Bradley, Gareth Bacon, Caroline Johnson, Andrew Lewer, Neil O’Brien, Leo Docherty, Alex Burghart, Lucy Allan, Nigel Mills, Sarah Dines, Marco Longhi.

Jeremy Hunt

(Photo: Hollie Adams via Getty Images)
(Photo: Hollie Adams via Getty Images)

(Photo: Hollie Adams via Getty Images)

Hunt enters the race as one of the most experienced contenders, having served in top Cabinet posts including health secretary and foreign secretary under Theresa May and David Cameron.

Sometimes derided as “Theresa May in trousers”, he may struggle to break his association with the former prime minister and appeal to those who served under Johnson.

Hunt has also said he wants to “cut all taxes” and that the party should “always be looking at” ways to reduce department running costs. He has also proposed cutting corporation tax to 15 per cent, down from the current 19 per cent.

If elected, he said he would pick Tory MP Esther McVey as his deputy.

Who is backing him?

Phillip Dunne, Steve Brine, Dan Poulter, Anthony Mangnall, Crispin Blunt, Oliver Heald, Philip Davies, David Morris, Andrew Mitchell, Esther McVey, Peter Bottomley, Daniel Kawczynski, Jonathan Djanogly, Paul Beresford.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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