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Who could be in the frame to replace Boris Johnson if he resigns?

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Boris Johnson has been dealt a devastating blow after Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid resigned from Cabinet within minutes of each other.

Mr Sunak said “the public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously”, adding “I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning.”

In an incendiary letter, Mr Javid said the British people “expect integrity from their government” but voters now believed Mr Johnson’s administration was neither competent nor “acting in the national interest”.

The resignations came as Mr Johnson was forced into a humiliating apology over his handling of the Chris Pincher row after it emerged he had forgotten about being told of previous allegations of “inappropriate” conduct.

Mr Pincher quit as deputy chief whip last week following claims that he groped two men at a private members’ club, but Mr Johnson was told about allegations against him as far back as 2019.

With Mr Johnson teetering on the brink, we take a look at who could be in the frame to replace him if he resigns:

Liz Truss

“Fizz with Liz” has been a phrase associated with the foreign secretary amid reports earlier this year that she hosted MPs in her parliamentary office in a bid to schmooze possible backers.

Her threats to overwrite parts of the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol as well as her sanctions response to Russia over the Ukraine war are likely to have gone down well with some on the Conservative backbenchers.

Foreign secretary Liz Truss (PA)
Foreign secretary Liz Truss (PA)

Ms Truss, who is popular with Tory members, has steadily reformed her public image in recent years – from a remainer mocked for her speeches about cheese imports to someone who embraced Brexit following the referendum result and appeared to be emulating Margaret Thatcher in her press photos.

Rishi Sunak

The chancellor seemed nailed on to be in any future leadership race following his role in the pandemic, which saw him enjoy a popularity bounce after he turned on the spending taps in a bid to protect the economy and people.

Mr Sunak just last week insisted he was not considering resigning (PA)
Mr Sunak just last week insisted he was not considering resigning (PA)

But he has since endured a bruising period after questions were raised over his family’s finances and the disclosure that he had held a US green card – making him a “lawful permanent resident” of the United States – while he was chancellor.

Mr Sunak just last week insisted he is not considering resigning despite being fined for breaking coronavirus laws, and his response to the cost-of-living crisis remains under scrutiny.

Jeremy Hunt

The former health secretary and foreign secretary lost to Mr Johnson in the 2019 Tory leadership contest, but is widely tipped to make another bid.

Mr Hunt last month, ahead of the publication of the Sue Gray report, said he did not think “this is the moment for a leadership contest” but also noted: “I don’t rule out a return to frontline politics.”

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt (PA)
Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt (PA)

Mr Hunt campaigned for Remain during the EU referendum but later stated support for Leave. He has spent the last couple of years chairing the Health and Social Care Select Committee, which saw him make numerous interventions during the pandemic and question the Government’s approach.

Sajid Javid

His frontline political future was in doubt when he quit as chancellor in February 2020 just six months into the job after No 10 told him to sack all of his advisers. But Mr Javid has bounced back since June 2021 as health secretary.

Savid Javid quit as health secretary tonight (PA)
Savid Javid quit as health secretary tonight (PA)

In the 2019 leadership contest, he proposed cutting the top rate of income tax and he was also reported last month to be among those against a windfall tax on oil and gas producers.

With some in the party calling for lower taxes, this could chime with Mr Javid’s instincts and help boost his chances.

Penny Mordaunt

The trade minister with Cabinet experience was a key figure in the Leave campaign in 2016. Ms Mordaunt might be viewed as an outside bet but she is likely to attract support.

The Portsmouth North MP’s recent work has included leading efforts to secure economic pacts with American states and she is considered a strong speaker and on top of her brief in her Commons appearances.

Trade minister Penny Mordaunt (PA)
Trade minister Penny Mordaunt (PA)

Ben Wallace

The defence secretary has won admirers in Westminster for his straight-talking and straight-forward approach, particularly among Tory MPs who pressed for the UK to increase its defence spending although cuts to the size of the army remain a cause for concern.

Mr Wallace, who served in the Scots Guard, remains a key voice in the UK’s response to Russia’s renewed invasion of Ukraine and this increased exposure could assist any leadership bid.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace (PA Wire)
Defence secretary Ben Wallace (PA Wire)

Tom Tugendhat

The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee became the first to announce he intends to stand for leader should Mr Johnson be given the boot – with his declaration made in January.

The former soldier said: “I think I’m making it pretty clear that I think that it’s up to all of us to put ourselves forward. And it’s up to the electorate, in the first case parliamentary colleagues, and in the second case the party, to choose.

“I think it’s a position of absolute integrity to say that of course you should offer yourself to the electorate if you think you can do it. Of course you should talk to colleagues and see if you can get a group together, and if you can get a group together you should go for it.”

Mr Tugendhat’s ambitions might not be supported by everyone in the party, but they could secure him a plum job in a future cabinet.

While there are always likely to be some surprise candidates, what about those who may have missed their opportunity?

Dominic Raab

The Brexit-backing deputy prime minister whose political fortunes have fluctuated in recent years. Despite his senior jobs in the Cabinet, Mr Raab’s tenure as foreign secretary seems unlikely to assist his bid to review any leadership ambitions.

His decision to stay on a family holiday in Crete as the Taliban were marching back to power in Afghanistan lingers in the memory for many.

 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

Michael Gove

As the current communities secretary tasked with delivering on the government’s levelling-up agenda, Mr Gove continues to be given responsibility for big jobs.

The key Brexiteer famously scuppered Mr Johnson’s 2016 leadership bid.

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