Rishi Sunak and other Conservative hopefuls announce leadership bids to replace Boris Johnson - with more expected this weekend

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The first candidates have entered the contest to replace Boris Johnson as Conservative leader, with more hopefuls expected to throw their hats into the ring over the weekend.

Last night, Rishi Sunak announced his bid on social media, promising to "restore trust, rebuild the economy and reunite the country".

The former chancellor, who spectacularly resigned on Tuesday evening triggering an avalanche of government resignations, was quickly endorsed by a large number of Conservative MPs.

These included Commons leader Mark Spencer, who said Mr Sunak "is the leader that can unite the party", and former chairman of the Conservative Party Oliver Dowden, who described the former chancellor as "the best person to lead our country and unquestionably the best person to beat Labour".

Former cabinet minister Liam Fox said Mr Sunak is the only candidate who has the "experience, integrity and vision" to lead the country through the economic challenges it is currently facing.

Announcing his intention to join the race, Mr Sunak said the country faces "huge challenges".

In a video uploaded alongside a tweet pitching himself as the next head of the party, Mr Sunak said: "I want to lead this country in the right direction."

He also stressed his experience during the pandemic as an example of why he is fit for the job.

"I ran the toughest department in government during the toughest times when we faced the nightmare of COVID," he continued.

"My values are non-negotiable: patriotism, fairness, hard work.

"We've had enough of division.

"Politics at its best is a unifying endeavour and I have spent my career bringing people together. Because that is the only way to succeed."

Mr Sunak's campaign website, www.ready4rishi.com, appears to have been originally registered under a slightly different name - www.readyforrishi.com - which redirects to the official page and was set up in December last year.

On Thursday evening, Tom Tugendhat became the first MP to say he would run to replace Mr Johnson in a Tory leadership contest.

Mr Tugendhat, chairman of parliament's foreign affairs committee, said "it's time for renewal".

Writing in The Telegraph, Mr Tugendhat said: "I have served before - in the military, and now in parliament. Now I hope to answer the call once again as prime minister."

Confirming her intention to run in The Times, former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch laid out her plan to radically cut the size of the state and preside over a "limited government focused on essentials".

Sky News understands that Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is also weighing up a leadership bid - as is former health secretary Sajid Javid.

Dominic Raab, who stood in as acting prime minister when Boris Johnson was struck down with COVID in the spring of 2020, will not run.

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Neither will former levelling up secretary Michael Gove or Matt Hancock, who quit the government after breaking COVID rules during lockdown.

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Speaking prior to Mr Johnson's resignation, Attorney General Suella Braverman said she would put her name forward if a leadership contest were to arise.

Ardent Brexiteer Steve Baker confirmed on Friday evening that he would not be running, despite considering doing so, and would instead be backing Ms Braverman.

"My priorities were delivering against our manifesto with our mandate, cutting taxes and seeing through Brexit," he posted on social media.

"Happily I no longer need to stand. Suella Braverman will deliver these priorities and more."

Ben Wallace is the favourite to succeed Mr Johnson as Tory leader and prime minister, having risen up the party's popularity rankings in recent months.

The latest YouGov poll of Tory members shows the defence secretary as the clear favourite for next leader, beating all the main expected contenders including Mr Sunak, Penny Mordaunt and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.

However, he is yet to throw his hat in the ring.

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Sky News' political correspondent Joe Pike understands Mr Wallace is discussing the matter with his family before deciding how to proceed.

Mr Sunak's announcement saw bookmakers Ladbrokes install him as their joint favourite to succeed Mr Johnson alongside Mr Wallace.

More bids are expected in the coming days, including Mr Sunak's successor as chancellor, Nadhim Zahawi, and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.

Following elections to the executive of the backbench 1922 Committee on Monday, the new body will draw up a timetable for the leadership election.

Mr Johnson has said he wants to stay in Number 10 until the contest has concluded.

Labour has confirmed it will table a Commons vote of no confidence in the government if Mr Johnson refuses to go voluntarily.

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