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UK leadership race hots up with at least 11 contenders announcing bids

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A general view of 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, January 29, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

Following the unceremonious exit of Boris Johnson as Britain's prime minister, many potential contenders have jumped on the bandwagon to replace him as the new premier and leader of the ruling Conservative party.

As of Monday, at least eleven candidates have joined the cut-throat race for the Tory leadership, including some seasoned campaigners and underdogs. 

UK foreign minister Liz Truss, 46, is seen as the front-runner in the race, followed by former defense minister Penny Mordaunt, 49. 

Declaring her plans in the Daily Telegraph, Truss, one of Johnson's staunchest allies, pledged to start cutting taxes "from day one".

The foreign secretary said she would "fight the election as a Conservative and govern as a Conservative".

Other favorites include former finance minister Rishi Sunak, 42, and former health minister Sajid Javid, 52.

There are reports that Sunak has asked Javid to step aside and support his campaign to become PM. The former Chancellor is being tipped as a strong contender to replace Johnson although Javid could ruin his plans.

Jeremy Hunt, 55, the former foreign secretary, Ben Wallace, 52, the defense secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, 55, finance minister, Suella Braverman, 42, the attorney general, Kemi Badenoch, 42, the former equalities minister, Tom Tugendhat, 49, backbench MP and Rehman Chishti, 43, a Tory lawmaker are the eleven names doing the rounds.

The 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs that organizes contests is expected to meet on Monday to decide the timetable and rules of the race.

The two-stage process will see Conservative MPs trim down the list of candidates to two, through voting rounds, before party members decide the winner.

A final two are expected to be chosen by the start of parliament's summer break on 21 July, according to a BBC report.

Johnson, who was the leader of the Conservative Party since 2019, was forced to resign last week following a slew of scandals.

Standing outside his Downing Street residence in central London on Thursday, Johnson explained that he had tried to persuade his colleagues that changing the government’s leader would be “eccentric”, but had failed, and therefore was “sad to be giving up the best job in the world.”

The resignation came as multiple scandals prompted many of the premier's key cabinet ministers to quit, including the Pincher scandal and a damning report into party gatherings that violated strict COVID lockdowns, and the resignation of Conservative legislator Neil Parish in April after he was caught watching pornography on his mobile phone in the House of Commons. He was disqualified from sitting in parliament.

Johnson had also been grilled for not devising wise plans to manage the cost-of-living crisis hitting the country, with many people struggling to cope with soaring fuel and food costs, made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Economists have warned the UK is now headed for a sharp slowdown or possibly a recession.

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