Conservative leadership contest: Can Boris Johnson become Prime Minister and who else is in the running?

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Déjà Vu? I think so… As the UK faces yet another Conservative leadership contest the nation asks - could Boris Johnson become Prime Minister again?

Moments before Liz Truss made her terminal speech from the lectern, the former Prime Minister met with the chair of the 1922 committee to agree upon a modified leadership election to take place next week - here’s everything you need to know.

On October 20, Liz Truss announced her resignation as Prime Minister after just 44 days in Number 10. It was a troublesome 24-hours for the former PM which started with a fractious fracking vote and spiralled into swelling pressure from Conservative ministers.

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For many, the writing was on the wall and just days prior, YouGov asked Tory party members who they would most like to take over if Ms Truss resigned. Boris Johnson topped the poll, scoring 32% with the 530 members asked.

The former London Mayor has also shot up in the bookies estimations, now sitting in second place ahead of the incumbent Leader of the House Penny Mourdant while Rishi Sunak sits firmly in first place.

It is expected that MPs would prefer a more technocratic and moderate pair of hands to steer the ship but with tory members having already favoured Liz Truss and Boris Johnson at previous leadership contests, there is no ruling out that they could opt for the old etonian once again.

But can Johnson actually run again with his premiership being so recent & what does a ‘modified’ Leadership election look like? Here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming Conservative leadership contest.

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How will the Conservative party leadership election 2022 work?

A House of Commons brief published on Thursday (October 20), details how the modified leadership election will work. The brief explains that the shortened timetable would require an “alteration” to the rules - which have been agreed by Chairman of the 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady and Conservative Party chair Jake Berry. Here’s a rundown on how the leadership election will work:

  • Nominations close at 2pm on Monday (October 24).
  • Each candidate will require 100 nominations from Conservative MPs. 
  • If three candidates reach the 100 threshold, a ballot will be used to determine the final two.
  • If two reach the final round, they will be subject to a meaningless indicative vote of Conservative MPs to test they can command a majority.
  • There will be a TV debate between the two contestants. 
  • The final two will be subject to a quick online vote of Party members to be completed by October 28. 
  • If only one contestant reaches the 100 MP threshold, they will automatically become Prime Minister, without being subject to a public vote.  

Who are the frontrunners in the Conservative leadership election 2022?

Rishi Sunak is currently the favourite to win the leadership contest Rishi Sunak is currently the favourite to win the leadership contest
Rishi Sunak is currently the favourite to win the leadership contest | Getty Images

According to Oddschecker, the frontrunners for the Conservative leadership election 2022 are Rishi Sunak, Boris Johnson, and Penny Mourdant.. All potential candidates are yet to rule out that they will stand.

Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak was the Chancellor of the Exchequer under Boris Johnson and topped the MPs vote in the summer ahead of Liz Truss, when he ran for office. Sunak is seen as a fiscally competent and technocratic choice and has certainly scored a few points after predicting the downfall of ‘Trussonomics’.

However, Sunak has previously faced criticism and scandal over his wealthy wife’s tax status and during the summer leadership election a leaked video negatively framed his attitudes toward the working-class.

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Boris Johnson

Johnson may be a name of disdain for many but he is quickly becoming the bookies ‘dark horse’ for next Prime Minister. There are no rules that would forbid Johnson from being Prime Minister again, even so soon after his first stint ended.

Johnson is also very much a frontrunner amongst Tory voters - with a strong cult of floating and centre-right voters - despite losing the trust of more moderate voters.

Penny Mourdant

The incumbent Commons leader finished third in the summer leadership contest. Unlike other candidates, Mourdant is a more centrist and moderate Conservative MP.

Mourdant was the Secretary of State for International Development and Secretary of State for Defence under Theresa May - becoming the first woman to hold the role. However, her time on the front bench was cut short as Johnson abruptly sacked her and appointed Ben Wallace instead.

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Could Boris Johnson run for Prime Minister again?

Though it is technically possible and the former PM is yet to rule it out, political commentators have agreed Johnson may fall at the first hurdle. Prior to his resignation in July, a record number of frontbenchers resigned and a vote of no-confidence was even called as MPs quickly sent their letters to Sir Graham Brady.

If Tory members are to have a chance at voting for the Uxbirdge MP, he will need to eclipse the 100 threshold which may be a struggle.

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