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Which Conservatives could succeed Britain’s Johnson if he falls?

LONDON – With British Prime Minister Boris Johnson dealt a heavy blow after survived a vote of no confidence Questions are already being raised by his own Conservative Party about who might succeed him if he were ousted.

Conservative lawmakers voted 211 to 148 to retain it Johnson as leader on Monday following revelations that he and his staff were holding Downing Street parties in breach of Britain’s COVID-19 lockdown rules. But the scale of the revolt was seen as more damaging than expected.

Though leadership rules give Johnson a year’s respite from another such vote, he faces other risks.

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Party rebels could change the rules to force an early vote; he could be seen as one political liability if the Conservatives lose a special election this month; he could be forced out if an ethics committee finds he lied to Parliament about the Partygate scandal; or he could just get fed up and quit.

That would trigger you leadership competition to choose his successor. While there’s no single leader, here’s a look at some potential contenders:

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LIZ TRUSS, FOREIGN SECRETARY

Truss, 46, took over the high-profile cabinet post in September after serving as trade secretary. Since then, she’s gained momentum as a contender and has made no secret of her ambitions.

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As Britain’s chief diplomat in the Ukraine crisis, Truss received a frosty reception from her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, before invading Moscow on February 24.

She is also the UK’s lead negotiator with the European Union on outstanding issues after Britain leaves the bloc. Once a campaigner for remaining in the EU, Truss has become the Brexit champion. In her previous role as International Trade Secretary, she signed post-Brexit deals around the world and channeled Johnson’s ambitions for “Global Britain”.

Truss is popular with many Conservatives, who see the free market-loving politician as echoes of the party’s first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. Truss supporters coined the slogan “In Liz We Truss”.

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RISHI SUNAK, HEAD OF TREASURY

Until recently, Sunak was widely regarded as the party’s brightest rising star, the most prominent of the contenders – and the bookies’ favorite to succeed Johnson.

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Sunak, 42, was thrust into the spotlight when he became chief financial officer in 2020 and had the unenviable task of leading the economy through the worst economic downturn on record due to the pandemic. He has spent billions of pounds in emergency spending to help businesses and workers and his policies have generally been seen in a positive light.

But Partygate changed that fate. Like Johnson, he was fined by police for attending a no-lockdown birthday party at Downing Street in June 2020. He was also heavily criticized for being slow to respond to the UK’s severe cost of living crisis.

Sunak also faced pressure after it was revealed his wife Akshata Murthy avoided paying UK taxes on her overseas earnings and that the former investment banker kept his US green card while serving in government.

If he succeeds, he would be Britain’s first black Prime Minister. Sunak was born to Indian parents who had moved to Britain from East Africa. He attended the exclusive private school of Winchester College and studied at Oxford.

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Some see his elite education and previous work at investment bank Goldman Sachs and a hedge fund as a deficit because he seems to lose touch with ordinary voters.

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JEREMY HUNT, FORMER CABINET MINISTER

Hunt, a former Health Secretary and Secretary of State, faced Johnson in the 2019 leadership race, billing himself as the more serious candidate. He lost heavily and was kicked out of cabinet when Johnson took over.

He has openly said he would not support Johnson and warned that keeping him in power would ruin the party’s chances in the next general election.

It is widely expected that he will run for party leadership again. In a January interview, the 55-year-old was quoted as saying his ambition to lead the country had not “completely disappeared”.

Hunt has remained a lawmaker and, as chairman of Parliament’s Select Committee on Health and Social Affairs, has kept himself in the public eye by grilling ministers and experts.

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A critic of the government’s response to the pandemic, he may appeal to those who want a move from Johnson, though some dismiss him for implementing unpopular policies as health secretary.

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BEN WALLACE, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE

Wallace’s no-nonsense words have won admirers, particularly among Conservative lawmakers who have been pushing for Britain to increase defense spending.

Wallace, a 52-year-old army veteran, has significantly raised his profile as a key government voice in Britain’s response Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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TOM TUGENDHAT, CHAIRMAN OF THE COMMONS EXTERNAL COMMITTEE

Tugendhat, 48, is a non-Cabinet Conservative mentioned as a possible contender for the leadership. Although he has no ministerial experience, Tugendhat is reportedly favored by some in the party as a good choice for a fresh start.

As an opponent of the 2016 Brexit referendum, the former soldier was a harsh critic of Johnson. He is also among a group of key Conservatives calling for Britain to take a tougher stance on China.

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NADHIM ZAHAWI, EDUCATION SECRETARY

Zahawi, 55, rose to prominence as Minister of Vaccines during the pandemic and has been credited with playing a key role in successfully rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine.

A co-founder of market research firm YouGov, Zahawi was elected to the legislature in 2010. Born in Iraq to a Kurdish family, he came to Britain as a child when his parents fled Iraq under Saddam Hussein’s rule.

He is seen by some as a safe pick when other candidates like Truss prove too divisive.

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SAJID JAVID, HEALTH SECRETARY

Javid, 52, has been Health Secretary since June 2021 and is leading the UK response to COVID-19. He was previously chief financial officer, but resigned in early 2020 after a falling out with Johnson over his order to sack his advisory team.

The fact that Johnson brought him back into government to manage the coronavirus response reflects his reputation for competence.

The son of Pakistani immigrants, Javid has described himself as an easy alternative to his privately educated rivals – although he had a lucrative career in investment banking before entering politics.

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MICHAEL GOVE, LEVEL UP SECRETARY

Gove, a party heavyweight, has held many key cabinet posts and is currently responsible for delivering on the government’s promise to “take Britain to a higher level” – to tackle inequality through more opportunities in disadvantaged areas.

Gove, 54, played a key role in the Brexit campaign and is widely respected within the party but does not enjoy full trust. In the 2016 Conservative leadership campaign, he endorsed Johnson as leader before deciding to run himself – a betrayal many Conservatives have not forgotten.

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PENNY MORDAUNT, TRADE SECRETARY

Mordaunt, 49, has emerged as a surprise potential contender, with supporters saying she could help heal divisions in the party.

Mordaunt featured prominently in the pro-Brexit campaign and had backed Hunt in the 2019 leadership contest. She was removed as defense secretary as soon as Johnson became prime minister.

She has since returned to government as international trade secretary and is popular with conservative lawmakers.

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https://www.local10.com/business/2022/06/08/which-conservatives-could-succeed-uks-johnson-if-he-falls/ Which Conservatives could succeed Britain’s Johnson if he falls?

Sarah Y. Kim

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