The contenders vying to succeed Boris Johnson as Britain’s next prime minister

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak.
Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is a favorite of bookmakers to succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister.
(Daniel Leal / Pool Photo)

Eight politicians are vying to replace Boris Johnson as the next Conservative Party leader and British prime minister.

These are the contenders who have secured support from at least 20 Conservative lawmakers to progress to Wednesday’s runoff votes:

Rishi Sunak, former treasury chief

Sunak, 42, is the best known of the party’s potential leaders and a favorite of bookmakers to succeed Johnson.


His public profile rose after he became the U.K.’s Treasury chief in 2020, a job that entailed overseeing the billions of pounds handed out during the coronavirus pandemic to help businesses and workers.

But he has faced criticism for not doing enough to ease the country’s growing cost-of-living crisis. His popularity also took a dive after police fined him for attending one of the government’s lockdown-flouting parties at 10 Downing St., the prime minister’s office and official residence.

Sunak says the promises to cut taxes made by many rival candidates are “not credible” and that he would only reduce taxes after inflation is under control.

Liz Truss, foreign secretary

Truss, 46, took on the high-profile Cabinet post in September after serving as trade minister. She is also the U.K.’s lead negotiator with the European Union on issues following Brexit.

Truss, the U.K.’s top diplomat, has made no secret of her leadership ambitions and has sought to emulate former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in carefully curated social media photos. If selected, she says she wants to cut taxes “from Day 1” and reverse an income tax hike.

Nominations in the race to become British prime minister have closed, with eight Conservatives securing enough support from their colleagues to make the first ballot.

July 12, 2022

Penny Mordaunt, trade minister

Mordaunt, 49, is popular with many Conservatives and is another bookmakers’ favorite to win.


She was the first woman to serve as U.K. defense secretary, although Johnson dismissed her shortly after he became prime minister in 2019 because she had backed another candidate for party leader, Jeremy Hunt.

Mordaunt, a former reality TV contestant, played a prominent role in the pro-Brexit campaign in 2016.

Jeremy Hunt, former Cabinet minister

Hunt, who has served as both health and foreign secretary, ran against Johnson in the 2019 leadership race. He lost decisively and was dumped from the Cabinet.

Hunt, 55, has remained a member of Parliament and kept himself in the public eye by grilling the government’s pandemic policies as head of the Health and Social Care Select Committee.

Tom Tugendhat, Commons Foreign Affairs Committee chair

Tugendhat, a 48-year-old lawmaker and former soldier, has never held a Cabinet post but heads the influential Foreign Affairs Committee in Parliament. He is seen as a centrist and has billed his candidacy as an opportunity for a clean start.

He said he is consulting a “broad coalition” of colleagues to bridge the divides in government.


Kemi Badenoch, former equalities minister

Badenoch, who has worked as a software engineer and at a private bank, grew up in Nigeria and says she experienced poverty first hand.

The 42-year-old lawmaker was initially considered an outsider for the race, but an endorsement from party heavyweight Michael Gove has boosted her profile.

She wants to lower taxes and lead a “limited government focused on essentials.”

Nadhim Zahawi, treasury chief

Zahawi, 55, came to prominence as vaccine minister during the pandemic. A co-founder of the market research firm YouGov, Zahawi was elected to Parliament in 2010.

He was born in Iraq to a Kurdish family and came to the U.K. as a child when his parents fled Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

Suella Braverman, attorney general

Braverman is a lawmaker and lawyer who became England’s attorney general in 2020.

A euroskeptic and supporter of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, Braverman, 42, says she wants to deliver “all of the great opportunities of Brexit” — including a tougher line on immigration and leaving the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights.