Who could replace Boris Johnson as Prime Minister?

The Tory leadership hopefuls circling Boris Johnson: Ministers Ben Wallace, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak tipped to join former high-fliers Jeremy Hunt and Penny Mordaunt in any run to succeed PM

  • Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid resigned this evening casting doubt on Boris’ job
  • Possible candidates to succeed him come from all wings of the party
  • Front-runners are Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and predecessor Jeremy Hunt
  • Other candidates expected to run include Defence Secretary Ben Wallace
  • Boris Johnson’s leadership faces a fresh leadership crisis tonight after Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid dramatically quit the cabinet. 

    Tory MPs have been licking their lips at the thought of entering No10 as Prime Minister for months after Boris Johnson‘s backing within the party collapsed and he barely survived a no confidence vote.

    Possible candidates to succeed him if he is forced from office come from all wings of the party, from the libertarian right to the One Nation Tory centre.

    Among the front-runners are Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and one of her predecessors in the post, Jeremy Hunt, both of whom have made little secret of their desire to take the top job.

    Other candidates expected to join a leadership race include Defence Secretary Ben Wallace – who like Truss is very popular with grassroots Tories due to his tough position over the Ukraine war.

    And outsiders could include people like Tom Tugendhat, the former British Army officer and chairman of the foreign affairs committee, and Mark Harper, the former chief whip turned critic of the PM’s handling of the Covid pandemic.

    It seems likely the Conservative party will need to find an alternative to Boris Johnson, someone who can unite the party.

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing another leadership crisis after Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak both resigned this evening

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing another leadership crisis after Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak both resigned this evening








    Boris Johnson was the only member of the Cabinet in negative territory in a ConservativeHome grassroots poll last month

    Boris Johnson was the only member of the Cabinet in negative territory in a ConservativeHome grassroots poll last month

    Liz Truss: Instagram-friendly Foreign Secretary who loves a Maggie-themed photo 

    • 46-year-old Foreign Secretary and South West Norfolk MP
    • Has persistently been linked with a leadership challenge
    • Has used role to recreate some classic images of ex-PM Margaret Thatcher
    • Has faced a tough time with comments on the Ukraine conflict 

    Ms Truss has been regularly linked with a tilt at No10. The former international trade secretary was promoted last year to succeed Dominic Raab.

    The South West Norfolk MP has held a string of Cabinet posts under successive party leaders and is popular with the party grassroots.

    But while she has been hawkish over the war in Ukraine, the conflict has hit her prospects after several stumbles. 

    Prior to the February 24 invasion she visited Russia for talks with her Kremlin counterpart Sergei Lavrov, in which she overtly channeled the style of Margaret Thatcher on a similar trip 35 years previously.

    Her use of Instagram to share images of her looking tough and commanding has also drawn comment. 

    The South West Norfolk MP has held a string of Cabinet posts under successive party leaders and is popular with the party grassroots.

    The South West Norfolk MP has held a string of Cabinet posts under successive party leaders and is popular with the party grassroots.

    Liz Truss posed on a tank during a visit to British troops on deployment to Estonia last November, which drew comparisons with Margaret Thatcher (below)

    Liz Truss posed on a tank during a visit to British troops on deployment to Estonia last November, which drew comparisons with Margaret Thatcher (below)

    Liz Truss in Moscow this year

    Margaret Thatcher in 1987

    The Foreign Secretary posed for pictures in Red Square in a fur coat and hat, 35 years after the former Tory premier did the same on a visit to the then Soviet Union.

    But she received a bit of a mauling from Putin’s attack dog, who said their talks had been like ‘the deaf talking to the blind’.

    She was also criticised early in the conflict for urging Britons to go to fight for Russia even if they have no military experience, advice later contradicted by senior military figures.

    But the Remain voter from 2016 has become a born-again Brexiteer in the years since, something that will aid her in any vote. 

    As Foreign Secretary she has taken on responsibility for negotiating changes to the Brexit agreement with the EU to sort out the political impasse in Northern Ireland. A deadlock-breaking agreement is unlikely but unilateral action by the UK is being mooted, which could help boost her credentials.  

    Jeremy Hunt: Former Cabinet minister who wants another go after losing to Boris in 2019

    • Former foreign secretary and longest-serving health secretary in history
    • 53-year-old lost heavily to Mr Johnson in 2019 leadership vote final
    • Former Remainer who has become a convert to the Brexit cause 
    • Has made no secret of desire to run again with increasingly high profile

    Jeremy Hunt lost heavily to Boris Johnson in the 2019 leadership election that followed the resignation of Theresa May. 

    But he is showing no signs of letting the mauling at the hands of Tory members dissuade him three years later.

    The former minister turned Health Committee chairman has made a series of increasingly high profile public interventions on health policy in recent weeks. 

    And he has consistently refused to rule out running to replace Boris Johnson if he quits. 

    He tweeted before the no confidence vote: ‘Today’s decision is change or lose. I will be voting for change.’

    The former minister turned Health Committee chairman has made a series of increasingly high profile public interventions on health policy in recent weeks.

    The former minister turned Health Committee chairman has made a series of increasingly high profile public interventions on health policy in recent weeks.















    Previously he refused to say whether Boris Johnson was ‘honest’ as he warned the Prime Minister has a ‘big mountain to climb’ in winning back Tory voters.

    The South West Surrey MP cast doubt on the PM’s ability to once again prove a Tory vote winner as he insisted it would be a ‘mistake’ to dismiss the party’s local election losses as ‘mid-term blues’. 

    But the former Cabinet minister insisted now was not the time for renewed efforts to topple Mr Johnson and said he ‘hoped’ the PM would lead the Tories into the next general election.

    The comments were seen as a warning shot to the PM – and a clear message to Tory MPs – that he is waiting in the wings should Mr Johnson continue to stumble. 

    Like Truss he is a former Remain voter who has become a convert to the Brexit cause. He also has his own fair share of gaffs in his locker, including describing his Chinese wife Lucia – with whom he has three children – as ‘Japanese’ in an interview.   

    Ben Wallace: Hawkish Defence Secretary who has talked tough about ‘tonto’ Putin

    • 52-year-old former British Army officer is Defence Secretary
    • He is currently the most popular minister with the Tory grassroots 
    • Sandhurst-educated father of three has led efforts to arm Ukraine to fight off the Russian invasion
    • Was targeted by Russian pranksters who managed to speak to him on a video call in March

    Currently the most popular minister with Tory grassroots, according to the Conservative Home website. 

    The Defence Secretary’s low profile has risen into full view as he emerged as one of the foremost Cabinet hawks on the Ukraine War. 

    The 52-year-old former Scots Guards officer has been at the forefront of efforts to supply Kyiv with weapons and expertise to fight off the Russian invasion, which has boosted his support base and name recognition.

    The Sandhurst-educated father of three has overcome a Russian attempt to humiliate him after a Kremlin-backed prankster managed to get through to him on a video call, parts of which were later broadcast on YouTube.

    He was asked if he supported Ukraine’s ‘nuclear aims’ by a man claiming to be the PM of Ukraine.

    He has also avoided being implicated in the worst failures of the UK’s retreat from Afghanistan last summer, with blame being generally laid at the door of the Foreign Office.

    The Defence Secretary's low profile has risen into full view as he emerged as one of the foremost Cabinet hawks on the Ukraine War

    The Defence Secretary’s low profile has risen into full view as he emerged as one of the foremost Cabinet hawks on the Ukraine War








    He tweeted before Boris’ no confidence vote: ‘In 2019 Boris won with a majority of 80. He has delivered victories in seats we have never held before. 

    ‘On Covid, on Ukraine he has helped deliver a world leading response. He has my full confidence.’

    Rishi Sunak: Once high-flying Chancellor who has now resigned

    • Chancellor was top-rated minister at the end of 2021 after Covid largesse
    • He quit his role and Chancellor of the Exchequer this evening 
    • His profile went into freefall after a series of controversies in 2022
    • Wife revealed to be a non-dom taxpayer living in Downing Street
    • Sunak himself also faced questions over US Green Card possession 

    Now At the end of 2021 the Chancellor was the number one candidate to succeed Boris Johnson. 

    His largesse with taxpayers’ cash during the Covid crisis – furlough payments and other measures – and slick social media campaigns made him widely popular within the party and with the wider electorate.

    It was a rapid rise to the top for a minister who only became Chancellor weeks before lockdown kicked in early in 2020. 

    But the popularity of ‘Brand Rishi’ has taken a tumble in 2022 amid a series of controversies and rows with No10 – culminating in his resignation this evening.

    Quitting his role and abandoning Boris, may help save his tarnished reputation. 








    At the end of 2021 the Chancellor was the number one candidate to succeed Boris Johnson.

    At the end of 2021 the Chancellor was the number one candidate to succeed Boris Johnson.

    Rishi Sunak was hit by a political backlash over the news that his heiress wife Akshata Murty was domiciled in India for tax purposes

    Sunak told the Sun: 'I'm an elected politician. So I know what I signed up for. It's different when people are trying to attack you by coming at your family and particularly your wife. It's unpleasant, especially when she hasn't done anything wrong'

    Rishi Sunak was hit by a political backlash over the news that his heiress wife Akshata Murty was domiciled in India for tax purposes

    In the spring it was revealed his multi-millionaire heiress wife Akshata Murty was revealed to be living in Downing Street while having non-dom tax status.

    She has legally avoided paying a huge UK tax bill by paying £30,000 a year to register as based in India.

    He insisted she hasn’t ‘done anything wrong’ while accusing his critics of ‘smearing her to get at him’. She later agreed to pay full UK tax.

    Later it emerged Mr Sunak, a father of two and former international banker, himself held a US Green Card for a year into his term leading the Treasury. 

    While the status would not save him any money on his tax bill, it carries a responsibility to make the United States ‘your permanent home’.

    There were also a series of rows with No 10 after recovery spending and his involvement with Partygate: he received a £50 fine for attending Boris Johnson’s surprise – and rule-breaking – birthday party in No10 in June 2020, even though he claimed he was just passing through on his way to a meeting.

    His supporters blamed No10 for embroiling him in the controversy, souring an already acidic relationship within Downing Street.

    Penny Mordaunt: popular Brexiteer trade minister who pointedly refused to back Boris today

    • Trade minister and Royal Navy reservist who backed Jeremy Hunt in 2019
    • Ignored other ministers tweeting support for PM to instead write about D-Day
    • She was the first woman to serve as defence secretary and was also international trade secretary
    • Appeared on reality TV show in 2014 wearing just a swimsuit 

    Penny Mordaunt has already emerged as possibly one of the least subtle potential candidates to run.

    While other ministers tweeted their support of the Prime Minister at the time of his no confidence vote, she pointedly tweeted … about attending a D-Day ceremony in Portsmouth, where she is an MP. 

    ‘Today I will be attending Portsmouth’s commemoration service to remember the efforts and sacrifice of #DDay,’ she wrote.

    The Brexiteer, 49, a naval reservist who once appeared on reality TV in a swimsuit, is popular with party members.

    She was the first woman to serve as defence secretary and was also international trade secretary and is currently a trade minister. 

    Supporters have pushed her credentials as the potential unity candidate any leadership race appears to lack – she is a Brexit voter who backed Jeremy Hunt in 2019. 

    She was the first woman to serve as defence secretary and was also international trade secretary and is currently a trade minister.

    She was the first woman to serve as defence secretary and was also international trade secretary and is currently a trade minister.

    While other ministers spend this morning tweeting their support of the Prime Minister, she pointedly tweeted ... about attending a D-Day ceremony in Portsmouth, where she is an MP.

    While other ministers spend this morning tweeting their support of the Prime Minister, she pointedly tweeted … about attending a D-Day ceremony in Portsmouth, where she is an MP.

    The Brexiteer, 49, a naval reservist who once appeared on reality TV in a swimsuit, is popular with party members.

    The Brexiteer, 49, a naval reservist who once appeared on reality TV in a swimsuit, is popular with party members.

    Ms Mordaunt has already been on resignation watch once this year. In January she spoke out against a proposed £1.2 billion underwater electricity cable project backed by a Russian oligarch and major Tory donor.

    She opposed plans by Aquind, co-owned by Alexander Temerko, to construct the interconnector under the Channel between Normandy and Portsmouth.

    Temerko, who previously ran a firm producing weapons for Russia’s military, and Aquind have given more than £1 million to the Tories and the oligarch has regularly featured in photos at fundraisers with Prime Ministers and their Cabinets.

    Government sources said Mordaunt was ready to quit if the cable was approved. The project was later rejected.

    Tom Tugendhat: Iraq and Afghanistan veteran turned China and foreign affairs hawk

    • An Army reservist who served in Iraq and Afghanistan
    • The son of a high court judge and the nephew of a Tory peer.
    • Father of two said in 2017 that it would be ‘great to be PM’. 

    Another Tory MP with military experience. Tugendhat, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, is a confirmed Boris critic who has taken aim at the government over its attitude to China and the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

    Some MPs believe the 48-year-old, an Army reservist who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, would be well-suited to the role and represents the ‘best chance for a fresh start’.

    However, some are concerned about his lack of political experience and voting for a second posh PM in a row. He is the son of a high court judge and the nephew of a Tory peer.

    Mr Tugendhat, who is married with two children, has previously made clear that he would fancy a tilt at the top job, saying in 2017 that it would be ‘great to be PM’. 

    Some MPs believe the 48-year-old, an Army reservist who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, would be well-suited to the role and represents the 'best chance for a fresh start'.

    Some MPs believe the 48-year-old, an Army reservist who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, would be well-suited to the role and represents the ‘best chance for a fresh start’.

    He was a member of the Territorial Army when the Iraq War broke out in 2003 and he was mobilised as an Arabic-speaking intelligence officer to serve with the Royal Marines. He went into Iraq as part of Operation TELIC – the initial invasion.

    After the war he returned to a job in the City of London but then went back to Iraq to help with the economic reconstruction of the country.

    In 2006 the Foreign Office then asked Mr Tugendhat to go to Afghanistan to help grow its national security council. The Tory MP can speak Arabic, Dari and French.

    The Tory MP was applauded in the House of Commons during a debate on the UK’s exit from Afghanistan in August 2021 as he detailed his experience in the country.

    He told a silent chamber: ‘Like many veterans, this last week has seen me struggle through anger, grief and rage—through the feeling of abandonment of not just a country, but the sacrifice that my friends made.

    ‘I have been to funerals from Poole to Dunblane. I have watched good men go into the earth, taking with them a part of me and a part of all of us. This week has torn open some of those wounds, has left them raw and left us all hurting.’

    Nadhim Zahawi: Minister who came to the UK as a child refugee and made a fortune 

    • Kurdish Iraqi arrived in the UK as a refugee from Saddam Hussein’s regime 
    • One of the wealthiest members of Parliament, he set up polling company YouGov
    • He is said to have a property empire worth around £100million. 

    Mr Zahawi is seen by some as an outside choice to replace the PM. He has a strong personal back story that culminated in him becoming the first Kurdish Iraqi MP.

    The Education Secretary fled Saddam Hussein’s Iraq with his family when he was a child. Privately-educated at King’s College School in West London and University College London where he studied chemical engineering. 

    One of the wealthiest members of Parliament, he went on to be named ‘entrepreneur of the year’ by Ernst & Young and set up successful polling company YouGov. 

    He is said to have a property empire worth around £100million.

    The Education Secretary fled Saddam Hussein's Iraq with his family when he was a child. Privately-educated at King's College School in West London and University College London where he studied chemical engineering.

    The Education Secretary fled Saddam Hussein’s Iraq with his family when he was a child. Privately-educated at King’s College School in West London and University College London where he studied chemical engineering.

    The father-of-three was elected MP in 2010 – the first Kurdish Iraqi to be elected to Parliament.

    The Brexit-supporting minister is trusted by Number 10 and is a regular feature on the morning media round.

    Despite initially backing Dominic Raab for Conservative party leader in 2019, he has been loyal to Mr Johnson ever since.

    He was previously children’s minister from January 2018 to July 2019, during which time he attended the controversial Presidents Club Ball.

    He was said to have been given a dressing down by the chief whip after complaints of sexism and harassment at the all-male gathering for the business elite.

    During the MPs expenses scandal, he was forced to apologise for claiming taxpayers’ money to heat his stables on his Warwickshire estate.