The race to replace Boris Johnson as Tory leader and British Prime Minister is narrowed to five candidates after the second round of voting among Tory MPs on Thursday.
As former finance minister Rishi Sunak leads the way with fellow MPs, runner-up Penny Mordaunt polls party members, who will ultimately decide the winner.
Britain’s first Hindu finance minister and Britain’s richest MP, Sunak, resigned last week and said he was up three days later.
Sunak, 42, launched his campaign on Tuesday, saying he would not ‘demonize’ Johnson’s incumbency despite helping trigger his demise.
His star rose rapidly during his first term as finance minister, overseeing the furlough scheme that subsidized workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
He has long been seen as Johnson’s most likely successor, but his popularity has recently plummeted amid runaway inflation and questions about his private wealth and family tax arrangements.
Sunak, who backed Brexit in the 2016 referendum, made millions in finance before politics, and his Indian wife’s father Akshata Murty co-founded IT giant Infosys.
Its apparent reluctance to embrace immediate tax cuts could also hurt its prospects, while recent membership polls have also shown it trailing most major competitors.
Mordaunt, 49, is currently the favorite to win the entire contest due to her perceived popularity with the party base.
Several recent polls have shown her beating all other contenders in the second final round offered to members.
However, these investigations can be very volatile and relatively little is known about Mordaunt, despite being the first female Secretary of Defense and current Minister of Commerce.
After a successful campaign launch on Wednesday, it was overturned on Thursday when David Frost, the former government Brexit spokesman who remains influential among grassroots Tories, launched a scathing attack.
Mordaunt was a staunch Brexit supporter and a key figure in the 2016 ‘Leave’ campaign, but Frost told TalkTV that “I would have serious reservations” about being named leader.
“I’m afraid she wasn’t fully responsible, she wasn’t always visible. Sometimes I didn’t even know where she was,” he said of his work with her on post-Brexit relations with the EU last year.
The former magician’s assistant promised a return to conservative policies of “low taxation, small state and personal responsibility” and a “relentless focus on cost of living issues”.
Foreign Secretary Truss launched her campaign on Thursday, highlighting her credentials on Brexit and Ukraine while promising tax cuts.
She also highlighted her competence in economic matters in the context of the current cost of living crisis after serving in the Ministry of Finance.
The 46-year-old has drawn support from Brexit-backing Johnson loyalists in the cabinet and is popular among Tory members for her outspokenness.
But it has also raised questions about her judgement, for example when in February she encouraged the British to fight in Ukraine.
Despite high-level support, she has so far failed to rally pro-Brexit MPs around her.
Critics say his leadership stance has been too open and question his principles, having campaigned against Brexit in 2016 only to later ally himself with the Conservative right.
When she headed the Department for International Trade, some MPs dubbed it the “Department for Instagramming Truss” because of her prolific output on the social media site.
Former Equality Minister Badenoch, who resigned last week, was the surprise of the campaign, emerging from relative obscurity to see high-profile candidates such as former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Finance Minister Nadhim Zahawi.
The 42-year-old, who spent much of her childhood in Nigeria, is an acerbic critic of “identity politics”, a supporter of Brexit and a vocal defender of conservatism.
His campaign received a boost with the endorsement of Tory heavyweight Michael Gove.
The prominent backbencher who chairs parliament’s influential foreign affairs committee was the first to put forward his candidacy.
A former army officer who served in the Middle East, he is also a hawk on China and has criticized the government’s handling of the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
The 49-year-old pledged to spend 3.0% of GDP on defense when he launched his campaign on Tuesday.
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