Who could be Boris Johnson’s successor?

Chancellor Rishi Sunak and foreign secretary Liz Truss among the runners and riders

Matt Mathers
Friday 10 December 2021 16:47
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The Conservative Party has a reputation for ruthlessly disposing of its leaders when they are no longer viewed as electoral assets.

Even former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, considered one of the party's greatest-ever leaders, was ousted in 1990 amid concerns over her politically toxic poll tax.

Conversations about Tory succession - and who might lead the troops into the next battle - have been taking place long before recent scandals sent Boris Johnson's approval ratings and poll lead tumbling.

For the early part of Johnson’s tenure in No 10 Downing Street, it was perceived wisdom in Westminster that Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, would be next to ascend the Tory throne.

But who else is in the running?

Lizz Truss, who has undergone somewhat of an epiphany over Brexit, has recently seen her approval ratings soar, with a Conservative Home poll published last month ranking her top among cabinet ministers.

The survey is viewed as a good barometer of grassroots support and is keenly watched by those in government.

The free-market Conservative, who talks tough on "woke" Britain, was promoted to foreign secretary in the PM's September reshuffle. The 3 November ConHome poll put Ms Truss's approval rating at +85.6 - more than 10 points higher than second-placed de-facto Brexit minister, Lord Frost.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the current international trade secretary, and Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, also ranked in the top five of the survey but neither has been strongly linked to the Tory leadership role.

Michael Gove, the new levelling up and housing secretary and Jeremy Hunt, the former health secretary and current chair of the Commons health committee, are invariably linked with the top job.

Although both are viewed in Tory circles as competent and capable of successfully overseeing a brief, they have had tilts at the leadership and failed.

Mr Gove famously stabbed Johnson in the back during the 2016 contest — subsequently won by Theresa May — a move he later described as “political suicide.”

What do punters think?

"Following the calamitous week that Boris Johnson has had, we have seen plenty of action on the Betfair Exchange's next prime minister market," Betfair spokesman Sam Rosbottom tells The Independent.

"Rishi Sunak is the 11/4 favourite take over at Number 10 after Johnson, while Liz Truss has been the biggest mover in the market. The foreign secretary has been backed in from 33/1 earlier in the year to 11/2 now."

Betfair says, over the past few days, the odds on Mr Johnson leaving his job by the end of 2021 have shortened from 149/1 to as low as 15/1. Mr Johnson leaving no 10 in 2022 is proving to be a popular choice too, the firm said, with the odds being slashed from 21/1 to 7/5 in the past seven days.

Next Conservative leader after Boris Johnson (latest odds, oddschecker.com)

Rishi Sunak - 9/4

Liz Truss - 7/2

Michael Gove - 13/2

Jeremy Hunt - 10

Sajid Javid - 14

Tom Tugendhat - 25

Ben Wallace - 25

Boris Johnson exit date

2021 - 13/2

2022 or later - 1/25

2023 - 3/4

2024 or later - 15/8

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