Britain’s new prime minister will be announced on 5 September, it has been announced. The next Conservative leader will also be announced on the same date, party leaders have said.
With just two contenders so far having the support of the 20 Tory MPs needed to get them on to the ballot, the nine remaining hopefuls were scrambling to shore up support by Tuesday night before knockout votes begin on Wednesday afternoon, with the first results announced later that day.
Tory MPs will narrow the field down to two final candidates before the end of next week, in successive rounds of voting. Around 160,000 party members will then pick the winner in a postal ballot.
Former chancellor Rishi Sunak has secured the backing of nearly 40 MPs, while trade minister Penny Mordaunt has 24. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, has the fewest public supporters – eight – while Suella Braverman, the attorney general, has 12.
Britain’s economy is facing rocketing inflation, high debt and low growth, with people coping with the tightest squeeze on their finances in decades, all set against a backdrop of an energy crunch exacerbated by the war in Ukraine which has sent fuel prices soaring.
On the issue of immigration, all the main leadership candidates have pledged to keep the government’s policy of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda, showing how the party has moved to the right of the political spectrum in recent years.
Tax cuts ahead?
Sunak will formally launch his campaign on Tuesday, as will the centrist candidate Tom Tugendhat. Sunak’s launch will underline the need to deal with the deficit ahead of major tax rises, a hint at possible further public spending cuts.
Sunak will attack his rivals’ tax-cutting promises and warn that their plans will fuel inflation.
Many have repudiated the tax increases Sunak introduced to shore up U.K. finances battered by the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit — a 1.25% income-tax rise for millions of workers, and an increase in corporation tax next year from 19% to 25%. Most candidates say they will scrap one or both.
“I want to cut all taxes,” said Hunt, who pledged to slash corporation tax to 15%. Truss said she would start slashing taxes “from day one,” and Tugendhat said he would “lower taxes across every aspect of society.”
Sunak, whose resignation on Tuesday helped topple Johnson, has cast himself as the candidate of fiscal probity, and warned rivals not to tell the public “comforting fairy tales.”