The race to be the next Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland began today as MPs scrambled to organise their Tory leadership campaigns.
There is no obvious successor to Boris Johnson, with a wide field of candidates from all wings of the party expected to stand.
The 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers will set the timetable for the contest on Monday and it is understood the first votes will likely happen next week.
There will be a series of votes among Tory MPs, with the last placed candidate eliminated in each round until two contenders remain.
The last two contenders will then campaign over five or six weeks to win the votes of the 200,000 Tory members who will effectively choose the next Prime Minister.
Defence secretary Ben Wallace is the favourite with bookmaker William Hill, after his handling of the UK’s response to the Russo-Ukraine war.
He was also chosen as the preferred candidate for Tory members in a recent Conservative Home poll, however question marks have been raised about his lack of economic experience.
Former chancellor Rishi Sunak is the second favourite and is by far the most recognisable candidate to the wider public, after his suite of emergency Covid measures.
The Mirror reports that he has set up a leadership office in a Westminster hotel.
He was long seen as the heir apparent to Johnson, however his personal popularity ratings took a hit after he was pilloried for his slow response to the cost of living crisis and for a series of stories about his wife’s former non-dom tax status.
His standing was also dented after receiving a Covid fine for attending Boris Johnson’s Number 10 birthday lunch party in 2020.
Penny Mordaunt, a trade minister, has been discussed as an early favourite and may pick up votes from the Brexiteer wing of the party, after campaigning for Leave in 2016.
It has been widely suggested that she has been steadying herself for a leadership bid for some time and has built up quite a large collection of supporters among the Tory backbenches.
Another MP who has had her eye on the leadership for some time is Liz Truss, who last year began holding “fizz for Liz” events with backbench MPs to drum up support for a future campaign.
She is popular with the Tory party membership, but does not have many backers in the parliamentary party.
The votes of the One Nation group of Conservatives, a group of around 50 moderate MPs, will be a big prize and will likely fall between former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt and Foreign Affairs Committee chair Tom Tugendhat.
Damian Green and Stephen Hammond, two senior members of the One Nation caucus, said yesterday that they would back Tugendhat in the race.
A Conservative MP told City A.M. that it was Tugendhat, along with Mordaunt and Sunak, who had made the strongest start out of the blocks.