By Barbara Kollmeyer
The wheels have been set in motion for a new U.K. leader, though on who will success Boris Johnson aren’t a sure thing yet.
The embattled Prime Minister Johnson told reporters in front of No. 10 Downing Street on Thursday that he will stay on as caretaker until a replacement is found, in a defiant address, where he touted his standing in the polls.
“When the herd moves, it moves,” said Johnson of his fellow Conservative parliamentary members. The announcement ends days of drama that revved up when his Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishie Sunak resigned almost at the same time as Health Secretary Sajid Javid over the latest in a series of scandals surrounding the government.
A campaign to replace Johnson is expected this summer, the BBC reported earlier on Thursday, with a new leader set to be ready in time for the October Tory party conference.
Johnson’s potential replacements for Conservative leader shifted from before he announced his exit. Penny Mourdant, trade minister who didn’t resign in the wave of exits, had been the 5/1 frontrunner, according to bookmaker Betfair , but she has slipped down in the rankings.
But Betfair said Defence Minister Ben Wallace is the new 11/4 favourite to be the next Conservative leader. He’s followed by Rishi Sunak at 9/2 odds, with Mourdant in third position at 6/1. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who also didn’t resign, is another contender with 10/1 odds, followed by former Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid, who resigned, and Jeremy Hunt, member of parliament, 16/1.
According to a YouGov poll that published on Thursday, a snap poll of 716 Conservative party members showed 13% want Wallace to replace Johnson, followed closely by Mourdant with 12% and Sunak at 10%.
“But while the single top choice looks to be contentious, our polling facing five of the candidates off against one another results in a very clear winner: Ben Wallace,” said the YouGov survey, who noted that Wallace won all of his match-ups by wide margins.
Wallace got into politics in 1999 as a member of the Scottish Parliament, with a military background, and is the U.K.’s longest lasting Security Minister. He predicted in early February that Russia was likely to invade Ukraine and compared diplomatic efforts to appeasement policies of the 1930s.
Wallace justified not quitting this week with the following tweet : “A number of us have an obligation to keep this country safe,no matter who is PM. The Party has a mechanism to change leaders and that is the mechanism which I advise colleagues to use. In the meantime,the public would not forgive us if we left these Offices of State empty,” he said.