Prime Minister Boris Johnson resigns as Conservative leader, paving the way for an internal party contest to replace him, as few would dare predict how events will unfold in the tumultuous British politics.

Johnson has stepped down after a slew of resignations from his top team in protest at his leadership but will stay on as prime minister until a replacement is found.
Johnson has stepped down after a slew of resignations from his top team in protest at his leadership but will stay on as prime minister until a replacement is found. (AFP)

Boris Johnson's resignation announcement has set the stage for a leadership battle in his Conservative party that will determine who becomes Britain's next prime minister.

The election of a new Tory leader — the third in six years — is a contest traditionally filled with twists, turns, bandwagons and backstabbing.

Here is a guide to how the Conservative party will choose its next leader and who could emerge as the frontrunners to replace Boris Johnson.

The process

  • Despite his announcement to step down as the Conservative party leader, Johnson will remain in office as prime minister until a successor is chosen. The timetable to nominate his replacement will be set out next week.
  • Party grandees hope to conclude the two-stage contest well before the Conservative party holds its annual conference in October.
  • The first stage will see the 358 Conservative members of parliament whittle the nominees down to two, via successive rounds of voting in which the bottom candidate is eliminated each time.
  • The second stage will involve tens of thousands of grassroots party members picking the winner in a secret ballot.

The leadership race

While several possible successors have been suggested, there is no clear favourite.

  • Rishi Sunak (42): The UK's first Hindu chancellor of the exchequer, who quit on Tuesday, has a high profile on social media and won plaudits for shoring up the economy during the pandemic.
  • Jeremy Hunt (55): The former foreign and health secretary lost to Johnson in the 2019 leadership contest, when he branded himself as the "serious" alternative.
  • Liz Truss (46): Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is popular among Conservative party members, liked for her outspokenness and willingness to go on the political attack.
  • Sajid Javid (52): The son of a Pakistani immigrant bus driver, he went on to become a high-flying banker. He quit as health secretary on Tuesday — one of the firsts to take part in an exodus that eventually brought Johnson down.
  • Ben Wallace (52): The defence secretary has narrowly topped some recent polls of Tory grassroots' preferred next leader due to his role in the Ukraine crisis.
  • Nadhim Zahawi (55): Newly appointed as finance minister, Zahawi was praised for overseeing Britain's pandemic vaccines rollout, before helming the education department.
  • Tom Tugendhat (49): The former army officer chairs parliament's influential Foreign Affairs Committee.
  • Penny Mordaunt (49): She is the first woman to have been UK defence secretary and is currently a junior trade minister.
  • Dominic Raab (48): Deputy prime minister and justice secretary Raab led the country when Johnson was in intensive care in hospital with Covid-19 in 2020.
  • Suella Braverman (42): Attorney General Braverman intends to stand in a party leadership contest during media interviews since Wednesday in which she urged Johnson to go.

READ MORE: UK's Johnson sacks ally and entrenches despite calls to resign

The hot seat

Whoever wins takes over what may be one of Europe's hardest jobs.

Johnson delivered Brexit after winning a thumping election victory in December 2019.

But the fallout of the divisive EU divorce, on top of the cost of the coronavirus pandemic and global headwinds from the crisis in Ukraine, has given Britain near double-digit inflation.

Once formally appointed as prime minister by head of state Queen Elizabeth II, the new Conservative leader must address the cost-of-living crisis and rapidly repair the party's fortunes before the next election, which is due in 2024 at the latest.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies