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Boris Johnson is (almost) gone. Here's who could replace him.

British prime ministers are not directly elected by the country’s 68 million people but are instead chosen by the party that wins the most lawmakers in the general election.

Now that Boris Johnson’s prime ministership has self-destructed, the race to succeed him has heated up.

British prime ministers are not directly elected by the country’s 68 million people but are instead chosen by the party that wins the most lawmakers in the general election. Right now that’s the Conservative Party, which won the 2019 vote in a landslide.

Johnson’s successor, as leader of the Tories, will be chosen first by fellow lawmakers who will whittle down the candidate list to a final runoff between two contenders. Then a postal ballot among the party’s some 180,000 members will select the new leader.

The process will likely take several weeks, determined by a timetable set by the 1922 Committee, which represents backbench lawmakers who are not on the government payroll.

The Conservatives would look for a leader “a bit less exciting” than Johnson, Tony Travers, professor of government at the London School of Economics, told Reuters.

“Less exciting, but competent,” he said

Based in part on a poll of Tory members conducted by YouGov on Wednesday, here are the current front-runners in the race to become the U.K.'s next prime minister:

Rishi Sunak

Former Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister) Rishi Sunak, 42, said he had decided to “grip the moment” by announcing his leadership bid in a campaign video on Friday. He promised to rebuild the economy and restore trust in the Conservative Party.

He also said he wanted to give everyone the opportunities the U.K. gave to his immigrant grandmother. Some hardline Tories may not welcome this broadly pro-immigrant message.

After introducing an economic rescue package, including a costly job retention program that averted mass unemployment during the Covid-19 pandemic, Sunak was the favorite to become the next leader. But a series of unpopular economic policies, as well as revelations that his multimillionaire wife had not been paying British taxes, caused his popularity to plummet.

Sunak and Sajid Javid, the former health secretary, were the first two high-profile Cabinet ministers to tender their resignations Tuesday night.

Tom Tugendhat

Tom Tugendhat, 49, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House of Commons, announced his leadership bid in the Daily Telegraph, saying he would offer the party a “clean start.”

The consistent Johnson critic would offer Conservatives a fresh start, but he is relatively untested, having never served in the government. He served as a soldier in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He voted against Brexit, which Johnson campaigned for and ran on.

Penny Mordaunt

Penny Mordaunt is the second most-popular potential contender among Tories, according to the YouGov poll.

Johnson fired her as defense secretary within three months of his taking office after she endorsed his rival, Jeremy Hunt, in the 2019 election.

Mordaunt, 49, a Royal Navy reservist, rejoined the Cabinet later and is currently a junior trade minister. She is a staunch Brexit supporter and campaigned prominently for the U.K. to leave the European Union ahead of a referendum on the subject in 2016.

Even though Mordaunt hasn’t officially entered the race, she's described as a “dark horse” to take over the Conservative Party’s leadership.

On Thursday, amid feverish speculation about Johnson's future and as a flood of resignations sought to force him to step down, she preached calm.

“Our institutions are strong,” she wrote on Twitter. “There will be a resolution to this. The outcome is already known.”

She appeared on “Splash,” a reality TV contest in which celebrities learn to dive.

Elizabeth Truss

Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss, 46, who has been at the forefront of the British response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, is a favorite of grassroots Conservatives.

At first, she opposed Brexit but later, after a 2016 referendum on the move, said she had decided to support leaving the European Union.

Source: Mithil Aggarwal and Alexander Smith

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