Who could replace Rishi Sunak as Tory leader?

These are the people who could be candidates in the Conservative Party leadership election

Conservative Party rosette

Following Labour’s landslide victory in the general election, the Tory leader Rishi Sunak announced as expected that he would be standing down from his role. That means we’re expecting a Conservative Party leadership election sooner rather than later. A timetable is yet to be released, but the rules are in the process of being drawn up.

The list of potential contenders looks different than it did a week ago. That’s because some of the most prominent Tory figures, many of whom were possible candidates in any post-Sunak contest, lost their seats. The likes of Penny Mordaunt, Grant Shapps and Gillian Keegan were all booted out of the Commons as the Tories suffered their worst ever defeat.

Meanwhile, others have ruled themselves out of standing. The most prominent Tory MP to do so at this stage is the former chancellor of the exchequer Jeremy Hunt.

Nevertheless, there are still plenty of people who could be in the running.

Suella Braverman

A leading figure on the Tory right, and one of the most enthusiastic culture warriors, the former Home Secretary Suella Braverman has long been touted as being a potential successor to Sunak. Should she stand and win, it would be a clear message that the apparent lesson the Tories have learnt from the general election is that they need to shift even further to the right. Braverman stood in the 2022 leadership contest, coming sixth.

Kemi Badenoch

Another figure from the right of the party who could be in the running is Kemi Badenoch. She made her name firstly by standing to be Tory leader in 2022, and latterly in her previous position as women and equalities minister, during which she became known for her anti-trans policies. In the 2022 leadership contest, Badenoch came fourth.

James Cleverly

Considered to be to the left of Braverman and Badenoch, Cleverly has been widely touted as a potential leadership contender. He’s had one go before, standing briefly in the 2019 Tory leadership contest which Boris Johnson ultimately. Cleverly withdrew from that election less than a week after first announcing his candidacy. In the last three contested Conservative Party leadership elections Cleverly has endorsed the ultimate winner of the contest, so he clearly has an eye for a winner. Will that winner be him this time?

Robert Jenrick

In the never-ending rows within the Conservative Party about how hostile to migration they should be, Robert Jenrick landed on the ‘as hostile as you can get’ side of the debate. In December 2023, Jenrick resigned as an immigration minister claiming that the government’s controversial Rwanda Scheme “doesn’t go far enough”. With a lower profile then other potential figures from the Tory right, it’s not clear what his unique pitch to the party’s MPs and membership would be.

Tom Tugendhat

A member of the One Nation Conservatives caucus, Tom Tugendhat is a key figure on the left of the Conservative Party. He stood in the 2022 leadership contest, coming fifth. If the Tories conclude they need to soften their image in order to recover from the election defeat Tugendhat is a likely contender to deliver that softening. However, it is not clear whether – if he was able to get onto the final ballot of Tory members – he would stand a chance of getting elected, given the considerable shift to the right among the party’s membership in recent years.

Chris Jarvis is head of strategy and development at Left Foot Forward

Comments are closed.