Eight candidates are cut in the race to succeed British Prime Minister Johnson

  • Johnson had to announce his resignation following scandals
  • Eight get enough nominations to replace him, two drop out
  • Tax cut promises dominate divisive party contest
  • Favorite Sunak says inflation must be brought under control

LONDON, July 12 (Reuters) – Eight Tories will battle to succeed Boris Johnson as party leader and British Prime Minister after winning enough nominations from their colleagues to qualify for the first round of voting on Wednesday.

Only two hopefuls failed to secure the 20 needed nominations, leaving a wide range of candidates seeking to win party support with promises of tax cuts, honesty and serious government – ​​a contrast to Johnson who was forced to announce that he would resign after a series of scandals. Read more

Former finance minister Rishi Sunak is the bookmakers’ favourite, and among those he will face are his successor Nadhim Zahawi and foreign minister Liz Truss in what is becoming an increasingly bitter and divisive competition.

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Britain’s next leader faces a daunting entry plateau as support for the Tories is also down, polls show.

Britain’s economy is facing soaring inflation, high debt and weak growth as people grapple with the tightest strain on their finances in decades. All this against a backdrop of an energy crisis exacerbated by the war in Ukraine which has caused fuel prices to soar.

As the competition intensifies, rival campaigns have stepped up their private criticism of each other and pointed to financial or other issues weighing on their opponents.

Sunak kicked off his campaign by portraying himself as the serious candidate, promising “adult” honesty “not fairy tales”, seeking to distance himself from the deep tax cuts promised by most other candidates.

“It’s not credible to promise a lot more spending and lower taxes,” Sunak said, saying tax cuts could only come after the surge in inflation is tackled.

As finance minister, Sunak put Britain on track to have its biggest tax burden since the 1950s after overseeing a huge increase in public spending during the coronavirus pandemic, and most other hopefuls turned the fire on him saying they would oversee the cuts immediately.

‘DIRTY TRICKS’

Sunak enjoys the broadest support among his colleagues who have publicly expressed their views.

Penny Mordaunt, a junior trade minister who is also strongly tipped, came out on top in a poll of Conservative party members and she too has tried to strike a more measured tone on taxation, saying it’s not no time to cut government spending.

“The others will obviously try to get votes, they will try to put on flares for particular caucuses,” she told LBC radio. “Now is not the time for sweeping fiscal policies and promises.”

Attorney General Suella Braverman; former Health and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt; Tom Tugendhat, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; and Kemi Badenoch, a former deputy minister who garners support from the right wing of the party, are the other candidates to take part in the first round of the competition.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps earlier became the first candidate to end his candidacy, throwing his support behind Sunak, while Home Secretary (Home Secretary) Priti Patel announced that she would not show up.

Foreign Secretary Truss has received backing from two of Johnson’s closest ministers – Nadine Dorries and Jacob Rees-Mogg – who have both been critical of Sunak.

Dorries accused Sunak of using “dirty tricks” to manipulate the leadership contest, with votes loaned to Hunt’s campaign because they see him as easier to beat.

Sunak’s team did not respond to a request for comment.

The 1922 Conservative MPs committee organizing the contest says the field will soon be narrowed with repeat votes over the coming weeks, with the final two then selected by the party’s under 200,000 members by July 21.

The winner and the new British Prime Minister will be announced on September 5. read more

Meanwhile, the opposition Labor Party said the government was “frightened” after blocking an attempt on Wednesday to call a confidence vote against Johnson to force him out of office immediately. Read more

The government said Labor was trying to “play politics” and would allow Labor to call a vote of confidence if the wording of the motion was changed to remove the reference to Johnson.

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Additional reporting by William James and Kylie Maclellan; Written by Michael Holden; Editing by Angus MacSwan, Alison Williams, David Evans and Mark Heinrich

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