Race to Replace Boris Johnson: Top Remainer Hunt, Vaccines Boss Zahawi Knocked out of Vote

Sir Graham Brady (3rd from left) chairman of the 1922 Committee, announces the results of the first ballot round in the Conservative Party leadership contest, in the Houses of Parliament, London. Any candidate who fails to get at least 30 votes from MPs is expected to drop out. Picture date: …
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The first round of voting for the Conservative Party leadership election, which will also decide the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, has seen Jeremy Hunt and Nadhim Zahawi eliminated after they failed to reach the threshold of 30 votes each.

Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee which is the body responsible for handling leadership challenges, amid other roles, announced the results of the first spill Wednesday evening which saw two of the eight candidates eliminated.

Badenoch — 42 votes
Braverman — 32 votes
Hunt — 18 votes
Mordaunt — 67 votes
Sunak — 88 votes
Truss — 50 votes
Tugendhat — 37 votes
Zahawi — 25 votes

Under the rules of the competition, any candidate that did not gain the votes of 30 of their 357 Conservative colleagues in the House of Commons was rejected, which saw Jeremy Hunt and Naghim Zahawi rejected, with 18 and 25 votes apiece.

While dedication to the idea that Britain should leave the European Union varies amid the field of candidates, the dream of some that the United Kingdom might outright seek to rejoin the bloc seems to have died with the elimination of former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who has long been a vocal and leading ‘Remainer’.

Nadhim Zahawi, the minister who oversaw the British government’s rapid rollout of vaccines as part of the Johnson administration’s response to the Coronavirus event is a Brexiteer and appealed to some in the party who noted his air of professionalism and performance in the ministerial jobs he’s held so far. Quite possibly many of his natural allies supported candidates like Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt, also a technocrat and the favourite of the party elite to win, and his move against Boris Johnson last week may have saddled him with an aura of opportunism and backstabbing.

In Tory leadership competitions, he who wields the knife rarely wears the crown.

As things stand, then, a handful of contenders now dominate. Former Chancellor of the Exchequer and Boris Johnson right-hand-man — at least until he backstabbed Boris and helped trigger this leadership competition last week — Rishi Sunak enjoys a commanding position of 88 votes and is generally considered likely to make it into the final two, from whom the 180,000~ Conservative party members in the country at large will make their choice.

To an outsider, Sunak’s popularity among the Tory elite making the choices at this stage may be mystifying: he’s the once-loyal lieutenant of Boris Johnson, the leader they’ve just deposed. He’s raised taxes consistently through his time at the treasury. And he’s the only MP who got a ‘partygate’ police fine for breaking lockdown rules alongside Boris Johnson.

If Conservative MPs thought Boris had no chance of winning the next general election, it is hard to understand how they could believe Sunak could do so. But such disconnects are par-for-the-course in Parliament: after Brexit, it became clear that while Tory voters in the electorate were in favour of leaving the European Union, their elected Conservative representatives were not.

This is a situation fostered in part by Conservative Central Office gatekeeping who can even stand to be a prospective Conservative Member of Parliament, a process that privileges certain views that fit in well in London but don’t always chime with the country.

Following close behind is Penny Mordaunt, a perennial favourite of the media class and performing well in polling. Whether the Tory members who will make the final choice will forgive it or not is yet to be seen, but her flummery this past week on her historic comments on the Transgender issue doesn’t seem to have dented her popularity with the top ranks of the party. Hunt having been knocked out of the race now will likely benefit Mordaunt considerably: she backed him in the 2019 leadership race and he could bring his support with him to her camp.

Also performing strongly with the membership, but clearly less so with the Conservative Party Parliamentarians responsible for selection at this point is Kemi Badenoch, who has distinguished herself in this race by standing on a platform of recognisably conservative values like a smaller state, lower taxes, and rejecting culture war politics. Some critics have noted that while she may appear the best of a bad bunch, she did in fact vote in favour of vaccine passports for accessing public places in 2021, a key measure of an MP’s belief in the value of freedom.

Some have defended Badenoch for her performance then: she was a member of government as a junior minister at the time and would have lost her job had she voted against the government to take a principled stand against vaccine passports. Former Downing Street functionary Nikki da Costa has claimed that behind closed doors, “was one of few objecting to vaccine passports” inside government.

Following the first vote’s passing tonight, future rounds will work on a simple knockout principle, with the lowest-scoring candidate being eliminated in each round until just two remain. Those final two will then be decided on in a postal election of Conservative Party members in the general public.

There will be one more round this week on Thursday, before a break for the weekend. There will be a televised debate between the five remaining candidates on Friday night.

As previously reported, a short guide to the candidates standing to lead the Conservative Party and the British government:

Kemi Badenoch

Official portrait of Conservative MP Kemi Badenoch, who represents the constituency of Saffron Walden (UK Parliament)

Official portrait of Conservative MP Kemi Badenoch, who represents the constituency of Saffron Walden (UK Parliament)

Former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch was born to Nigerian parents in London before growing up mostly in Lagos and finally returning to the UK at age 16. She worked as a McDonald’s employee while pursuing her education, graduating with a degree in engineering. A follower of American economist Thomas Sowell, Badenoch has promised to pursue a small government strategy coupled with reduced taxes.

In her announcement speech on Tuesday, the MP for Saffron Walden said: “For too long politicians have been telling us we can have it all, that you can have your cake and eat it. And I’m here to tell you that isn’t true — it never has been. There are always tough choices in life and in politics. No free lunches, no tax cuts without limits on government spending, no stronger defence without a slimmer state.

“Governing involves tradeoffs and we have to start being honest about that. Unlike others, I’m not going to promise you things without a plan to deliver them.”

“Too many policies, like net-zero targets set up with no thought to the effect on the industries in the poorer parts of this country, the consequence is simply to displace emissions to other countries: unilateral economic disarmament, and this is why we need to change. And that’s why I’m running for leader.”

Badenoch has won praise from the base of the Conservative Party for her stance against identity politics and leftist concepts such as “white privilege” and Critical Race Theory. A 2020 speech in which she pushed back against Black Lives Matter and CRT was voted as the speech of the year by readers of the Conservative Home website.

However, her strident stance has made her a figure of ire on the left. Despite Badenoch being the only black candidate in the contest to succeed Boris Johnson, she has been branded as “enabling white supremacy” by the likes of leftist political commentator Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, who said on Friday that the Tory MP should “crawl back into her mother.”

Suella Braverman

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 13: Newly appointed Attorney General Suella Braverman leaves 10 Downing Street on February 13, 2020 in London, England. The Prime Minister makes adjustments to his Cabinet now Brexit has been completed. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 13: Newly appointed Attorney General Suella Braverman leaves 10 Downing Street on February 13, 2020 in London, England. The Prime Minister makes adjustments to his Cabinet now Brexit has been completed. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Attorney General Suella Braverman represents the hardline Brexit wing of the Conservative party, previously leading the European Research Group from 2017 to 2018.

Braverman has argued that in order to fulfil the Conservative manifesto pledge of “taking back control” of the nation’s borders, the UK must leave the European Court on Human Rights, which is technically outside of the European Union and therefore was unaffected by Brexit. The issue has become politically hot after the European court blocked a recent deportation flight of illegal migrants to Rwanda in June.

The staunch Brexiteer has also argued that remaining EU laws on the books in Britain should be phased out, saying: “Legacy EU law has to be cut back. We need to set a deadline and a test: does this EU rule support UK growth? Working groups of industry experts can draft better regulations. EU law is often written for the lowest common denominator — it’s over-prescriptive and behind the times due to ponderous Brussels processes. Its customs rules, for example, took so long to agree they’re premised on pen-and-ink forms. We can and should be more nimble than that.”

Braverman has also been a keen defender of the British empire, which she describes herself as a “child of”. Her parents, hailing from Kenya and Mauritius came to the UK “with an admiration and gratitude for what Britain did for Mauritius and Kenya, and India,” according to Braverman.

“The British Empire is sometimes seen very negatively, and as a source of shame. There’s a trend to start apologising, decolonising, cancelling, erasing that part of our history. And of course, there were some aspects which were bad, but on the whole, I believe the British Empire was a force for good,” she said in May.

Penny Mordaunt

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt leaves 10 Downing Street following a cabinet meeting, on July 10, 2018 in London, England. Ministers are meeting for a cabinet meeting after the Prime Minister was forced to carry out a reshuffle following the high profile resignations of Boris Johnson and David Davis over her controversial Brexit strategy. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt leaves 10 Downing Street following a cabinet meeting, on July 10, 2018 in London, England. Ministers are meeting for a cabinet meeting after the Prime Minister was forced to carry out a reshuffle following the high profile resignations of Boris Johnson and David Davis over her controversial Brexit strategy. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Mordaunt, who reached the heights of Secretary of State for International Development and, very briefly, Secretary of State for Defence under Theresa May, is today a junior minister in Boris Johnson’s doomed government with a fairly low media profile — but remains a perennial fixture in articles mulling potential Tory leaders.

While a Brexiteer once well-liked among the conservative grassroots, her popularity has declined along with her media profile, aided by woke pronouncements on social issues such as her insistence that “transmen are men” and transwomen are women”.

Mordaunt has also drawn criticism for turning to arch-globalist and Microsoft founder Bill Gates to pen the forward to her 2021 book Greater: Britain After the Storm. 

Rishi Sunak 

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 03: Chancellor Rishi Sunak holds press conference on 2021 Budget on March 3, 2021 in London, England. The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, presented his second budget to the House of Commons. He has pledged to protect jobs and livelihoods as the UK economy has faced crisis during the Coronavirus Pandemic. (Photo by Tolga Akmen - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 03: Chancellor Rishi Sunak holds press conference on 2021 Budget on March 3, 2021 in London, England. The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, presented his second budget to the House of Commons. He has pledged to protect jobs and livelihoods as the UK economy has faced crisis during the Coronavirus Pandemic. (Photo by Tolga Akmen – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Hailed as a very likely future successor to the premiership shortly after Johnson’s big election win in 2019, the now-former Chancellor of the Exchequer’s star has faded considerably over recent months, and may have winked out entirely with his resignation from Cabinet alongside Health Secretary Sajid Javid having likely lent inexorable momentum to the efforts to topple Johnson.

For all the mainstream media’s focus on partygate, dodgy home decorating payments, and the decision to make the now twice-disgraced Christopher Pincher a party whip as the primary causes of Johnson’s downfall, general discontent with his premiership among the Conservative Party faithful and Brexiteers who converted to his banner in 2019 stems from the fact he has not governed like a conservative, or even a libertarian, hiking taxes to historic levels and spending public money like water on the green agenda.

Sunak, as the de facto lead finance minister, has been a large part of this, and indeed his resignation was driven in part by disagreements with Johnson over whether it not might finally be time to give people some proper tax cuts or meaningfully shield them from the cost of living crisis.

One of the richest men in Parliament due to having married into India’s billionaire business aristocracy, Sunak faces an issue of not only being able to chart a path away from the leftish tax hikes of the Johnson era — he led them and wants more of them — but also of the fact that he was also fined due to partygate, so cannot shake that particular media monkey off the government’s back either.

Sunak is also one of many allegedly conservative politicians who is bizarrely reluctant to define what a woman is.

Liz Truss

Britain's Foreign Secretary Liz Truss speaks during a G7 Foreign Ministers Working Lunch on Africa on the first day of the G7 foreign ministers summit in Liverpool, north-west England on December 11, 2021. - The two-day gathering in Liverpool, northwest England, of foreign and development ministers from the group of wealthy countries -- the last in-person meeting of Britain's year-long G7 presidency -- comes amid rising global tensions. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY / POOL / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss speaks during a G7 Foreign Ministers Working Lunch on Africa on the first day of the G7 foreign ministers summit in Liverpool, north-west England on December 11, 2021. – The two-day gathering in Liverpool, northwest England, of foreign and development ministers from the group of wealthy countries — the last in-person meeting of Britain’s year-long G7 presidency — comes amid rising global tensions. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY / POOL / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Britain’s Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Secretary has had her sights set on the premiership for a long time, organising a number of glamour-style shoots with friendly press to boost her profile, her most recent venture — perhaps slightly too on the nose — seeing her perch herself on a tank in the style of Margaret Thatcher amid tensions with Russia.

She has not enjoyed the bump in popularity Defence Secretary Wallace has had from the Ukraine War due to a series of high-profile gaffes, however, including confusing the Baltic and Black Sea and endorsing Britons travelling to fight in Ukraine — a statement quickly walked back by officials and fellow Tory politicians, not least because her own departmental website warned such travel was against its advice and probably against the law.

Some Britons who did travel to Ukraine were sentenced to death by firing squad by Russian separatists in the months following her abortive endorsement.

In terms of her politics, Truss is a classic careerist chameleon, having been an ardent Remain campaigner during the EU referendum, when she was a minister in the George Osborne-led Treasury and appeared alongside him at campaign events threatening the public with ruin if they backed Brexit.

After the public voted for Brexit anyway, she staged a Damascene conversion to the cause, but voted for Theresa May’s proposed Brexit-In-Name-Only deal with Brussels every time it was put before the House of Commons.

In her younger days she was a senior activist for the Liberal Democrats, which is fanatically pro-EU and socially leftist, although it occasionally adopts vaguely conservative policies on the economy.

Tom Tugendhat

Tom Tugendhat speaking at the launch of his campaign to be Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister, at 4 Millbank, London. Picture date: Tuesday July 12, 2022. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)

Tom Tugendhat speaking at the launch of his campaign to be Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister, at 4 Millbank, London. Picture date: Tuesday July 12, 2022. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)

Tom Tugendhat, the son High Court Judge Sir Michael Tugendhat, is perhaps the most unknown quantity running for the position, having never served in government, however, he is seen as the most hawkish and neoconservative among the candidates, taking a particularly hard-line on Russia and Communist China.

A veteran of bother the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Tugendhat argued against the withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan last year, and described the exit as one of the “biggest foreign policy disaster since Suez”. He has also likened Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to the Second World War, saying that there should be war crimes tribunals held along the lines of the Nuremberg Trials following the war.

Perhaps attempting to cast himself as a centrist option, Tugendhat was one of the Conservative party politicians to openly support the radical Marxist Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in 2020.

Questions have also been raised surrounding his ties to the globalist elites, being one of the few British politicians to attend the secretive Bilderberg meeting in Washington DC earlier this year.

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