LONDON -- Rishi Sunak, former British Treasury chief, officially launched his campaign for replacing Boris Johnson as Prime Minister. He jumped to the front of a large group of Conservative Party candidates -- even though some party lawmakers tried to push to remove the scandal-tainted Johnson from office before his replacement is elected in the summer.
Johnson resigned on Thursday, a shocking change after months of insisting that he would remain in the job despite growing Conservative discontent and ethics scandals.
With a statement outside 10 Downing St., Johnson announced his resignation as party leader. However, he said that he would remain as prime minister until a successor is selected by the party. Some Conservative colleagues were not happy with Johnson's decision. They worry that Johnson doesn't have the authority to stay on or could cause mischief as a caretaker pm.
James Cleverly was named education secretary on Thursday following the resignation of his predecessor. He defended Johnson’s decision to remain.
Cleverly stated to Sky News that Cleverly said that it was right for him to step down. He also put in place a team to continue governing while the selection process flows for his successor.
On Monday, party officials will announce the timeline for a leadership contest with the goal of having a winner before the end of summer. Two-step process: Tory lawmakers vote to reduce the field to two candidates, and then they will be put to a ballot by all members of the party.
Sunak, whose resignation this Week helped to topple Johnson's, launched his campaign this week with a polished video portraying himself as a serious leader capable of "gripping this moment and making the right decisions."
"Do we face this moment with honesty and seriousness? Or do we tell ourselves fairy tales to make us feel better, but leave our children in worse shape tomorrow?" Sunak was one of the favorite bookies to win the contest.
Tom Tugendhat (who chairs the House of Commons' influential Foreign Affairs Committee) and Attorney General Suella Braverman are also in the race. Other potential contenders include Sajid Javid (ex-Health Secretary), Liz Truss (Foreign Secretary), Ben Wallace (Defense Secretary) and Nadhim Zahawi (Education Secretary).
Tony Travers, professor of Government at the London School of Economics said that the party would seek a leader who is "a bit less exciting than Johnson."
He said, "Less thrilling, but more competent."
Johnson is still in office as a top-ranking member of a temporary administration, but many Conservatives believe a lame duck leader is what the country needs in the midst of Russia's war with Ukraine and an increasing cost-of-living crisis caused by rising food and energy costs.
Max Blain, the prime minister's spokesperson, stated that Johnson would adhere to political convention and "stick to pre-agreed policy" in his remaining time. Johnson's limping government is pushing ahead with contentious legislation to undo parts of its Brexit agreement with the European Union and with a plan for Rwanda to receive asylum-seekers. This is currently being challenged in court.
Johnson's intentions are also being questioned by some Conservatives. He resigned speech in which Johnson made it clear that he did not want to leave but failed to "persuade my colleagues that changing governments would be eccentric when we're delivering such a lot and have such a large mandate."
George Freeman, science minister who resigned Thursday, expressed concern about an election for the leadership in which the "we choose the wrong person quickly because of the instability."
Johnson's continued power is unacceptable according to the main opposition Labour Party. Police cleared the party's two top leaders of violating pandemic restrictions last year by sharing curry and beer with colleagues. They then pledged to demand a no confidence vote in Johnson at the House of Commons next Tuesday. In the unlikely event that it was successful, it would set off a general election.
The bold, 58-year old politician who took Britain out the EU and was at the helm through COVID-19 as well as the war in Ukraine has consistently defied all odds throughout a rollercoaster political career.
He has managed to stay in power despite being accused of being too close to party donors. He also was accused of protecting supporters from bullying and corruption allegations. He also misled Parliament about government offices that violated COVID-19 lockdown rules.
For attending one of the parties, he was fined by the police. However, despite being voted out of Parliament last month by 41% of Conservative lawmakers, he survived a no confidence vote.
Johnson was still thrown out by another scandal, this time involving Johnson's appointment of a politician accused of sexual misconduct.
Johnson was confronted with a series of questions and contradicting answers for days about his knowledge of past allegations against Chris Pincher (a Conservative lawmaker who resigned last week as party deputy chief whip after allegedly groping two males at a private club). Pincher admitted that he was drunk and had "embarrassed himself."
Javid and Sunak were key Cabinet members responsible for fighting COVID-19, inflation, and resigned within minutes of one another Tuesday. This set off a wave.
Johnson held on to power for days, telling lawmakers Wednesday defiantly that he had a "colossal mandate from the voters" and wanted to continue with the business of government.
His resignation was humiliating for a politician whose witty bluster earned him a celebrity status in British politics, but who was also accused of acting as if the rules didn’t apply to his behavior.
Ernest William Lee, a Conservative supporter, said that Johnson's announcement of his departure caused him to "heave a great sigh"
Lee stated, "I'm sorry that this country has gotten into this state." It's a mess, and it needs someone very powerful -- male or female -- to run it, properly run it, and get it back on track.
"I hate being laughed at in Europe."
Mayuko Ono contributed to the story.
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