Who could replace Rishi Sunak as Conservative leader?

The former PM's successor faces an uphill battle to win votes back from Labour, Reform, the LibDems and the SNP.

Rishi Sunak announced he would step down as Conservative leader last week following his party’s crushing defeat at the General Election.

The Tories were left with just 121 seats while Labour recorded a landslide victory returning, 412 MPs.

It’s the party’s worst election defeat in its parliamentary history and whoever takes over will face an uphill battle to restore its fortunes.

So who is in the running to replace Rishi Sunak and become head of the Tory party and leader of the opposition in the House of Commons?

Suella Braverman

Suella Braverman has not ruled herself out.Flickr

Suella Braverman has previously made her ambitions for the Tory leadership clear, running against Boris Johnson in 2022, losing in the second round of voting among MPs.

The 44-year-old has not ruled herself out of running again this time around.

Considered to be on the right of the party, Braverman was previously home secretary.

But she was sacked by Rishi Sunak after she accused the Metropolitan Police of political bias over pro-Palestine marches, which she described as “hate marches”.

She already had a stint at the Home Office before that but resigned in 2022 after sending official documents from her personal account.

She also courted controversy after saying that homelessness can often be a “lifestyle choice”.

She is a supporter of the Rwanda scheme, which Labour has now scrapped, once describing it as her “dream” to deliver.

Priti Patel

Priti Patel is popular among Tory members.Getty Images

Priti Patel is another ex-home secretary on the right of the party. She is popular among Tory members and grassroots.

She was sacked by Theresa May in 2017 after holding an unauthorised meeting with the Israeli government but was later readmitted to the UK Government under Boris Johnson.

As home secretary, she launched the UK’s points-based immigration system and was the architect of the Rwanda scheme.

But she resigned as head of the Home Office after Liz Truss was appointed party leader and prime minister.

Kemi Badenoch

Kemi Badenoch ran for the leadership in 2022.Flickr

Kemi Badenoch, another politician considered on the right of the party, went for the top job in 2022 against Johnson but came fourth.

She was considered to be one of the most popular ministers among Tory members and is seen as a potential frontrunner in any race this year.

Serving as women’s and equalities minister under Rishi Sunak, she has been outspoken in her criticism of trans rights activists.

James Cleverly

Another home secretary, Cleverly has the most experience of anyone on this list.

He has served in major roles including as education secretary and foreign secretary.

He hasn’t ruled himself out of running for the top job, previously saying: “What might happen in the future I’ll leave that for the near future.”

He is considered to be a more moderate voice, compared to Braverman, Badenoch and Patel, but has had a few gaffes throughout his time as an MP since 2015.

He attracted criticism earlier this year after making a joke about spiking his wife’s drink and was accused of calling his government’s Rwanda policy “bats***”.

Tom Tugendhat

Tom Tugendhat ran for the Tory leadership in 2022.Getty Images

Tom Tugendhat is a more centrist figure in the Conservative Party.

A former army reservist, he served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and later worked as a security minister in government.

He ran for the leadership after Johnson resigned but lost early in the race.

He is also one of the few MPs on this list who voted Remain during the Brexit referendum.

Robert Jenrick

Robert Jenrick has taken a hard-line stance on immigration.UK Parliament

Seen as another contender for the top Tory job, Robert Jenrick previously served as immigration minister.

But he resigned from that role in December in protest of the Rwanda scheme, saying it did not go far enough.

Jenrick voted Remain in the EU referendum but is considered to have moved to the right since then.

The 42-year-old is not as well known as the other candidates on this list but has made news for ordering the removal of a Mickey Mouse mural at a child asylum centre and for being given a driving ban.

He previously served as housing secretary under Johnson.

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