By Patricia Rodriguez
London, Jul 12 (EFE).- The procedure for electing the British Conservative Party’s new leader, and consequently the nation’s prime minister, kicked off on Tuesday with the formal presentation of eight candidates, among whom former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has emerged as the clear favorite.
The aspirants each needed the support of at least of 20 members of Parliament to compete in the contest that will end on Sept. 5, when the name of the winner will be made known, according to the so-called 1922 Committee, the group of Tory backbenchers who meet weekly to coordinate and discuss their views independently of frontbenchers.
Although Boris Johnson presented his resignation last Thursday, he remains the interim head of the British government as his party undertakes the process to designate his successor as prime minister.
Over the course of the Tuesday, prospective candidates announced their respective campaigns, including Sunak, who – with the support of at least 45 of his conservative colleagues – spelled out his “long-term plans” if he becomes the next party leader and UK premier.
This Hindu politician, perceived as one of the most solid candidates among the conservative leadership, stands, he said, for eradicating inflation, getting the economy to grow and, down the line, cutting taxes, arguing that tax cuts make no sense at present.
In addition, he said that he “will have no part in a rewriting of history that seeks to demonize Boris, exaggerate his faults or deny his efforts,” adding – however – that he is prepating to “establish trust, rebuild the economy and reunite the country.”
Among Sunak’s many supporters are Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps who announced his candidacy for the leadership spot on Thursday, and Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab.
In a message posted on his Twitter account, Shapps emphasized that among a broad set of great candidates, Sunak has the competence and experience to lead Britain.
In another speech in London, lawmaker Tom Tugendhat, who has been criticized for his lack of ministerial experience, promised to start from zero and to introduce an energy resilience plan to ensure that the UK has domestically produced energy or can buy fuels from reliable foreign suppliers.
Another of the aspirants, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, obtained the support of at least 21 colleagues, including Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Nadine Dorries and Minister of State for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency Jacob Rees-Mog.
Also on the official list of candidates for the Conservative Party’s leadership spot are Minister of State for Trade Policy Penny Mordaunt, Attorney General for England and Wales Suella Braverman, former Foreign Secretary and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Jeremy Hunt; current Chancellor of the Exchequer Nadhim Zahawi, and Minister of State for Local Government, Faith and Communities and Minister of State for Equalities Kemi Badenoch.
While the Tories are eager to define their future, the Labor Party, the UK’s main opposition group, on Tuesday presented a censure motion against the government in Parliament with the aim of holding a vote on Wednesday to immediately remove Johnson from the premiership.
However, the government has rejected agreeing to give the Labor Party the necessary time to be able to hold the debate on the motion, without which it cannot move forward, saying that Johnson had already resigned and a process to replace him as leader is already under way.
The motion, which would obligate lawmakers who still support Johnson in his interim role to either support him or vote against him, could potentially have opened the door to general elections, something that the Tories fear, since they would risk losing the broad parliamentary majority that they achieved in the 2019 election.
Labor Party leader Keir Starmer on Tuesday stressed that the conservatives last week had “concluded that the prime minister is unfit for office” and cannot let Johnson continue in that role for until Sept. 5.
On Wednesday, the conservative lawmakers will vote in the first round of their leadership selection process and any candidate not receiving at least 30 votes from their colleagues will be eliminated.
The second vote has been set for Thursday and there could be more votes next week until just two candidates remain, between whom the Tories will decide who will be the new party leader and, thus, the country’s new premier.