LONDON — The U.K. is gearing up to install a new prime minister this week — its fifth in six years — following the sudden resignation of Liz Truss, just 44 days into the job.
Truss’ successor will once again be decided by a Conservative Party leadership contest drawn from a short-list of candidates.
This time, however, the process has been fast-tracked into the space of a week, as the party seeks to salvage its credibility and reassure markets after a cataclysmic month of economic turmoil under Truss’ government.
Over the weekend, two Tory hopefuls officially threw their hats into the ring for a stab at the top job. Those include frontrunner Rishi Sunak, who lost to Truss in September’s leadership race, and Penny Mordaunt, who placed third.
Ex-Prime Minister Boris Johnson — who was ousted from office in scandal three months ago — said Sunday he had withdrawn from the race in the interests of party unity, despite having previously claimed to have the necessary backing to enter.
The remaining two candidates have since been rallying around fellow members of parliament (MPs) to amass the minimum threshold of votes required to join the final run-off. Here’s how the race is expected to unfold over the coming days — or, potentially, hours.
Monday 24, 2 p.m. — MPs submit their nominations
Candidates have until 2 p.m. London time on Monday to gain the backing of 100 MPs and therefore enter the ballot for party leader.
The threshold is particularly high given that the party is comprised of 357 MPs, and each is allowed to vote for only one candidate. That thus limits the number of possible contenders to three.
As of Monday morning 6 a.m. local time, Sunak had garnered the public support of 155 MPs and Mordaunt had 25 nominations, according to the BBC.
All MPs will have to submit their nominations, by either email or signature, by the 2 p.m. deadline, after which point the results will be revealed.
If just one candidate receives the 100 votes required, they will automatically win the race and become Britain’s next prime minister.
Monday 24, 6 p.m. — First ballot of MPs
If two or more candidates reach 100 nominations, the contest will proceed to an indicative ballot Monday afternoon.
A first ballot of MPs will be held between 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., with the results to be announced at 6:00 p.m.
If there are only two candidates at this stage, it is thought that the one with the fewest number of votes will step down to avoid an online ballot among party members. But that is not guaranteed.
If there are three candidates, the one with the fewest votes will be eliminated and a second ballot will be conducted.
Monday 24, 9 p.m. — Second ballot of MPs
If required, a second indicative ballot of MPs will be held between 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., with the result to be announced at 9 p.m.
At that point, the candidate with the fewest votes may step down. If not, the process will progress to a vote among party members.
Friday 28, 11 a.m. — Party members’ vote closes
Should the process extend beyond Monday, Conservative Party members — which number around 200,000 people representing 0.3% of the British population — will have until Friday 11 a.m. to vote for their preferred candidate in an online ballot.
The process would be a fast-tracked version of the six-week process used to elect Truss on Sept. 5.
The winner will be declared later Friday. Britain’s King Charles will then ask them to form a government, making them the next prime minister in the process.
Monday 31 — U.K. fiscal budget?
The new prime minister will have just days to settle into the job and announce their new Cabinet before the Treasury’s financial budget is set to be announced on Monday Oct. 31.
The statement is set to be closely watched by both Britons and international investors as newly installed Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt attempts to remedy the destruction caused by Truss’ government and his predecessor Kwasi Kwarteng.
However, questions remain over whether the budget will go ahead as planned and, indeed, whether the incoming prime minister will retain Hunt in the role.