UNITED KINGDOM: The five remaining candidates for the position of UK prime minister will face off in the first of three televised debates on Friday in the hopes that a strong showing will improve their chances in a race where there is now no clear frontrunner.
After two days of voting by lawmakers from the ruling Conservative Party, the initial field of 11 contenders was narrowed down, but no one has yet emerged as the clear choice to succeed Boris Johnson, who announced his resignation after a string of scandals.
Rishi Sunak leading the race
Rishi Sunak, the former finance minister, has won those two votes, but he faces fierce competition from Liz Truss, the foreign minister, who has the support of several influential people, and Penny Mordaunt, the junior trade minister, who polls indicate is the most well-liked among the party members who will decide the winner.
Kemi Badenoch, a former equalities minister, and Tom Tugendhat, the head of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, are still in the running as well. They will be hoping that a solid performance in the televised debates would give their campaigns a boost.
“Tonight is the big event because what this is actually about is not just Conservative members, as important as they are, it’s actually about the country at large,” Tugendhat said.
“What we need to show, what everybody needs to show, is that they’re able to communicate Conservative messages strongly and debate hard. Because this isn’t actually a knife fight in a phone box. This is about governing the United Kingdom.”
Whoever wins the election will have to deal with high inflation, slow economic growth, and the public’s lack of faith in politics following Johnson’s scandal-plagued tenure in office.
Additionally, according to voter surveys, the Conservatives are lagging far behind the opposition Labour Party.
In the eyes of his 358 Conservative parliamentary colleagues, Sunak, whose decision to leave the Treasury last week contributed to a wave of ministerial resignations that toppled Johnson, continues to be the front-runner.
He does, however, have a slight lead over Truss and Mordaunt, who might both overtake him depending on which candidate the members who supported the other candidates choose to endorse.
Attorney General Suella Braverman, who was eliminated from the race on Thursday, endorsed Truss and received support from David Frost, who negotiated Britain’s exit from the European Union.
It was said that Johnson was pleading with supporters to support “anyone but Rishi” in the leadership race.
In the meantime, Frost said that Mordaunt was not aggressive enough against the EU, a crucial issue for many Conservatives. Frost is a less well-known individual in the general public who has emerged as the bookies’ favorite.
Following the TV debates, MPs will vote again on Monday, with the person receiving the fewest votes being eliminated each time until just two candidates remain as of July 21.
The country’s 200,000 Conservative Party members will then elect the new leader, who will be unveiled on September 5.