UK leader hopefuls jostle as Johnson digs in for final weeks

Jul 8, 2022, 2:48 AM | Updated: 3:40 am
Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks back inside after reading a statement outside 10 Downing Street,...

Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks back inside after reading a statement outside 10 Downing Street, London, formally resigning as Conservative Party leader, in London, Thursday, July 7, 2022. Johnson said Thursday he will remain as British prime minister while a leadership contest is held to choose his successor. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

LONDON (AP) — A field of candidates to replace departing Prime Minister Boris Johnson began to take shape Friday, even as some Conservative Party lawmakers pushed to get the scandal-tarnished leader out of office before his replacement is elected in the next couple of months.

Johnson announced his resignation on Thursday — a dizzying about-face after months spent insisting he would stay in his job amid mounting ethics scandals and growing Conservative discontent.

He quit as party leader with a statement to the nation outside 10 Downing St., but said he would stay in post as prime minister until his successor is chosen by the party. That decision didn’t sit well with some of his Conservative colleagues, who worry Johnson lacks the authority to hang on, or could do mischief even as a caretaker prime minister.

James Cleverly, appointed as education secretary on Thursday after his predecessor quit during a mass exodus of ministers, defended Johnson’s decision to stay.

“It’s right that he has stood down and it’s right that he has put a team in place to continue governing whilst the selection procedure flows for his successor,” Cleverly told Sky News. “And we should do that I think pretty quickly, pretty promptly.”

Party officials are due to set out the timetable for a leadership contest on Monday, with the aim of having a winner by the end of the summer. The two-step process involves Tory lawmakers voting to reduce the field of candidates to two, who will go to a ballot of all party members across the country.

Lawmaker Tom Tugendhat, who chairs the House of Commons’ influential Foreign Affairs Committee, became the second candidate to declare he is running, after Attorney General Suella Braverman. Former Health Secretary Sajid Javid and ex-Treasury chief Rishi Sunak — whose resignations this week helped topple Johnson — are also likely contenders, along with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

Even as contenders launch their campaigns, Johnson remains in office atop a caretaker administration formed from a dwindling band of loyalists alongside ministers who have agreed to stay in office to keep government running.

Johnson has promised not to make any major policy decisions in his remaining time, but many Conservatives say a lame-duck leader is the last thing the country needs amid Russia’s war in Ukraine and a worsening cost-of-living crisis triggered by soaring food and energy prices.

Some also are wary of Johnson’s intentions after a resignation speech in which he made clear he didn’t want to leave, but had failed “to persuade my colleagues that it would be eccentric to change governments when we’re delivering so much and when we have such a vast mandate.”

George Freeman, who quit as science minister on Thursday, said he worried about a leadership election being held in “a febrile moment of midsummer madness, where we choose the wrong person in a hurry because of the instability.”

Some had pushed for Johnson to give way and let Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab step in as temporary leader. But lawmaker Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, treasurer of the Conservative committee that runs party leadership contests, said “that ship has sailed.”

“We must now live with the fact that Boris Johnson will be prime minister until a successor can be voted on,” he said.

The main opposition Labour Party said that was unacceptable and vowed to call for a no-confidence vote in Johnson in the House of Commons next week, though prospects of its success were uncertain.

“He’s a proven liar who’s engulfed in sleaze and we can’t have another couple of months of this, you know,” Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said. “So they do have to get rid of him, and if they don’t, we will call a no-confidence vote because it’s pretty clear — he hasn’t got the confidence of the House or the British public.”

The brash, 58-year-old politician who took Britain out of the European Union and has been at the helm at the height of COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine survived scandals over his expenses and lockdown-breaking government parties during the pandemic. He was brought down by one scandal too many — this one involving his appointment of a politician who had been accused of sexual misconduct.

Johnson faced days of questions, and gave days of conflicting answers, over what he knew about past allegations against Chris Pincher, a Conservative lawmaker who resigned as party deputy chief whip last week after allegedly groping two men at a private club. Pincher acknowledged he had got drunk and “embarrassed myself.”

Johnson offered shifting explanations about what he knew and when he knew it. That just brought concerns the prime minister couldn’t be trusted to boiling point.

Javid and Sunak, key Cabinet members who were responsible, respectively, for fighting COVID-19 and inflation, resigned within minutes of each other Tuesday, setting off a wave of departures by their colleagues.

Johnson clung to power for days, defiantly telling lawmakers on Wednesday that he had a “colossal mandate” from the voters and intended to get on with the business of governing.

His resignation the next day was a humiliating defeat for a politician whose jokey bluster brought a celebrity status unmatched in British politics — but who was accused of behaving as if the rules didn’t apply to him.


Follow all of AP’s coverage of Prime Minister Boris Johnson at

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

              Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks back inside after reading a statement outside 10 Downing Street, London, formally resigning as Conservative Party leader, in London, Thursday, July 7, 2022. Johnson said Thursday he will remain as British prime minister while a leadership contest is held to choose his successor. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


(Facebook Photo/City of San Luis, Arizona)...
Associated Press

San Luis authorities receive complaints about 911 calls going across border

Authorities in San Luis say they are receiving more complaints about 911 calls mistakenly going across the border.
4 days ago
(Pexels Photo)...
Associated Press

Daylight saving time begins in most of US this weekend

No time change is observed in Hawaii, most of Arizona, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas.
12 days ago
Mexican army soldiers prepare a search mission for four U.S. citizens kidnapped by gunmen in Matamo...
Associated Press

How the 4 abducted Americans in Mexico were located

The anonymous tip that led Mexican authorities to a remote shack where four abducted Americans were held described armed men and blindfolds.
12 days ago
Tom Brundy points to a newly built irrigation canal on one of the fields at his farm Tuesday, Feb. ...
Associated Press

Southwest farmers reluctant to idle farmland to save water

There is a growing sense that fallowing will have to be part of the solution to the increasingly desperate drought in the West.
19 days ago
A young bison calf stands in a pond with its herd at Bull Hollow, Okla., on Sept. 27, 2022. The cal...
Associated Press

US aims to restore bison herds to Native American lands after near extinction

U.S. officials will work to restore more large bison herds to Native American lands under a Friday order from Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
19 days ago
(Photo: OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center)...
Sponsored Content by OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center

Here's what you need to know about OCD and where to find help

It's fair to say that most people know what obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders generally are, but there's a lot more information than meets the eye about a mental health diagnosis that affects about one in every 100 adults in the United States.

Sponsored Articles

(Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona Photo)...
Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona

5 common causes for chronic neck pain

Neck pain can debilitate one’s daily routine, yet 80% of people experience it in their lives and 20%-50% deal with it annually.
(Pexels Photo)...

Sports gambling can be fun for adults, but it’s a dangerous game for children

While adults may find that sports gambling is a way to enhance the experience with more than just fandom on the line, it can be a dangerous proposition if children get involved in the activity.
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
UK leader hopefuls jostle as Johnson digs in for final weeks