Boris Johnson’s political corpse is still far from cold as his former ministers fight for his position. The corridors of Westminster are abuzz with speculation, as the British press points out that candidates for the leadership – most of whom were prepared long before in anticipation of a palace coup – are on the rise. The fear among conservatives is that a party that has found itself increasingly divided in recent years will see an internal split in this power struggle after the unity surrounding the overthrow of the prime minister.
“I think the party will find it difficult to sustain this,” a former minister pointed out in a conversation with the Guardian.
“I think we’ll split up.” Indeed, there is a big difference between at least two factions in the Conservatives’ leadership favourites, whether declared or not.
On the one hand, Johnson loyalist Home Secretary Priti Patel, known for her heavy-handed approach to immigration – was the best-known author of the policy of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda, which was widely criticized but popular within the country.
On the other hand, we have the faction of Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid, who resigned as finance or health ministers respectively, causing a domino to topple Johnson. These are figures with different priorities than the outgoing Prime Minister, who are more focused on austerity.
Sunak, who announced his candidacy on Friday, is the favorite of conservative militants, according to polls. However, they will not decide the next leader of the Conservative Unionist Party – which is also the most voted party in the rest of the UK – but their MPs.
Typically, the dispute for the Conservative leadership involves successive rounds of delegates voting until only two candidates remain. That means the most popular party within the party may not win, and there is even speculation that the rules could be changed this time – the decision will come from the influential 1922 Committee, which represents conservative representatives from outside the government. This week – the militants won’t even vote.
Already Johnson loyalists have vowed to do everything in their power to wreak havoc on this “treacherous degenerate,” according to the Financial Times’ no. 10 Downing Street described a good source. “Rishi will get all he deserves for leading the charge to topple the Prime Minister,” he said. Others see what happened as an ongoing practice among conservatives.
In fact, it could be argued that Sunak has only followed in the footsteps of Johnson, who was one of the chief architects of the downfall of his predecessor, Theresa May, as Foreign Secretary.
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