The Tory leadership race has officially kicked off as Sir Graham Brady unveiled tough new rules to see a new leader appointed by the end of next week. Hopefuls will need nominations from at least 100 Conservative MPs and there will be an online vote for members if two candidates make it through the parliamentary stages.
The leadership contest comes after Liz Truss resigned this afternoon following weeks of turmoil in the wake of the disastrous mini-budget.
Sir Graham, chair of the powerful 1922 Committee of backbenchers, set out the rules alongside Tory chairman Sir Jake Berry at a press conference in Westminster this evening.
But there are fears elderly party members could be at a disadvantage due to the online voting system.
Following a statement at 5.30pm outlining the new rules, Sir Jake was asked: “What are you going to do about Tory party members who don’t have access to online voting?”
He replied: “All efforts will be made including outreach to members for whom we don’t have an email or members who are unable to vote online.”
Sir Graham said candidates will need at least 100 nominations from fellow MPs, which must be made by Monday.
He said it would mean a maximum of three candidates on the ballot paper for MPs to vote on.
Sir Graham said: “We fixed a high threshold but a threshold that should be achievable by any serious candidate who has a prospect of going through.”
Sir Jake said the board of the Conservative Party met at 4pm and, in conjunction with the 1922 Committee of backbenchers, had decided on the process.
He added: “We have decided that if the party should decide to put forward two candidates there would be an expedited, binding, online vote of Conservative Party members to choose its next leader.”
Sir Jake said Conservative HQ will be working with broadcasters to arrange one event for members to hear from the final two candidates before they cast their vote.
Possible runners and riders include Rishi Sunak, Penny Mordaunt, Kemi Badenoch and Suella Braverman.
And Boris Johnson is expected to attempt an extraordinary political comeback as his allies rally around.
Tory MP Marco Longhi told Express.co.uk that Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour, which is surging ahead in the polls, would be “terrified” at the prospect of a return by Mr Johnson.
The Dudley North MP added: “I am calling for Boris to come back, he has my full support, just as he had it before. It’s in the national interest.”
Trade minister Sir James Duddridge said he hoped Mr Johnson had enjoyed his Caribbean holiday but it was “time to come back” as there were a “few issues at the office that need addressing”.
Cabinet Office minister Brendan Clarke-Smith added: “We need somebody who can turn the tide and avert the disaster of a Labour government. We need Boris Johnson.”
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It became clear a fresh leadership election was inevitable after mayhem in Westminster reached its climax last night.
A crunch Commons vote on fracking saw a number of Tory backbenchers revolt, accusations of ministers screaming at MPs, and uncertainty as to whether senior Government members had resigned.
Speaking earlier today, Ms Truss added: “This morning I met the chairman of the 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady.
“We’ve agreed that there will be a leadership election to be completed within the next week.
“This will ensure that we remain on a path to deliver our fiscal plan and maintain our country’s economic stability and national security.”
Just yesterday the Prime Minister had declared she was “a fighter, not a quitter” and even this morning her official spokesman was claiming she would fight the next general election.
But Ms Truss bowed to pressure from her Tory MPs as the party’s popularity sunk to its lowest level ever with one poll suggesting they could be left with just one MP after an election.
Her authority started to collapse after her controversial mini-budget on September 23 panicked the financial markets.
She announced plans to cancel planned tax rises, introduced a two-year energy price guarantee, cut the basic rate of income tax to 19p and scrapped the 45p top rate of income tax.
However, the fiscal event sparked a collapse of the pound and a drop in stocks and shares undermining the safety of pension funds.
Within weeks she was forced to replace her Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng with Jeremy Hunt who reversed almost all her policies and embarked on tax rises and spending cuts.
Defending her economic plans, she said as she resigned: “I came into office at a time of great economic and international instability.
“Families and businesses were worried about how to pay their bills, Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine threatens the security of our whole continent, and our country had been held back for too long by low economic growth.
“I was elected by the Conservative Party with a mandate to change this. We delivered on energy bills and on cutting national insurance and we set out a vision for a low tax, high growth economy – that would take advantage of the freedoms of Brexit.”
Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 committee of Conservative MPs which determines the rules of leadership elections, visited the Prime Minister earlier today to let it be known that he had lost the confidence of her backbenchers.
Dozens of MPs had warned they no longer had faith in Ms Truss’s Downing Street operation. While party rules ordinarily mean that the Prime Minister could not have faced a confidence vote for 12 months, MPs were urging Sir Graham to allow a ballot to take place.
It is thought Boris Johnson is preparing to launch a bid to return to No10, while Rishi Sunak is ready to also run again for leader.
A YouGov poll of Conservative members published earlier this week pointed to Mr Johnson being the favourite among the Tory grassroots.
Asked who they would like to see take over if Ms Truss resigned, 32 percent of the 530 members surveyed said Mr Johnson.
Mr Sunak was favoured by 23 percent, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace by 10 percent and Commons leader Penny Mordaunt by nine percent.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer demanded a general election “now” so that the nation can have “a chance at a fresh start”.
Without a general election, the Conservatives will be on their third Prime Minister on the mandate won by Mr Johnson in December 2019.
Sir Keir said: “The Conservative Party has shown it no longer has a mandate to govern.
“The British public deserve a proper say on the country’s future. They must have the chance to compare the Tories’ chaos with Labour’s plans to sort out their mess, grow the economy for working people and rebuild the country for a fairer, greener future.
“We must have a chance at a fresh start. We need a general election – now.”