New Delhi: Even as he remains defiant in the face of falling support from fellow Tories, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s days in 10 Downing Street could be numbered.
With his Cabinet colleagues led by Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak as well as several Conservative MPs making a beeline to announce their lack of faith in his leadership, Johnson, his sense of bravado notwithstanding, is staring at a massive vote of no confidence. There are many who believe that the Prime Minister, who managed to survive a vote of no-confidence last month, won’t survive another if it happens now.
Technically, under UK law, now that Johnson has managed to stave off the move to get rid of him by managing to win the trust vote, he can’t be asked to seek another for the next one year. However, if a majority of his party’s MPs, who constitute the 1922 committee, get the rule changed to allow a vote of no confidence before the end of the 12-month period, then it may be curtains for the Prime Minister.
While politics is the art of the possible where anything can happen and often happens, speculation is rife on who could be a suitable replacement for Johnson. Could it be a person of India origin – Rishi Sunak – who is chosen to take over leadership of the Conservative party to try and shore up the party’s reputation post-Johnson? Were that to happen, it might be seen as one of the most symbolic moments in history, what with a PIO becoming head of government of the once-most powerful nation in the world, which ruled India for a long time. Or could it be a Pakistani-origin leader – Sajid Javid?
Here’s what the entire list of possible Johnson replacements looks like:
RISHI SUNAK: When he was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sunak, who is married to the daughter of Infosys founder NR Narayana Murthy, was touted as the next big thing in the Conservative Party. Many said he could be the next Prime Minister. However, all has not gone well for the Stanford and Oxford educated politician. His handling of the economy during the Covid crisis and the fact that his wife, Akshata Murthy, had a non-domicile status, one that allowed her to escape paying taxes on her income from her stake in Infosys, took the sheen off his image.
Observers feel chances of his being appointed the Prime Minister range from bleak-to-average. The bookies, though, are backing him. One reason for this confidence in Sunak’s chances of being the next Prime Minister in case Johnson resigns is the fact that by resigning, Sunak has taken pole position in the race to the top of the Conservative Party in a post-Johnson likelihood.
LIZ TRUSS: The Foreign Secretary has been climbing the ladder of popularity – both within and outside the Conservative Party – through a smart mix of shrewd political moves and a smart politically-astute play. While she is still in the government, this, may feel, is only because she understands the importance of Johnson’s support in the event he decides to resign.
BEN WALLACE: The former Army officer and current Defence Secretary is a scandal-free face in the Johnson government. His standing with the public and within the Tories has gone up considerably since the beginning of the Russian attack on Ukraine. He is seen as a mature politician, who knows how not to rattle the already anxious party loyalists.
SAJID JAVID: Is the UK ready for a Muslim Prime Minister, even if he claims he is a non-practising one? The high profile former Health Secretary has risen from the ranks and understands the inner working of the Conservative Party like few others. But, like some of his other party colleagues, he too carries the baggage of his old controversies with him, one that could be put to effective use by his opponents in case he decides to run for leadership of the party.
PENNY MORDAUNT: The former Defence Secretary is a vocal critic of the Prime Minister, leading the charge against him over the “Partygate” scandal. She has held the position of Defence Secretary earlier and is known as a very effective and forceful speaker.
JEREMY HUNT: Having lost the last time – to Johnson – he mounted a campaign to become leader of the Conservative Party, Hunt is a seasoned politician. Having aligned closely with the anti-Johnson group within the party, he has been biding his time. He knew Johnson, with a penchant for attracting controversy, would slip and bring about his own downfall. Johnson didn’t fail and did the rest.
If Johnson now goes, Hunt may make another bid for leadership. Whether he gets the necessary support or not is a question whose answer nobody knows right now.