There's still several weeks to go until a winner is announced, but foreign minister Liz Truss has emerged as the presumptive favorite in the race to be the United Kingdom's next prime minister.
Boris Johnson's July 7 resignation signaled the start of a two-month leadership contest in which members of the UK's governing Conservative Party will choose his successor. The final result is to be announced on Monday Sept 5 -- Labor Day in the USA.
Following a series of televised debates and several rounds of voting by Conservative members of Parliament, the original field of 11 candidates has been narrowed to two -- Truss and Rishi Sunak. Until he resigned on July 5, Sunak was chancellor of the exchequer, which is comparable to the American Treasury secretary. In his resignation letter to Johnson, Sunak said, "You have...lost my confidence."
Sunak's resignation was seen as the final dagger that sealed Johnson's fate -- and that's why many Tory members have soured on him and are left supporting Truss by default. As Reuters reports:
For many members, the driving force behind their support for Truss is less about her and more about her rival, former finance minister Rishi Sunak, who, several said, cannot be handed the keys to Number 10 Downing Street after "knifing" Johnson.
"Obviously I want Liz Truss if it's going to be one of the two," Conservative councillor Paul Donaghy tells Reuters. "She was one of the only ones who didn't stick the knife into Boris and I think that rings true for a lot of people." Sunak was among officials issued fines by the Metropolitan Police for having attended hypocritical, lockdown-defying gatherings in the scandal that became known as "Partygate."
The fiercest exchanges in their Tuesday one-on-one debate centered on economics.
Truss scolded Sunak for raising taxes "to the highest rate in 70 years, and we're now predicted a recession." Sunak fired back at Truss, saying her tax-cut plans -- which include a reversal of a National Insurance tax hike -- would give Conservatives "absolutely no chance" of winning the next UK election. Sunak has emphasized that his top priority would be combatting inflation, rather than tax cuts.
While voting by members of Parliament narrowed the field to two finalists, the final selection is made by a vote of some 200,000 Conservative party members, who will receive paper ballots between August 1 and 5, with votes due either via mail or online by Sept 2.
In the meantime, the Conservative Party will host a dozen "hustings" events, in which the candidates will clash in various locations around the UK, with the action streamed on YouTube.
As of July 28, The Telegraph's analysis of oddsmakers handicapping of the race gives Truss an 84% probability of becoming the next prime minister.