Contenders to succeed British Prime Minister Liz Truss canvassed for support Friday, with her predecessor Boris Johnson reportedly considering a sensational comeback as he picks up dozens of early nominations from Conservative MPs.
Truss’s announcement Thursday that she will resign after less than seven weeks in office has also prompted renewed calls from opposition parties for an early general election to end months of political chaos.
After her tax-slashing mini-budget last month sparked economic turmoil, two departures from her new cabinet and an eventual revolt by Tory lawmakers, Truss admitted she “cannot deliver the mandate” party members had handed her in the prior leadership contest.
British newspapers featured sombre images of Truss’s last speech outside the door of No. 10 Downing Street, with leftwing broadsheet The Guardian headlining its front page: “The bitter end”.
Truss only succeeded Johnson on September 6 after a weeks-long campaign against Tory rival Rishi Sunak, vowing a radical overhaul as Britons struggle with a cost-of-living crisis.
Having warned correctly of the disastrous consequences of her debt-fuelled tax promises, former finance minister Sunak has emerged as an early favourite to succeed Truss.
But the scandal-tarred Johnson may also be in the mix for a dramatic comeback bid, despite leaving Downing Street with dismal poll ratings.
“He couldn’t could he…” read the front page headline of the Tory-supporting Daily Express tabloid.
Conservative party managers announced a truncated election process, which requires candidates to garner 100 nominations from colleagues by Monday afternoon, ahead of another possible vote of members next Friday if two remain in the race.
So far there are no formal contenders, but the contest was widely expected to be a three-horse race between Sunak, Johnson and senior cabinet member Penny Mordaunt.
Political website Guido Fawkes, which is running a rolling spreadsheet of Tory MPs’ declared support, had Johnson on 52, Sunak on 47 and Mordaunt on 18 by early Friday.
Rightwing broadsheet The Daily Telegraph reported Johnson was set to fly back from a holiday in the Caribbean and was urging MPs to back him.