Sunak and Truss left standing in bid to replace Boris Johnson 

22 July 2022

On the day when Boris Johnson completed his final Prime Ministers’ Questions with the words “Hast La vista baby,” Penny Mordaunt saw her chances of becoming the UK’s next Prime Minister terminated. With Mordaunt out of the race, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are now the final two candidates in the race for Number 10.  

The results of the fifth round of votes were left Rishi Sunak with 137 votes, against Liz Truss’s 113. Mordaunt managed to only gather the support of 105 Conservative MPs. Sunak and Truss will take part in a head-to-head debate on the BBC on 25 July. 

Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee of conservative backbenchers, said it would now be up to Conservative members to elect the next party leader. The ballot will close on Friday, 2 September. 

Hustings for Party members will be held around the UK starting Friday, 22 July. The eventual winner will be chosen via a postal ballot of 160,000 Tory party members with the winner announced on 5 September. The winner is expected to move into 10 Downing Street the following day. 

Mordaunt, after being knocked out of the race, stated that she wanted “to congratulate both Rishi and Liz in getting through to the next stage. I pay tribute to anyone who puts themselves forward for such a demanding role. Politics isn’t easy.”

Rishi Sunak’s team stated that “this is a really strong result with a clear mandate from MPs.” While Truss outlined that she is “excited to now take to the country to make the case to the Conservative party about my bold new economic plan.” 

From an Irish perspective, there is glim hope of a potential reset in Anglo-Irish relations, with optimism not high. “We’ve been burned by six years of Conservative Prime Ministers. I have little faith that the next one’s going to be any better,” said Neale Richmond, European affairs spokesman for Fine Gael. 

When Johnson resigned, many in Dublin hoped it would be “anyone but Truss”. Her ardent backing of the contentious Northern Ireland Protocol Bill has won her few friends in the Irish capital. Despite her originally being a Remainer, feeling is warmer in Dublin towards Sunak.

From an Irish perspective Sunak, despite being a Brexiteer, is the preferred candidate in Dublin as he is seen as more pragmatic on the UK’s future relationship with both Ireland and the EU than his predecessor. He also abstained on the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill’s second reading vote.

Truss, however, is the frontrunner, proving markedly more popular with the base. The coming weeks will see a flurry of campaigning by the final two candidates in pursuit of the top job in British politics, with implications for the UK, its relationship with Ireland, Europe and the wider world.