The Prime Minister has this morning announced his decision to resign. The decision was inevitable in the light of the 50+ resignations over the past two days from Government.
According to reports, he will set out his intention to stay in post until Conservative Party Conference at the beginning of October (as an interesting historical sidebar, that will see him surpass Theresa May’s tenure of 3 years and 12 days). However, that decision is not entirely in his gift – it is possible that the backbench 1922 Committee will announce a timetable for a leadership election that will see a new Prime Minister in place before then. It is also feasible that the PM will step down immediately leaving the Deputy PM, Dominic Raab, to oversee the Government until the result is announced.
What happens next?
The 1922 Committee will set out a timetable for the forthcoming leadership election, with MPs given a short window to declare their candidacy. The likes of Liz Truss (Foreign Secretary), Rishi Sunak (the former Chancellor), Ben Wallace (Defence Secretary), Jeremy Hunt (the former Health Secretary), Nadhim Zahawi (Chancellor), Tom Tugendhat (Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee) and others are likely to throw their hat into the ring. Suella Braverman (Attorney General) and Steve Baker (one-time Brexit minister) have announced that they are considering putting their names forward.
Once we have a settled pool of candidates, there will be a first-round run off with MPs voting – likely to take place next week– to narrow the field. 1-2 days later, a second-round vote will be held with the remaining candidates. Historically, most candidates tend to drop out after the first round, leaving three or four frontrunners for that second round. There could then be a third round a day or so later, to whittle it down to the final two.
Conservative Party members will then be sent a postal ballot to decide between those final two candidates. We anticipate that this election will be underway by the time Parliament rises for the summer recess on Thursday 21 July. Campaigns will be launched, regional hustings held, and voting will begin sometime in August running into September. These campaigns inevitably involve Ministers. MPs and Special Advisers who support particular candidates in helping to run the campaign.
In the meantime…
There are 54 Government positions that must be filled following the slew of resignations since Tuesday night. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities – responsible for delivering the Johnson Government’s flagship policy – has no Secretary of State following the sacking of Michael Gove last night, and no Ministers. A similar position holds for the Department for Education. What is most likely is that the Prime Minister, in consultation with Cabinet colleagues, will appoint new Ministers and PPS’ to fill those vacant roles. There are also likely to be a number of re-appointments of those who have resigned, particularly in more junior roles.