Now the jostling to replace Rishi Sunak begins: Kemi Badenoch tipped (2024)

With Rishi Sunak stepping down as Conservative Party leader following his party's drubbing in the General Election, talk has already turned to who could replace him.

The former Prime Minister yesterday announced he will stay in his place until his successor is appointed later this year.

But following huge losses for the Tories, a dozen top Cabinet ministers have lost their seats - meaning Penny Mordauntand other possible runners have been knocked out of the race before it even started.

The surviving favourites include darlings of the right such as Kemi Badenoch and Priti Patel, while more centrist voices like Jeremy Hunt andTom Tugendhat would be considered realistic contenders if they threw their hats in the ring.

Ms Braverman, his former home secretary, hasn't wasted any time to show she is ready to launch a leadership bid during her speech after winning the Fareham and Waterlooville seat.

Suella Braverman used her victory speech last night (left) to launch her bid for the Tory leadership

Senior Tory figures - including a record number of Cabinet ministers - lost their seats in an election bloodbath

She vowed to 'rebuild trust' and apologised for her party's failings, declaring: 'I'm sorry that my party didn't listen to you. The Conservative Party has let you down.

'You, the great British people, voted for us over 14 years and we did not keep our promises. I will do everything in my power to rebuild trust. We need to listen to you, you have spoken to us very clearly'.

Ms Braverman is fourth favourite to be the next Tory leader, according to bookmakers.

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Ms Badenoch is favourite, followed by Ms Patel and Mr Tugendhat. James Cleverly, who held his Essex seat.

The bruising election result risks making the contest especially acrimonious, as rival ideological factions thrash it out to define the future of their party.

Mr Sunak is already being blamed for the Tory collapse and is already facing the wrath of senior Conservatives, many of whom slammed his decision to call a July election.

Amongst those humiliated was Liz Truss, who lost her seat but had been tipped to launch another leadership bid had she held South West Norfolk.

Grant Shapps said his party's troubles had turned into an endless 'soap opera' and said the Conservatives had 'lost' the election rather than Labour winning it having 'tried the patience' of the public by being divided.

Penny Mordaunt said the Tories had thrown away the public's trust and lost sight of the public's values.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, who lost his seat, was amongst those who blamed the ousting of Boris Johnson for the party's electoral drubbing while James Cleverly appeared to take aim at the Tory's Rwanda policy, saying his party had pursued 'thin solutions to challenging and complex problems'.

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Outgoing Home Secretary Mr Cleverly said: 'This has been a very difficult night for my party and losing the position of government of this country is painful, but it is the nature of our democracy that it happens.

'And when it happens it is incumbent upon I suppose all parties, but particularly the party leaving government, to listen carefully to what the voters are telling us.

'I am not going to rush to any quick judgments. I think the right thing to do is be thoughtful and take a short period of time to really assess what the voters are telling us, but it is clear that, when you see the vote share of the traditional main parties of government, that many voters are disillusioned with all of us. And we should take that on board.'

Whoever takes over as Tory leader faces the momentous task of rebuilding the party after one of its worst ever defeats.Here are the key contenders to watch, with odds provided by Ladbrokes -

Kemi Badenoch (2/1)

Outgoing Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch is seen as a frontrunner among right-leaning factions and has left the door open to a tilt at the top job by saying 'we will talk about leadership things after an election'.

Ms Badenoch was born in Wimbledon and grew up in Nigeria and the US, returning to the UK at the age of 16. She has a master of engineering as well as a bachelor of laws and has worked at private bank Coutts and The Spectator.

She first became an MP in 2017. Ms Badenoch backed Brexit, and as minister for women and equalities she has made a name for herself as an outspoken voice on gender issues, including by calling for a change to the Equality Act so that sex is defined only as someone's biological sex.

Ms Badenoch has rejected calls for Reform UK leader Nigel Farage to be welcomed into the Tory fold.

Dame Priti Patel (5/1)

Former home secretary Dame Priti Patel is a longstanding Eurosceptic who has said she was inspired to join the Conservative Party by Margaret Thatcher.

She became an MP in 2010 and served in cabinet positions under Theresa May and Boris Johnson, as international development secretary and home secretary respectively.

Dame Priti was a leading figure in the Vote Leave campaign, and as home secretary she launched a points-based immigration system, signed the agreement with Rwanda to send asylum seekers to the country and sealed returns deals with Albania and Serbia.

She resigned as home secretary after Liz Truss became Tory leader.

Suella Braverman (8/1)

Suella Braverman declared two days before election day that the fight for a Conservative electoral victory is over.

Writing in The Telegraph, she instead referred to a 'fight for the soul' of the party.

Ms Braverman, a barrister by trade, has a track record of controversial op-eds. She was appointed home secretary by Rishi Sunak, who sacked her from that post over an article accusing the Metropolitan Police of bias in policing protests.

Ms Braverman was previously attorney general for England and Wales under Boris Johnson and has also chaired the Eurosceptic European Research Group.

She was elected as an MP in 2015. She recently told The Times she would welcome Nigel Farage into the Conservative Party, saying: 'There's not much difference really between him and many of the policies that we stand for.'

James Cleverly (8/1)

James Cleverly, who served as Home Secretary, has yet to declare his intentions and told Sky News in the aftermath of his re-election as an MP: 'What might happen in the future I'll leave that for the near future.'

An article in The Times had suggested he would not go for the top job due to his wife's health but other reports indicate he could be persuaded to run.

Mr Cleverly is a centrist who previously served as foreign secretary and was first elected as the Conservative MP for Braintree in May 2015.

After an injury cut short his Army career, he got a business degree and joined the Territorial Army. Mr Cleverly worked in magazine and digital publishing before setting up his own business. He was a London Assembly member before he became an MP.

Robert Jenrick (8/1)

Former immigration minister Robert Jenrick last month denied he was firing the first shot in the race to replace Mr Sunak when he wrote an opinion piece dubbed by The Mail on Sunday as him 'effectively setting out his manifesto'.

Mr Jenrick used the article to say the Conservatives are the 'natural home for Reform voters' and that former prime minister Boris Johnson 'must always have a place' in the Tories, including in Parliament, should he wish to have one.

The MP for Newark resigned as a minister last December as he claimed the then draft legislation designed to revive the Rwanda deportation policy did 'not go far enough'.

Mr Jenrick last month claimed Mr Sunak's administration was 'turning a corner' in its efforts to reduce net migration.

He added in a nod to Reform: 'We have to build a coalition of voters and propose policies which will fix people's problems - be that on migration, public services reform, the cost of living, or housing.'

Jeremy Hunt (7/1)

Having previously run for leader in 2019 and 2022, Jeremy Hunt may be reluctant to have a third go.

But his lengthy experience in Cabinet and appeal to moderates could be attractive to Tories looking for a calming influence after the chaos of recent years.

After surviving a scare to secure his seat in the Commons, Mr Hunt said: 'Some Conservatives will wonder whether the scale of our crushing defeat was really justified.

'But when you lose the trust of the electorate, all that matters is having the courage and humility to ask yourself, why? So that you can earn it back again.'

After clinging on to his seat, Mr Hunt is not favoured among bookmakers to take over.

Tom Tugendhat (7/2)

Former security minister Tom Tugendhat, who held on in Tonbridge, repeatedly refused to rule out taking a tilt at the top job during the election campaign.

He previously unsuccessfully ran for the leadership in 2022, when he pitched himself as the candidate untarnished by the scandals that dogged Boris Johnson and his government.

He is seen as being on the centrist wing of the party, meaning he could struggle to convince a more right-leaning Tory membership.

Speaking after last night's result, Mr Tugendhat said he was 'very grateful' to be re-elected but called for his party to 'stop and rethink where we're going'.

Victoria Atkins (14/1)

Victoria Atkins, the outgoing health secretary, left the door open for a leadership bid in the run-up to the election.

Ms Atkins, who held her Louth and Horncastle seat with a reduced majority, has been discussed as a contender from the more moderate wing of the party.

She was reportedly talked up by former deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden as a 'star' capable of leading the Tories in a leaked recording from December.

During her time in office, Ms Atkins struggled in vain to stop strikes by junior doctors.

Her odds are 18/1 with Betfair Exchange and 14/1 with Ladbrokes.

Now the jostling to replace Rishi Sunak begins: Kemi Badenoch tipped (2024)

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