Deadline to secure backers looms for Tory leader hopefulson July 12, 2022 at 2:56 am

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Candidates vying to replace Boris Johnson have just hours to secure support from at least 20 MPs.

An exterior view of the door to Number 10 Downing Street

Candidates vying to be the leader of the Conservative Party – and the next prime minister – have just hours to secure the support of at least 20 MPs.

It comes after the party increased the number of nominations required to make it onto the first-round ballot in order to speed up the process.

Three MPs – Rishi Sunak, Penny Mordaunt, and Tom Tugenhadt – have so far passed the necessary threshold.

Mr Sunak and Mr Tugenhadt are to launch their official campaigns on Tuesday.

Voting will get under way on Wednesday, with candidates needing 30 backers to make it into the second round.

The field will be whittled down to two finalists before the end of next week in successive rounds of voting by Tory MPs.

A winner will then be picked in a postal ballot of around 160,000 Conservative Party members over summer. Party bosses have said they plan to announce a winner on 5 September.

The contest comes after Boris Johnson last week announced he would stand down as party leader amid increasing dissent among his MP and mass resignations by his ministers.

Eleven MPs have so far put themselves forward to replace him, although other candidates could still enter the race, with Home Secretary Priti Patel among those believed to be weighing up a run.

Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg has ruled himself out, telling the Telegraph he wanted to “unite rather than further fracture the right”.

The contest so far has been dominated by the issue of taxation, with nearly all of the candidates pledging cuts to personal or business taxes, or both.

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Conservative leadership timetable

Tuesday 12 July – nominations to get on the ballot open, closing at 18.00 BST

Wednesday 13 July – first round of voting among Tory MPs

Thursday 14 July – likely date for second round of voting

Monday 18 July – likely date for third round of voting, if required

Thursday 21 July – deadline for deciding final two candidates

Monday 5 September – winner announced

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At his launch event, Mr Sunak, who served as chancellor until he stood down last week, is expected to pledge to cut taxes – but only once inflation has been “gripped”.

He will say that, under his leadership, reducing the tax burden would be a “question of ‘when’, not ‘if'”.

At his campaign launch, Mr Tugendhat, the chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, who has already said he would reverse the rise in national insurance and cut fuel duty, will pledge measures to boost economic growth.

The other candidates for the party leadership are: former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch; Attorney General Suella Braverman; Foreign Office minister Rehman Chishti; former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt; former Health Secretary Sajid Javid; Transport Secretary Grant Shapps; Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, and Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi.

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Analysis box by Chris Mason, political editor

While describing this race as Rishi Sunak versus the rest would be an exaggeration, it wouldn’t be much of one.

All the other candidates, to one degree or another, are gunning for his record as chancellor, and the current levels of taxation and government spending.

Plenty, including those who served in the very government that did exactly what they are now grumbling about, say the amount of taxing and spending is un-Conservative, and they would seek to do something about it pronto.

On Tuesday, we’ll hear the response from the man who – until last week – was chancellor.

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At the last Tory leadership race in 2019, candidates required only eight backers to make it into the first round and only 18 to get to the second.

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 backbench committee, said the new thresholds had been set to allow “serious candidates” to enter the race while avoiding a “cast of thousands who don’t really have a great prospect of progressing”.

Mr Johnson said he would not be endorsing any of the candidates running to replace him.

“I wouldn’t want to damage anyone’s chances with my support,” he added.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer criticised the candidates for their tax pledges, accusing them of entering an “arms race of fantasy economics”.

He also accused them of “hypocrisy” for having backed tax hikes that have been introduced during Mr Johnson’s time in office.

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