Thursday, August 11

As Boris Johnson resigns, what happens next?

Johnson will visit Northern Ireland on Monday to hold emergency talks.

Daniel Leal | Afp | Getty Images

After an acute political meltdown in the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has resigned as leader of the Conservative Party, setting in motion a race for a new prime minister.

Johnson stood at a lecture outside No. 10 Downing Street at lunchtime Thursday and announced his resignation, stating that “no one in politics is remotely indispensable” and that he was “sad to be giving up the best job in the world.”

Crucially, Johnson said he would continue to serve as prime minister until a successor is chosen in a leadership contest set to take place over the coming weeks.

But given Johnson’s extraordinary fall from political grace, there is disquiet among some—both within his ruling Conservative party and beyond—over the prospect of Johnson remaining in office for any time at all.

Here’s what could happen next in this fast-moving political drama:

leadership contest

Among those expressing concern over Johnson remaining caretaker prime minister until a new leader is selected is Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng. He said would rather Johnson goes now and urged the party to elect a new leader “as soon as practicable.”

Meanwhile, another Tory MP tweeted that, “it is beyond credulity that Mr Johnson can stay in office.” Others have said an interim prime minister should be installed to look after government business over the summer, while parliament takes a break.

Unsurprisingly, the leader of the opposition Labor Party Keir Starmer has said that Johnson needs to go “completely” and that “there should be none of this nonsense about clinging on for a few months.”

If the Conservative Party does not support Johnson remaining in his post, it could recommend that the Queen appoint another Conservative lawmaker as a stopgap — with the current Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab likely to be a frontrunner.

Allan Monks, an economist at JP Morgan, said the Conservative leadership process was likely to be completed in a matter of weeks.

“The first round is likely to start imminently and will consist of a series of votes among the party’s MPs designed to whittle down the process to two candidates (taking two weeks or less). The second round will be a ballot among party members to decide who becomes the next leader (and hence Prime Minister). This could take a further four weeks or so,” Monks explained.

This implies the whole process could be completed by September—well before the Conservative Party’s annual conference.

Who could replace him?

All eyes are now on Johnson’s replacement, with speculation rife over which of the “big players” — such as current or former Cabinet ministers — will announce their intention to run.

Prominent Conservatives who are seen as potential contenders include former Chancellor Rishi Sunak, former Health Secretary Sajid Javid, Defense Minister Ben Wallace and current Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, as well as other less prominent officials including trade minister Penny Mordaunt and former health minister Jeremy Hunt.

None of them have yet declared their interest in running for the top job with only attorney general, Suella Braverman, definitively announcing that she is running so far.

A snap YouGov poll which asked 716 Conservative party members who they’d like to replace Johnson found that Ben Wallace and Penny Mordaunt came out neck-and-neck, with 13% of those polled backing each of them respectively. Rishi Sunak was behind with 10% and Liz Truss with 8%.

Notably, however, a separate YouGov poll comparing the individual candidates showed that Wallace was the clear favorite among Conservative Party members to be the next party leader.

What impact on markets?

Looking past the populist Johnson, Pickering said both of the UK’s major parties have mostly sensible economic policies to the center-left for Labor and center-right for the Conservatives reflecting the parties’ political leanings.

“Relative to, say, a potential Biden versus Trump presidential election in the US in 2024, the next UK general election and the outlook for economic policy seem positively boring. After some six years of Brexit and Boris, that’s not a bad thing,” Pickering noted.

The backstory

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