Boris Johnson’s resignation announcement fired the starting gun on the race to succeed him, with four senior Conservatives already having gone public with their campaigns to become the next Prime Minister.
Rishi Sunak is the early favourite having attracted the backing of more than a dozen MPs, while Kemi Badenoch, Suella Braverman and Tom Tugendhat have also declared their candidacies.
Meanwhile, Ben Wallace, Michael Gove and Dominic Raab are among the high-profile Conservatives who have ruled themselves out.
Many MPs believe that the sheer number of politicians assessing their chances is an indication that there is no stand-out choice to be the next leader, which could lead to a more drawn-out contest than they had hoped for.
Here, we assess the chances of each confirmed candidate, and those who are yet to declare.
Candidates who have already declared
The man who helped bring down Boris Johnson by resigning as chancellor on Tuesday remains one of the favourites to succeed him despite the controversy earlier this year over his multi-millionaire wife’s non-dom tax status and his own curious decision to retain a US green card during much of his time at the Treasury.
His biggest hurdle might be convincing fellow MPs that his reluctance to cut taxes makes him fit to run the country, but the 42-year-old is one of the few candidates with the requisite experience and skills to step straight into the top job.
On Friday, he launched his leadership campaign via Twitter with the slogan #Ready4Rishi and a typically slick video:
I’m standing to be the next leader of the Conservative Party and your Prime Minister.
Let’s restore trust, rebuild the economy and reunite the country. #Ready4Rishi
Sign up 👉 https://t.co/KKucZTV7N1 pic.twitter.com/LldqjLRSgF
— Ready For Rishi (@RishiSunak) July 8, 2022
Suella Braverman QC
The Attorney General became the first MP to formally declare a leadership run when she told ITV’s Robert Peston on Wednesday night that she would "put my name into the ring". She said she would run on an agenda of tax cutting and getting rid of "all this woke rubbish".
A Brexit "Spartan" who held out for a hard Brexit, Mrs Braverman, 42, was chairman of the Eurosceptic European Research Group before entering government as a Brexit minister under Theresa May. Mr Johnson promoted the Cambridge-educated lawyer to her current post in 2020.
She has described herself as a "child of the British Empire" because her parents are from Mauritius and Kenya, adding that on the whole the British Empire was "a force for good", earning a vitriolic response on Twitter, which she has described as "a sewer of Left-wing bile".
Ms Badenoch spent the past two-and-a-half years as an equalities minister in the Department for Levelling Up before she quit the role on Wednesday.
Two days later, she announced her candidacy via a column in the Times in which she took aim at the Blairite "cultural establishment" and identity politics while pledging to return the party to a low-tax trajectory.
In 2020, she gave an acclaimed speech on the trend of ‘critical race theory’ in schools which was voted "speech of the year" by readers of the Conservative Home website.
Tom Tugendhat - declared
The chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, who formally announced his leadership bid in The Telegraph, believes he can break the mould by stepping into Number 10 despite no ministerial experience.
The 49-year-old, who holds dual British and French citizenship because he has a French mother, is the son of a High Court judge and served with the Intelligence Corps as a Territorial Army lieutenant colonel from 2003 to 2013. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan and also worked as a civilian for the Foreign Office in Afghanistan.
He described the fall of Kabul in 2021 as “the biggest foreign policy disaster since Suez”. Mr Tugendhat said on Thursday night that he has served his country before and wants to “answer the call” to be PM.
Contenders yet to declare a run
The first of the Cabinet ministers to resign on Tuesday, Mr Javid, 52, is one of the most experienced candidates, having been chancellor and home secretary as well as running four other departments: health, culture, housing and business. Allies say that he is “taking out soundings” and is “more likely than not” to stand.
His detractors argue that he has few major achievements to show for his time in government, but he has a compelling “backstory” as the Rochdale-born son of an immigrant bus driver who was told by his careers adviser to become a TV repairman but instead built a career in the city, becoming a board member of Deutsche Bank International.
In October 2019 he used his only budget to prioritise public spending over tax cuts.
A woman whose rankings in recent leadership polls far outstrip her public profile, the trade minister has consistently polled as one of the top choices among Tory Party members in recent weeks, despite her relative lack of top-level experience.
Currently in her eighth ministerial role, she was international development secretary for two years and was made the first female defence secretary by Mrs May before Mr Johnson replaced her in his first Cabinet 85 days later. Named after the Royal Navy ship HMS Penelope, Ms Mordaunt, 49, is the daughter of a former paratrooper, and is a Royal Navy reservist.
She has reportedly spent this week ringing round MPs to bolster support and believes she has as many as 60 backers. Laura Round, a former special adviser to Ms Mordaunt, is understood to be running her campaign, while Luke Graystone, a former adviser to Andrea Leadsom, is also involved.
The man who made it to the final two in the last leadership election before polling half as many votes from Tory members as Mr Johnson, Mr Hunt might appeal to MPs and Tory voters who yearn for a sensible, safe pair of hands after the chaos of recent months.
A former foreign secretary, Mr Hunt, 55, is also the longest-serving health secretary in history and served as culture secretary during the 2012 Olympics.
Regarded as a metropolitan liberal, the self-made millionaire campaigned for Remain in the EU referendum, which ruled him out of the running in 2019 and could still prove fatal to his chances. He has been sounding out Tory MPs for some time and has the support of Andrew Mitchell, a former chief whip.
Sir Robert Buckland QC
The newly-appointed Welsh Secretary, who previously served as justice secretary and solicitor general, was unexpectedly sacked in September last year during a reshuffle by Mr Johnson. Insiders suggested at the time that Mr Johnson picked on Buckland as the least likely minister to cause trouble if he sacked him to make way for Mr Raab, who was being demoted from foreign secretary.
The 53-year-old was rapped on the knuckles by Number 10 just a week into his job as justice secretary when he said people arrested for serious crimes including fraud should be given anonymity to protect their reputations. Mr Buckland, from Llanelli, is a huge fan of The West Wing and has a cat called Mrs Landingham after the fictional president’s secretary.
The Foreign Secretary cut short her visit to the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in Indonesia on Thursday, coming back the day after she arrived so that she can get her leadership bid properly under way.
Given that the meeting was seen as a chance to confront Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, over the invasion of Ukraine, her decision to put personal ambitions first will draw criticism from some circles, but Ms Truss, 46, has been gearing up for a leadership bid for months, using last autumn’s Tory Party conference to schmooze potential backers and then running “Fizz with Liz” events at 5 Hertford Street, a private members’ club.
A tax-cutting Tory who likes to play up comparisons to Mrs Thatcher, she prefers not to mention the fact that she voted Remain in the EU referendum. A government minister since 2012, Ms Truss is the longest continuously serving member of the Cabinet, having held four previous Cabinet posts.
In accepting the post of Chancellor on Tuesday, Mr Zahawi appeared to have enhanced his chances of becoming prime minister by burnishing his CV with one of the great offices of state, but by telling Mr Johnson to resign the very next day and publishing a letter calling for him to go, Mr Zahawi played a poor hand.
His critics believe he was naive to accept the Treasury job in the first place, and should have resigned when he told Mr Johnson to quit, along with Michelle Donelan, who was education secretary for less than two days.
One of the richest MPs in Parliament, Iraqi-born Mr Zahawi, 55, whose parents fled Baghdad to escape persecution by Saddam Hussein, made millions when he co-founded the polling firm YouGov and then ploughed the money he made from it into property. He is reported to have hired Mark Fullbrook, the political strategist who ran Mr Johnson’s 2019 campaign.
One of Parliament’s more colourful characters, the Transport Secretary is a former Tory Party chairman who could prove a useful ally to one of the other contenders if his own bid fails. An ally said he was "taking soundings and making initial preparations, in case he decides to proceed".
His time as Transport Secretary has been dominated by air travel rules during Covid and by the recent train strikes. A former photocopier salesman, Mr Shapps, 53, founded his own publishing business and in 2012 it emerged he had used the names Michael Green, Corinne Stockheath and Sebastian Fox.
He denied using pseudonyms after entering Parliament and also said he never had a second job while he was an MP, only to later admit that he had done both, and saying he had "over-firmly denied" having a second job. He has twice cheated death, once in 1989 when he in a coma for a week after a car crash, and then in 1999 when he recovered from Hodgkin’s.
The Home Secretary is one of the most committed Brexiteers in the Government, having been one of the leading lights in the Vote Leave campaign and former head of press for the Referendum Party. She has strong appeal with the party membership, as her Right-wing views – particularly on immigration (and on capital punishment, which she once supported) – are often more in tune with the membership than the party’s official position is.
In 2017 she was famously summoned back from Africa to be sacked by Theresa May as international development secretary because of unauthorised meetings with senior Israelis. A Johnson loyalist who has stayed in post, the 50-year-old was one of those who urged him to resign with dignity rather than be forced out.
New York-born Mr Ellwood, 55, was educated in Germany and Vienna before attending Sandhurst and entering military service with the Royal Green Jackets. He reached the rank of captain by the time he left the Army, but remained a reservist and was promoted to lieutenant colonel.
An MP since 2005, he served as a foreign office minister under David Cameron and Mrs May, and as veterans minister under Mrs May, but has never been a minister in Mr Johnson’s Government – having backed Matt Hancock and then Rory Stewart for leader in 2019 – and instead chairs the defence select committee.
He was hailed a hero in 2017 when he was one of the first on the scene after a terrorist attack on Parliament, administering CPR to PC Keith Palmer and trying to give him first aid before the officer died from his injuries. An outspoken critic of Mr Johnson, Mr Ellwood has long held ambitions of becoming prime minister.