LONDON (AP) – A British cabinet minister believed to be front runners in the Conservative Party’s leadership race dropped out of the contest on Saturday.
Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, after “careful consideration” and discussions with colleagues and family, said he would not run to replace Boris Johnson as the country’s Conservative leader and next prime minister.
Johnson resigned as party leader after months of insisting he would stay in the job despite mounting ethics scandals. He said he will remain prime minister until the party chooses his successor.
Former Chancellor Rishi Sunak, the most prominent contender for the leadership and believed to be the bookmakers’ favorite to win, submitted his bid on Friday. Sunak resigned on Tuesday, sparking a mass exodus of government officials that toppled Johnson.
Attorney General Suella Braverman, lawmaker Tom Tugendhat and former Equality Secretary Kemi Badenoch have also thrown their hats in the ring and more announcements are expected in the coming days.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Treasury Secretary Nadhim Zahawi and Trade Secretary Penny Mordaunt are expected to run, as are former Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt.
Wallace said his decision “wasn’t an easy decision, but my focus is on my current job and the safety of this great country.”
Conservative party officials are expected to set the schedule for a leadership contest on Monday, with the goal of having a winner by the end of the summer. The two-tier process sees Tory lawmakers voting to reduce the field of candidates to two, who will go to a vote of all party members.
Johnson’s resignation marked the end of three turbulent years in which the divisive leader had to fend off numerous scandals and a challenge to the Conservative leadership. For months he managed to cling to power despite claims that he had shielded supporters from allegations of bullying and corruption and parliament mooted parties from government offices that broke COVID-19 lockdown rules.
But his dealings with Allegations against a high-ranking politician who had been accused of sexual misconduct was the last straw for many Conservatives who openly revolted this week and ousted him from office.
Johnson remains in office to head a caretaker administration, but many Conservatives don’t want a lame leader — especially in the face of a deepening livelihood crisis sparked by rising food and energy prices.
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