Who could replace Boris Johnson as British prime minister?

The jockeying to succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister was underway even before he announced his resignation on Thursday.

There will be no general election. Instead, the next leader of Britain will be chosen in a vote by dues-paying members of the Conservative Party, which will remain in power.

Although Johnson is under pressure to let someone else serve as caretaker prime minister, he said he would serve until a new leader is in place, which could take six weeks or longer.

Any Conservative lawmaker can put themselves forward for the role — provided they receive nominations from at least two colleagues.

The party holds several rounds of secret-ballot votes to whittle down the field, eliminating the person with the fewest votes each time. The final two candidates are then put before the grass-roots members of the party, a group of about 200,000. They select the winner.

Penny Mordaunt, 49, is a junior trade minister who first became a member of Parliament in 2010. She has held a number of roles in government. In 2019, Mordaunt, a former Royal Navy reservist, became Britain’s first female defense secretary.

Johnson sacked her from that position shortly after he became prime minister (she had backed Jeremy Hunt, Johnson’s rival, in the 2019 leadership contest). She reentered government a year later and was broadly seen to have been supportive of Johnson. 

An arch-Brexiteer, Mordaunt could appeal to the Brexit wing of the party. She is best known outside of politics for having appeared in a now-defunct reality show.

Ben Wallace, the defense secretary for the past three years, was among senior ministers who urged Johnson to step down Thursday. But Wallace himself has not resigned, citing an “obligation to keep this country safe, no matter who is PM.”

When asked during a Washington Post Live event in May about polling that showed him as the “people’s favorite” to replace Johnson, Wallace said: “I’m so uninterested in a pitch for leadership. … I doubt I’d want to be prime minister, but I am a politician, so you can read that answer as you’d like.”

Wallace, 52, has been a member of Parliament since 2005 and before that was a member of Scotland’s devolved Parliament. He attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and was commissioned as an officer in the Scots Guards in his 20s. He served in Northern Ireland, Germany, Cyprus and Central America.