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Conservative Party begins campaign to replace Boris Johnson - this is how it happens

Updated: Jul 13, 2022

Johnson resigned on Thursday night (AEST) after over 50 of his ministers did the same.

Following the resignation of over 50 MPs from ministerial offices, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed to step down as Conservative Party leader on Thursday.

However, he will continue to serve as caretaker Prime Minister until the Conservatives can elect a new leader to replace him. Already, many MPs have thrown their hats into the ring, with the process expected to last weeks.

As with the resignations of his Conservative predecessors Theresa May and David Cameron, Boris Johnson’s resignation has triggered an election within the Conservative Party to find a suitable replacement. This is a process that may last until October, although it may end before then, with it only taking the Conservatives two months to elect a replacement for Theresa May.

There have already been calls for an immediate resignation from both within Westminster and within the Conservative Party. Former Conservative Prime Minister Sir John Major has called for Johnson to step down as Prime Minister immediately, which would mean that Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab would run the UK until the Conservatives could elect a replacement. However, it is unlikely that Johnson would agree to this.

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, the Opposition Leader, has cautioned Johnson by threatening to call for a vote of no confidence in the House of Commons.

As 358 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons are held by Conservative MPs, this would require a considerable number of Conservatives to vote against the Prime Minister. Even though Conservatives have been willing to force Johnson’s resignation as party leader, a successful vote would take some of the initiative out of the hands of the party’s powerbrokers and would give Starmer a political victory, so it is unlikely that the party would be willing to let this happen.

The path is now clear for the Conservative Party to elect a new leader, who would replace Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, once elected. This follows the established constitutional convention that the leader of the largest party in the House of Commons is given the opportunity by the Queen to form Her Majesty’s Government.

This is done because the largest party, especially if they have a majority, as the Conservatives currently do, can ensure that spending bills, known as Supply and Appropriation Bills, are passed by the House of Commons.

Supply and Appropriation Bills are essential to the government because without them the government cannot spend money or pay public servants. In return for ensuring the passage of these bills, the party leader is made the First Lord of the Treasury, enabling them to spend government money once the appropriation bills are passed. The First Lord of the Treasury is therefore the Prime Minister.

The procedure for picking the next Conservative Party leader involves both the MPs and the paying members of the party.

Once MPs announce their candidacy, they need the support of 8 sitting MPs. If they cannot get this support, their name does not make it on the ballot paper. As with any other election, the candidates are then given an opportunity to campaign for office.

Following this, there are several rounds of voting. Each time, each of the 358 MPs is given one vote to cast. In the first round of voting, every candidate who received fewer than 18 votes is eliminated. In the second round of voting, every candidate who received fewer than 36 votes is eliminated. The MPs continue to vote, with the candidate who received the least votes each round being eliminated, until only two candidates remain.

All paying members of the party are then given an opportunity to cast a postal vote for the leadership position. Whichever candidate receives the most votes becomes the party leader, and will replace Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.

The timeline for this process is set by the 1922 Committee. More formally known as the Conservative Private Members’ Committee, it consists of all Conservative backbencher MPs, meaning those MPs who do not hold a ministerial position or another office, and is chaired by Graham Brady.

It is expected that the Conservative Party will have elected a new leader in time for their annual party conference, which will be held from 2-5 October.

Stuart Jeffery is a freelance researcher & digital editor for 6 News. His views on personal social media pages are his & his only, and do not reflect the views of 6 News or our journalists. He abides by 6 News' editorial standards relating to fairness & accuracy.

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