Chris Mason: Who will be our next prime minister?

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UK
Liz TrussReuters

Who, on earth, will be our next prime minister, in under 10 days time?

Another new prime minister.

In the blink of an eye.

With the tiniest slice of the country getting a say.

This is entirely constitutionally proper, by the way, in a parliamentary democracy.

The party leader who can command a majority in the House of Commons becomes prime minister.

And, as Liz Truss discovered rather quicker than she might have hoped, when you can’t command that majority, you’re done for.

But what is constitutionally proper can still be politically tricky.

Whoever wins will face a clamour from opposition parties for a general election, although those calls may carry a little less force if one particular chap ends up winning.

And yes, right now in Westminster, a familiar question crops up the whole time.

‘What — and how — will Boris Johnson do?’

Could a man ejected from office by his party a matter of weeks ago make the most astonishing of comebacks?

The lesson of the last few weeks is don’t rule out the astonishing.

Would Conservative MPs, party members and the country at large forgive him so soon?

He will argue he can rescue the Tories from their calamitous unpopularity under Liz Truss and that he has a mandate from the electorate, having led his party to victory at the last election.

Then there is Rishi Sunak.

September’s runner-up doesn’t usually get to become October’s prime minister, but remember, the usual has gone out of fashion.

The defeated candidate last time, who’s been vindicated on the economy — he spent the summer saying Liz Truss’s plans would be a disaster.

Don’t expect an immediate declaration from him, but it’d be surprising if he were not a candidate.

Then there is Penny Mordaunt.

The surprise candidate for many over the summer, she finished third last time.

We may hear something about her intentions as soon as today.

There are then people like Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and the former home secretary Suella Braverman.

And so the arm-twisting, phone-bashing and spreadsheet-populating begins.

Visions and pledges made privately and then publicly.

New Conservative visions in an accelerated popularity contest.

Liz Truss is a history maker.

For all the wrong reasons.

The speediest, most efficient humiliation in British political history, meaning once again we have a zombie government and a caretaker prime minister.

Liz Truss bequeaths her successor a party in chaos, spiralling prices, rising interest rates and squeezed government budgets.

A horrible inheritance, yes, but a prized opportunity nonetheless.

The race is on. Again.

Flow chart showing process for choosing the next Tory leader

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