Many UK Conservatives working behind the scenes for leadership run if election goes badly

London: UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will head to the Conservative Party’s conference this weekend with one aim: convincing Britain that he can win the next general elections. Many of his own lawmakers are already preparing for a scenario in which he doesn’t, the media reported.

But national polls suggest he won’t be Britain’s leader after an election that must be called by January 2025, reports Bloomberg.

The opposition Labour Party has enjoyed a double-digit polling lead for more than a year. After a couple of recent polls appeared to show Sunak clawing back ground, YouGov this week gave Labour a 21-point advantage.

While Sunak, 43, appears to have suppressed for now the threat of an internal challenge, many Conservative are working behind the scenes for a leadership run if the election goes badly, according to interviews with more than two dozen party lawmakers, advisers and donors, Bloomberg reported.

There are at least 13 would-be contenders to watch out for, said the people, who spoke to Bloomberg on condition of anonymity.

One MP said the subplot of Conservative conference — told in unsubtle speeches, fringe events and drinks at hotel bars — was the battle for the future of the party. Another told Bloomberg that Sunak was already a lame duck.

Sunak’s backers say his team is focused on making a success of his premiership and not getting distracted by events beyond their control.

Allies of all the possible leadership hopefuls said they were working to support the prime minister and pushing for a Conservative election win.

Some Conservatives think Sunak could still pull off victory or stay on if Labour fail to secure an outright majority, Bloomberg reported.

“Who replaces Rishi in the event of a defeat is going to depend in no small part on just how bad that defeat turns out to be,” said Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London, who has researched how the party’s post-election make-up will determine its leader.

Kemi Badenoch, Sunak’s business secretary raised eyebrows among colleagues by holding a party in her office in the summer to celebrate the “benefits of Brexit,” serving English sparkling wine.

Badenoch, 43, is currently the most popular Cabinet minister in a closely watched monthly survey of Conservative members by the website ConservativeHome.

She is also the bookmakers’ favorite, although she fell out with some pro-Brexit MPs earlier this year when she doused a so-called bonfire of legislation retained from European Union membership, Bloomberg reported.


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