With Boris Johnson resigning today, we look at what could happen next.
What will happen after the prime minister officially resigns?
The expectation is that Johnson will resign but propose remaining as a caretaker prime minister, possibly until the autumn. But a push to do so risks infuriating MPs.
Whatever happens, the government still needs a prime minister. So Johnson could stay in the short term, as he wishes, while a new Conservative party leader is chosen and could do what Theresa May did, using those last months to “build a legacy”.
Alternatively, he could, like David Cameron, find that prospect too humiliating or unworkable and go immediately. If so, there would need to be a caretaker prime minister while the party leadership election process took place.
Could the deputy prime minister, Dominic Raab, be a caretaker PM?
Raab has performed that function before, when Johnson was ill with Covid in spring 2020. However, the caretaker should not be a candidate for the leadership, and so he may excuse himself if he decides to stand.
If Johnson agrees to leave No 10 the moment a replacement leader is found, as happened with May in 2019, nothing formal would need to happen – he would stay in post, attempt to patch together an interim cabinet, and the focus would shift to choosing his replacement.
Who else could be a caretaker?
Some Conservatives have called for May to return as a caretaker. Senior cabinet ministers could also play this role.
How would a new prime minister be chosen?
First by Conservative MPs and then by party members. It is for them to determine a Tory leader, who is then prime minister as the party has a Commons majority.
Under rules set out in 1997, the first stage is (assuming there are more than two candidates) for the hopefuls to be whittled down by a series of votes by Tory MPs.
The precise method for this is set out by the party’s backbench 1922 Committee before each race. Typically, in every round of MP voting, the candidate with the least support among MPs – and potentially also those who fail to reach a set threshold of votes – are eliminated, depending on the size of the parliamentary party at the time. Party members then vote on the final two, a longer process involving a series of hustings events.
Sign up to First Edition, our free daily newsletter – every weekday morning at 7am BSTHow long will the whole process take?
In 2019, when Johnson replaced May, the entire leadership process took about six weeks. It seems that Johnson may want to extend his tenure until October, however, three months away.
Who has said they will stand to be PM?
Many senior MPs are expected to put their names forward, including Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss, Ben Wallace and Sajid Javid. So far, the attorney general, Suella Braverman, has said she intends to stand, while the veteran Brexit campaigner and backbench fixer Steve Baker has said he is being urged by colleagues to do so, too.