Ben Wallace is party favourite as Tory leadership contest unofficially begins

The Tory leadership contest is now unofficially under way, with Boris Johnson’s resignation setting the wheels in motion for a new prime minister to take the reins.

With Boris Johnson’s impending departure firing the starting gun for a contest to replace him, attention has turned to potential successors.

The clear favourite among Tory party members is Ben Wallace, according to a new YouGov poll.

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The Defence Secretary, who served in the Scots Guards, was a key voice in the UK’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and this increased exposure could assist any leadership bid.

Frontrunner: Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, a former Scots Guard, is being tipped as a possible future Tory leader

Hot on his heels in YouGov’s popularity ranking is Penny Mordaunt, who made waves in 2019 as the UK’s first female defence secretary before being fired by Mr Johnson shortly after he became Prime Minister.

The Brexit-backing trade minister is reported to have a campaign team in place.

Other big beasts who have not yet announced their candidacy include Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid, whose resignations from Cabinet on Tuesday triggered the mass exodus that ultimately crippled Mr Johnson’s leadership.

Mr Sunak, whom the YouGov poll puts in third place, was regarded as a frontrunner before his stock took a tumble following disclosures that his wife had non-dom status for tax purposes.

Mr Javid, the former health secretary, is seriously considering running, as is Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

Mr Shapps, who was key to the Prime Minister’s fight for survival during partygate, was among the Cabinet ministers telling Mr Johnson to stand down on Wednesday.

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Some Tories have already made their ambitions clear. Attorney General Suella Braverman launched an unlikely leadership bid as support for Mr Johnson crumbled around him on Wednesday night.

Prominent Brexiteer and former minister Steve Baker, a senior Tory backbencher, also confirmed on Thursday he is seriously considering putting himself forward for the top job.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has made little secret of her leadership ambitions, with a series of high-profile interventions and photo opportunities in which she appeared to be channelling late PM Margaret Thatcher.

Sir Robert Buckland, who has just been appointed the new Secretary of State for Wales, has declined to rule out running as Tory leader.