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British defense chief Ben Wallace among favorites to succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister

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British defense chief Ben Wallace among favorites to succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister
British defense minister Ben Wallace has been mentioned as a possible candidate to succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister. File Photo by Neil Hall/EPA-EFE

July 7 (UPI) -- After scandal-tinged British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his resignation on Thursday, there's a short list of possible candidates to succeed him in the post -- but defense minister Ben Wallace might be the front-runner.

After months of pressure related to the "partygate" scandal, Johnson said Thursday that he will give up his post as British leader and leader of the Conservative Party. Whoever takes over the party's leadership will automatically become prime minister.

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"The process of choosing a new leader should begin now. And the timetable will be announced next week," Johnson said in his announcement.

There are several possible candidates to succeed Johnson, but Wallace is believed by some to be the favorite.

RELATED British PM Boris Johnson to resign amid scandal, wave of resignations

A YouGov snap poll of more than 700 British Conservative Party members showed that Wallace has the most support (13%) among a dozen contenders. Wallace has been Britain's defense minister since Johnson became prime minister in 2019.

The survey showed that Wallace is the clear favorite in potential head-to-head match-ups -- as he bests all other candidates by double-digit margins.

"Wallace wins all of his match-ups by wide margins," YouGov said in a statement. "His closest competitor is Rishi Sunak, whom he [beats] by 51% to 30%. He beats both Liz Truss and Penny Mordaunt handily with 48% of the vote to their 26-29%. And most Conservative members (58%) prefer him over Jeremy Hunt (22%)."

Former health minister Jeremy Hunt has been mentioned as a possible candidate to succeed Boris Johnson as British prime minister and Conservative Party leader. File Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI
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Sunak and Hunt are Conservative lawmakers, Truss is Britain's foreign secretary and Mordaunt is trade minister.

Other possible candidates in the poll were former housing minister Michael Gove, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, lawmaker Tom Tugendhat, Chancellor of the Exchequer Nadhim Zahawi, former health minister Sajid Javid, Home Secretary Priti Patel and health minister Steven Barclay. None of those candidates received more than 7% support in the YouGov poll.

In a letter to the Conservative Party, Former Prime Minister John Major suggested that Raab take over as caretaker minister until the party chooses a new leader in October.

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Wallace, 52, was elected to British Parliament in 1999 as a representative of Scotland. In 2015, he became minister of state to Northern Ireland and served in the post for about a year before he became security minister. He became Johnson's defense minister in July 2019 after Prime Minister Theresa May retired.

There is some question, however, about Wallace's interest in assuming the prime minister's office. Earlier this year, he told The Washington Post that he didn't see much appeal in the job.

"I doubt I'd want to be prime minister, but I am a politician, so you can read that answer as you'd like," he said.

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