In Belfast’s city centre, lifelong residents, holidaymakers, and students alike were yesterday discussing the bookies’ favourites to replace Boris Johnson should he resign.
“Has he not resigned already?” one woman asked, seemingly exasperated that Johnson still hed his position, although inadvertently foreshadowing Thursday morning’s events as it emerged that the PM is quitting as Tory leader.
The sentiment was shared by many members of the public the Belfast Telegraph spoke to, the main issues being the best time to hold a leadership election, when Johnson should have resigned, and potential replacements for the role.
The bookies’ favourite to become the next Prime Minister is Penny Mordaunt, with odds of 9/2. Liz Truss also carries odds of between 8/1 and 9/1, giving her similar odds to Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, while Jeremy Hunt’s odds range from 9/1 to 12/1.
Julie Waters, who lives in Glengormley and was visiting Belfast for the day, felt that a new prime minister is likely, but reckoned Johnson would prove resilient.
“He has had his ups and downs and he’s not a real strong prime minister, but I don’t know who would be good enough to take his place,” she said when presented with the contenders. “But there has to be someone in the pipeline. You wouldn’t know how to pick. I wouldn’t know any of them.”
She cited Partygate — the fallout from parties held by MPs and government officials amid strict lockdowns during Covid — as the final straw, saying: “There were so many families that lost people. I think that [Partygate] was a big mistake.”
English-born Jake Kimble now resides in Belfast and feels that any of the potential replacements will not fix the issues we have.
“I think it has been hard. I don’t think anybody could do any better, because of Brexit and Covid. I don’t know if anybody of them could a better job.”
“I feel like whoever’s in there can only do the same job and only have the same resources, the same money and the same people”.
Ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid are also in the running, with odds of 9/2 and 8/1 respectively.
Their resignations on Tuesday, alongside a slew of other of ministers, is the final nail in the coffin for Johnson, according to Deborah from Lisburn.
“I think yesterday was a real clincher. He was weakened by the vote of no confidence, but yesterday you’re thinking: ‘Yeah, right. The writing’s on the wall’.
“Who’s going to take this on? I don’t know. I thought Rishi Sunak was pitching for the top job, but he resigned yesterday.”
Sunak’s resignation as Chancellor would not, of course, prevent him going forward to replace Mr Johnson.
Ciara from Belfast agreed that Sunak seems like the favourite.
“I think at one stage Rishi Sunak would have been probably favourite for most people,” she said.
"But I think the favourite to take over is [Labour leader] Keir Starmer. I think there should be an election at this stage.”
Charlotte Baxter is originally from Bromley and moved to Belfast to study at Queen’s University. She bluntly stated that: “I’m not really a fan of Boris Johnson” She didn’t specify who she thinks will be the next PM, saying only that they “should be a role model”.
“I know people argue that, with the cost-of-living crisis, with Ukraine, we need a strong leader and having a leadership election might not help that – but there will always be a crisis.”