British Foreign Trade Secretary Penny Mordaunt Wednesday came out of near-anonymity and became a serious contender to succeed Boris Johnson as leader of the Conservative Party and take over as the new Prime Minister following Wednesday's round of voting in which Economy Minister Nadhim Zahawi and former Health Minister Jeremy Hunt were cast aside.
After Wednesday's actions, the number of possible candidates for the post of prime minister has been reduced to six. Former Finance Minister Rishi Sunak took the most votes, but his leading position was shadowed by the appearance of a surprise candidate who was not on the radar last week. Mordaunt's face was recognized by one in 10 people, according to a SavantaComRes poll published Wednesday.
Mordaunt, 49, has held several senior government posts and even took part in a celebrity reality TV show, but is still little known beyond Westminster and her ruling Conservatives, although her achievements include serving briefly as Britain’s first female defense secretary who has always stood behind Brexit.
The six remaining contenders also include Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Attorney General Suella Braverman.
While Johnson stays in office on an interim basis until a successor is elected, the process is expected to last several days until there are only two candidates left, at which time party members will be able to vote.
Those with at least 30 votes in the first round move on to the next round, and the rest is eliminated.
Sunak obtained 88 votes Wednesday and Mordaunt came in second with 67 votes, followed by Foreign Secretary Liz Truss' 50 votes.
While Braverman and others are technically still in contention, analysts in London believe the next Prime Minister will be either Sunak or Mordaunt. A second round of voting Thursday might result in the elimination of two other candidates.
Most contenders have promised tax cuts and reductions in debt and inflation, while Mordaunt said she was the candidate most feared by Labour.
Sunak insists tax cuts would drive up prices and warned that the rest of the candidates were looking to add voters with unfulfillable promises.
Truss vowed to start cutting taxes from day one.
Analysts foresee that by next Monday the list of candidates might already be narrowed down to two people.
Graham Brady, chairman of the parliamentary committee responsible for the organization of the vote in the Conservative Party, said that the new Prime Minister will be announced Sept. 5.