With Boris Johnson in his most precarious position yet as UK prime minister, speculation is swirling over who might replace him as leader of the Conservative party and take Britain’s top political job.
The UK’s first Hindu chancellor of the exchequer is the current bookies favourite to replace Johnson, having been appointed finance minister in 2020 after only five years in politics.
Sunak, 41, was credited with taking bold steps and delivering a sweeping publicly-funded furlough scheme to secure jobs affected by the coronavirus lockdown.
Pro-Brexit Sunak’s public speaking ability, smart appearance and slick communications style are in stark contrast to Johnson, earning him comparisons to former prime minister Tony Blair.
Sunak was noticeably absent from the House of Commons during Johnson’s apology Wednesday for attending a lockdown-breaking drinks party at Downing Street, and took hours to voice support for his beleaguered boss.
Privately wealthy through his previous business career, Sunak’s grandparents were from the Punjab in northern India and emigrated to the UK from east Africa in the 1960s.
His father-in-law is Indian tech billionaire Narayana Murthy.
Another front-runner is Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, a free-trade champion whose straight talking and willingness to wade in to the culture wars have made her popular among Tory grassroots.
Truss, 46, was handed the top diplomat’s role as reward for her work as minister for international trade securing a raft of post-Brexit trade deals.
Some MPs characterised her former Department for International Trade (DIT) as the “Department for Instagramming Truss” because of her prolific output on the social media site.
Truss, who opposed Brexit but then switched sides, grew up in Leeds, northern England, and previously worked for 10 years in the energy and telecommunications sectors.
The former journalist with a nose for political drama was a driving force behind Brexit and has been an influential member of Johnson’s cabinet.
Gove, 56, was in September tasked with leading the housing and local authorities ministry, to deliver Johnson’s agenda of “levelling up” disadvantaged UK regions.
He ran twice to be Conservative leader, in 2016 and 2019, coming third on both occasions.
Former foreign and health secretary Jeremy Hunt, 55, lost to Johnson in the 2019 leadership contest during which he branded himself as the “serious” alternative.
A fluent Japanese speaker, he is the current chair of the health select committee and has an image as a “nice guy” although is seen by some as lacking charisma.
Hunt was a contemporary of Johnson and former prime minister David Cameron at Oxford University, and previously worked as a management consultant and an English language teacher in Japan.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid, 52, is the son of a Pakistani immigrant bus driver who become a high-flying banker and eventually Johnson’s finance minister before resigning in 2020.
He has spoken fondly of shaking free market champion Margaret Thatcher’s hand when he was a young boy.
Javid voted in 2016 to remain in the European Union because of its economic benefits to trade, but later rallied to the Brexit cause and ended his leadership challenge to support Johnson.
Interior minister Priti Patel, 49, is the most socially conservative of Johnson’s senior ministers, voting against introducing same-sex marriage, and was a prominent Brexit supporter.
Patel was born in London to a Ugandan-Indian family and has taken a tough line on immigration while being confronted with record numbers of migrants arriving in the country from across the Channel.
An avowed Thatcherite who has had to fend off claims she bullied civil servants, Patel worked in public relations before entering politics.
Deputy prime minister and justice secretary Dominic Raab, 47, led the country when Johnson was in intensive care in hospital with Covid-19 in 2020.
The former lawyer and karate black belt was seen as a reliable ally whose unfussy and pragmatic approach made him the right man for a crisis.
His move to justice from the post of foreign secretary was seen as a demotion after he initially failed to cut short his holiday as Kabul fell to the Taliban in August.