British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss entered the race to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister on Monday, taking the number of candidates in an increasingly bitter and unpredictable contest to 11.
Truss, who has held ministerial jobs in a number of government departments including trade, justice and the treasury, said she would slash taxes and maintain a tough line against Russian strongman Vladimir Putin.
She is seeking to replace Johnson who was forced out on Thursday after his government imploded over a series of scandals. The rules for the leadership election will be set out later on Monday, aiming to find a successor by September.
“Under my leadership, I would start cutting taxes from day one to take immediate action to help people deal with the cost of living,” Truss wrote in the Daily Telegraph. “It isn’t right to be putting up taxes now.”
The race for a new leader followed one of the most remarkable periods in modern British political history, when more than 50 government ministers quit, denouncing Johnson’s character, integrity and inability to tell the truth.
With many lawmakers unhappy with Johnson remaining in office until a successor is found, the party is likely to accelerate the election process. It could insist that candidates have the backing of around 30 lawmakers to enter the process before voting begins this week to whittle the number down to two.
Around 200,000 members of the Conservative Party will then choose a winner after weeks of hustings across the country.
Former Finance Minister Rishi Sunak is the early front runner, but that has prompted his rivals to attack his economic record and vow to cut taxes, even if it pushes government borrowing higher.
Nadhim Zahawi, appointed finance minister in the turmoil of last week, said he was also being smeared by his rivals after media reports raised questions about the former businessman’s personal finances and tax record.
“I was clearly being smeared,” he told Sky News on Monday. “I was being told that the Serious Fraud Office, that the National Crime Agency, that the HMRC (tax office) are looking into me. I’m not aware of this. I have always declared my taxes, I paid my taxes in the UK.”
Other candidates include Attorney General, Suella Braverman, former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, former Health and Finance Minister Sajid Javid and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
One Conservative member of parliament said he was astonished by the number of people entering the leadership contest.
“I shouldn’t be surprised by the ambitions and the delusions of some of my colleagues, but I am,” he said. “I expect we will narrow down the list of candidates very quickly.”