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The race to become the next leader of the Conservative Party got underway the second Boris Johnson gave into pressure to resign on 7 July, though behind closed doors the contest began long ago. Eight candidates were officially nominated on 12 July, though Jeremy Hunt and Nadhim Zahawi were knocked out of the race after the first ballot when they failed to get the 30 supporters needed to progress to the second. Suella Braverman followed a day later, with Tom Tugendhat and Kemi Badenoch also failing to reach the final three in later votes. Penny Mordaunt’s fate was sealed on 20 July when she finished third in the final ballot, leaving Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak in a head-to-head battle for Number 10 until one is declared the new Prime Minister on 5 September. 

Liz Truss MP

Constituency: South West Norfolk
Position: Foreign Secretary (September 2021 – present) and Equalities Minister (2019 – present)

Nicknamed the “Minister for Inequalities” by some, Truss has done little to advance LGBTQ+ rights since becoming Equalities Minister in 2019. ‘Conversion therapy’ remains legal despite Truss saying she is “determined” to bring an end to it, plans to meaningfully reform the Gender Recognition Act have been scrapped and members of the LGBTQ+ advisory board quit under her tenure – with the group later being disbanded entirely. She has criticised “identity politics” and, during a speech on 19 March, stated that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should bring an “end” to the “ludicrous debates about languages, statues and pronouns.” Caroline Nokes, Conservative MP and chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, accused Truss of viewing her Equalities Minister role as a “side hustle” to her job as Foreign Secretary, with many rights groups also condemning her time in the position. She has, however, voted in favour of LGBTQ+ rights at every opportunity – except for extending same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland, a vote she was absent from.

Rishi Sunak MP

Constituency: Richmond (Yorks)
Position: Chancellor from February 2020 – July 2022

Sunak has said that trans people should be “respected” but also highlighted that he sees biology as “important” and “fundamental” in the context of toilets and sports. An ally of the former Chancellor told the Daily Mail that Sunak is “critical of recent trends to erase women via the use of clumsy, gender neutral language” and that, should he become Prime Minister, he “‘will not support the language of sex being eroded in legislation or the public sector.” Sunak reportedly “believes we must be able to call a mother a mother and talk about breastfeeding, alongside trans-inclusive language where needed.” The source alleged that he plans to launch a “manifesto for women’s rights” which will include a commitment to ban trans women from the sport that aligns with their gender identity. Sunak has not been an MP long enough for any significant LGBTQ+ rights votes, but in 2019 was absent for one on extending same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland.