The contest within the ruling British Conservative Party for the country's next prime minister is proving to be as fractious and divisive as if it were a normal general election with opposing parties vying for the government and the nation’s top job.
Still reeling from the loss of their tainted leader Boris Johnson, who remains enormously popular in some factions of the party, the Conservatives (also known as the Tories) are locked in a battle royal to replace him.
Until a new leader is selected from among the hopefuls vying for his job, Mr Johnson remains in office in a lame-duck capacity, quite unlike the controversial dynamism he'd brought to the role.
His tenure at the top, abruptly cut short after a little over two years into a five-year term due to a crippling spate of resignations from his government and more tellingly from within his Cabinet, over questions of his judgement and integrity, comes to its premature terminus on September 5th this year.
That’s when Boris Johnson will be replaced, quite likely by one of his former Cabinet underlings or another party member, in the all-but-internecine warfare for his job to serve out the remainder of this term at the helm of a Conservative Party government.
A bruising battle over policies that the candidates are largely pledging to change or at least approach differently, is made even more startling in that the very policies which they are now distancing themselves from, and challenging each other over, were the same policies that they had agreed to as members of the Johnson cabinet.
From taxation, to the UK’s treasured National Health Service, the controversial Brexit deal to leave the European Union, cushioning the effects of the cost of living crisis, and a plethora of other pressing issues facing the country, the battle for residency in Number 10 Downing has turned out to be quite a public spectacle with much global interest.
Britain is the world’s fifth-largest economy and a major influencer on the international stage.
Residence at 10 Downing St, said to be the world's most famous address, brings with it enormous political power and prestige and would be the pinnacle of the political aspirations of the successful candidate.
In the high-stakes and career-defining bid to succeed the discredited Boris Johnson, the only point of agreement among the very MPs, especially those who were in Mr Johnson's cabinet, has been the UK’s support for Ukraine in its war with Russia...a policy pushed by the outgoing prime minister.
For the rest, it would be hard-pressed to convince someone not following British politics that the candidates now vigorously campaigning for Mr Johnson’s job were in fact formulating and executing these very policies up to a few weeks ago as part of his government.
Who gets to be the next UK prime minister will ultimately be decided when the field is narrowed down to two candidates by the time Parliament goes on summer recess on Thursday 21st July. After a period of even more intense campaigning to Conservative Party members in the ensuing weeks, the winner will be selected by a vote among paid-up members of the party, said to number around 200,000. The party has not published its membership list.
As this is an internal selection and not a general election, the wider electorate has no say in the outcome.
As explained in a BBC news report about the process by the Conservatives to select their next leader, and in this case the next prime minister of the country: “Tories tend to be older, more middle class and more white than the rest of the population…In short, what political scientists call 'the selectorate' looks pretty different to the electorate."
On the other hand, a highlight of this campaign is the diversity of the field of candidates across gender and ethnic lines.
The changing face(s) of the leadership contenders have former Johnson administration cabinet members chancellor/finance minister Rishi Sunak, and foreign secretary Liz Truss as front runners along with former trade minister Penny Mordaunt, and senior party member Tom Tugendhat - chairman of the UK Parliament's Foreign Relations Committee. Also making an impressive showing is the Black female junior minister, Kemi Badenoch.
The new prime minister will be announced on September 5th when MPs return to Westminster from their summer break.
Until then, it's all to play for among the remaining competing candidates.