Northern Ireland minister Steve Baker to 'launch bid' to replace Rishi Sunak as Conservative leader

Northern Ireland minister Steve Baker will launch a bid to replace Rishi Sunak as Tory leader after the election, it is understood.

The Brexiteer Conservative is expected to attempt to replace Mr Sunak if the party is defeated on 4 July.

Mr Baker hinted at a leadership run if he retains his Wycombe seat at the general election.

He said: "One thing at a time. I want to represent the people of Wycombe the best that I can, as I always have done.

"Then let's see what happens."

It is understood he will announce his intentions after polling day.

Election latest: Tory donor backs Reform

Mr Baker's intention to stand was first reported by HuffPost after he told the website he would make a good leader as he was nominated to lead Tory rebellions by his colleagues four times over the past decade - over Brexit, COVID lockdowns and net zero.

However, he admitted he is "widely expected" to lose his seat.

Mr Baker became MP for Wycombe in 2010 and hung onto his seat in 2019 with a slim 4,214 majority but faces a fight to keep his seat next week.

Other leadership hopefuls include Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch, Home Secretary James Cleverly and Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt.

The battle to pick Mr Sunak's successor if the Conservatives lose could shape the party for years to come.

Mr Baker has been critical of Mr Sunak and the party over the past five weeks, admitting the campaign has gone "badly" and its bad polling is "extremely worrying".

He said he is standing for re-election in Wycombe to try to "sort this mess out".

Read more:
Sky News' poll tracker
Hunt donated £32,000 to local party

Mr Baker has complained Mr Sunak "didn't consult me" on calling the July election.

After Mr Sunak announced the 4 July poll on 22 May, Mr Baker went on holiday in Greece instead of campaigning.

He was the first serving minister to call for those placing bets on the election date to be suspended by the party after it emerged in mid June candidates Craig Williams and Laura Saunders did so. The PM pulled support from them earlier this week.

The PM has said he will "of course" stay on as an MP even if the Tories lose the election, however, he could be ousted or forced to quit as leader if his own party has no confidence in him.

To choose a new leader, Conservatives put forward their names after reaching a threshold of support from fellow MPs and after a series of rounds where some are dropped, the top two candidates are put forward for the party membership to vote on.