In just a few days Britain will find out who has been picked to steer the country through an increasingly dire cost-of-living crisis, industrial unrest, NHS backlogs and climate threats – not to mention the war in Europe.
It has been a long road to this point, with the first of the leadership hopefuls to express their desire to be prime minister having hinted at the prospect back in January.
Six months later an avalanche of resignations brought Boris Johnson’s tenure to an end. Within days, 11 Tories had declared their ambition to replace him.
There was no shortage of drama during the Westminster stage of the contest, as Conservative MPs whittled down the field to the final two candidates through a series of crunch ballots.
And this only intensified when Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak went head-to-head for the favour of Tory members in the run-off for the top job, with blue-on-blue attacks threatening to tear a fissure through the party.
Here is a timeline of the key moments from the race for No 10.
– January 29: Tugendhat declares leadership ambition
Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tom Tugendhat becomes the first to announce his intention to stand for leader should Mr Johnson be turfed out.
The double Cabinet resignation of Mr Sunak and Sajid Javid effectively kickstarts a slew of departures from the Government, hastening Mr Johnson’s demise.
– July 6: Braverman makes her move
As support for the Prime Minister crumbles, the Attorney General Suella Braverman declares she will put herself forward if there is a leadership contest.
– July 7: Johnson resigns
The outgoing PM says he intends to remain in office until his successor is elected, prompting a backlash from party grandees and political opponents over his attempt to “cling on” in No 10 until the autumn.
His departure fires the starting gun for the soon-to-be crowded contest to replace him.
– July 8: Sunak throws his hat in the ring
The former chancellor, whose exit from the Cabinet helped to trigger an avalanche of ministerial resignations, crippling Mr Johnson’s Government, says he wants to “restore trust, rebuild the economy and reunite the country”.
– July 9: Javid, Hunt, Shapps, Zahawi and Badenoch join the fray
Meanwhile, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, a favourite in early polling of Tory members, rules himself out.
Former health secretaries Mr Javid and Jeremy Hunt both pledge to slash corporation tax, while Cabinet minister Grant Shapps says he wants to rebuild the economy so it is the biggest in Europe by 2050.
Nadhim Zahawi, the caretaker Chancellor, promises to cut taxes for individuals, families and business, and boost defence spending.
Kemi Badenoch, who resigned her ministerial post as Mr Johnson’s premiership collapsed around him, sets her sights on a smaller state and a government “focused on the essentials”.
– July 10: Truss and Mordaunt enter the race
The Foreign Secretary promises to “start cutting taxes from day one” to help with the cost of living.
Trade minister Penny Mordaunt’s campaign gets off to an awkward start as her launch video is hastily edited to remove several identifiable figures, including athlete Jonnie Peacock.
– July 11: Contest timeline announced
Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee, says nominations will open and close on July 12.
In order to stand, a candidate will need the support of 20 MPs – potentially making it harder for some of the less well-known contenders to make it onto the ballot paper.
Conservative MPs will then begin the process of voting for a new leader, with a series of ballots set to whittle the list of candidates down to two.
The winner will subsequently be decided by Tory party members.
Sir Graham says the final result will be announced on September 5, when MPs return to Westminster following their summer break.
– July 12: Shapps, Chishti and Javid bow out
Mr Shapps announces he is abandoning his bid and throws his support behind Mr Sunak, while backbencher Mr Chishti also makes his exit.
Moments before the MPs to make it onto the ballot paper are announced, Mr Javid declares he is pulling out of the race – having apparently failed to garner enough support.
– July 13: Zahawi and Hunt eliminated
Mr Zahawi and Mr Hunt both fail to get the 30 votes required to progress to the next stage.
Mr Sunak wins 88, Ms Mordaunt is on 67, Ms Truss, 50, Ms Badenoch, 40, Mr Tugendhat, 37, and Ms Braverman squeaks through on 32.
Mr Zahawi, brought in by Mr Johnson after Mr Sunak’s resignation, gets 25, and Mr Hunt only 18.
– July 14: Braverman knocked out
Mr Sunak comes out on top in the next round of voting, while Ms Mordaunt secures second place, followed by Ms Truss in third.
Ms Braverman is dumped from the contest after finishing last.
– July 15: Contenders face off in first TV debate
The remaining candidates take to the stage for the first TV clash of the contest on Channel 4.
– July 18: Tugendhat makes his exit
Mr Tugendhat is knocked out of the contest in the third ballot of Tory MPs.
Mr Sunak remains the frontrunner while Ms Mordaunt holds on to second place.
– July 19: Badenoch next to fall
Mr Truss receives a surge in support as Ms Badenoch is eliminated in the fourth round of voting.
The shift in momentum means the Foreign Secretary is now the favourite to face Mr Sunak in the ballot of Tory members to follow.
– July 20: Sunak and Truss make next stage
The former chancellor and the Foreign Secretary take the top two spots after five rounds of voting by Tory MPs, with Ms Mordaunt eliminated from the race.
– July 25: First head-to-head TV showdown for final two
Mr Sunak and Ms Truss trash each other’s economic plans during their first TV clash in the run-off to be Tory leader, hosted by BBC News.
The pair come to blows on a range of topics, from the UK’s stance on China to each other’s wardrobes.
– July 26: Debate interrupted as host faints live on air
The second head-to-head TV clash between Mr Sunak and Ms Truss is dramatically halted and subsequently cancelled after TalkTV host Kate McCann passes out off-camera.
– July 28: Wallace backs Truss after first official party hustings
The Foreign Secretary receives a major endorsement from Mr Wallace after the final two face a grilling from voters in the first official party hustings with Tory members in Leeds.
The candidates are quizzed separately on a vast array of policy areas – as well as their predictions for the Women’s Euro 2022 final – during the event hosted by LBC’s Nick Ferrari.
– July 31: Sunak pledges income tax cut
Mr Sunak commits to taking 4p off income tax within seven years if he becomes prime minister.
His campaign says slashing the basic rate from 20p in the pound to 16p would amount the “largest cut to income tax in 30 years”.
He immediately faces renewed accusations of “flip flops and U-turns” on tax from Truss supporters.
– August 1: Truss takes aim at Sturgeon
Ms Truss comes under fire from Scotland’s deputy first minister John Swinney for claiming it is best to ignore “attention seeker” Nicola Sturgeon.
– August 2: Truss U-turns on public sector pay
Ms Truss abandons a flagship policy to slash £8.8 billion from public sector pay outside London, a little over 13 hours after making the announcement.
Conservative Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen, who is backing Mr Sunak, says that the “horrifically bad” policy “could be Liz’s dementia tax moment”.
– August 5: Sunak boasts about efforts to divert cash from poor urban areas
Mr Sunak is seen proudly telling party members he had been working to divert funding from “deprived urban areas”.
The remarks, caught on camera, are said to have been made to grassroots Tories in Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, on July 29.
In a video obtained by the New Statesman magazine, Mr Sunak brags that he had started changing public funding formulas to “make sure areas like this are getting the funding they deserve”.
Labour says it is “scandalous” that the former chancellor was “openly boasting that he fixed the rules to funnel taxpayers’ money to rich Tory shires”.
– August 11: Sunak makes fresh cost-of-living pitch
Mr Sunak ramps up his promises to tackle the cost-of-living crisis.
He is said to have valued his cut to VAT on energy at £5 billion, and would find the same amount again to go towards helping those most in need.
– August 12: Truss blasted for antisemitism claims
Ms Truss faces a furious backlash from unions for claiming she will tackle “woke” Civil Service culture that “strays into antisemitism”.
The Foreign Secretary is blasted by the head of the FDA, which represents civil servants, for providing “no evidence for her accusation”.
Welsh Secretary Sir Robert Buckland becomes the first Cabinet minister to publicly switch sides in the leadership contest, coming out in support of Ms Truss.
– August 18: Stark warning over Tory hopefuls’ tax plans
Experts warn promises of tax cuts made by the Tory leadership candidates are looking increasingly implausible.
Mr Sunak says his less radical plans are honest and deliverable, as he insists he still has a “shot” at being the next prime minister despite polls consistently putting Ms Truss as the clear favourite to win.
– August 25: Truss says ‘jury’s out’ on Macron
The Foreign Secretary is accused of “playing to the gallery” and risking worsened diplomatic relations with France after she says the “jury’s out” on President Emmanuel Macron.
– August 29: Truss criticised for BBC interview snub
The BBC reveals the Foreign Secretary has pulled out of an interview with veteran political journalist Nick Robinson.
The broadcaster says Ms Truss abandoned the booking because she could “no longer spare the time”.
Mr Robinson says he is “disappointed and frustrated”, while a source in Mr Sunak’s team says avoiding scrutiny “suggests either Truss doesn’t have a plan at all or the plan she has falls far short of the challenges we face this winter”.
– August 31: PM handover to take place at Balmoral
Buckingham Palace says the Queen is to remain in Scotland to receive Mr Johnson and his replacement, marking a major change in the normal choreography of the handover between British premiers.
– What next?
As the bitter contest draws to a close, the country looks ahead to the manifold challenges that will dominate the weeks and months to come for the winning candidate.
It may be the end of the road for Mr Johnson’s premiership – a decade or so earlier than he had hoped – but the storm clouds remain.
With both contenders determined their own blueprint for Britain is the right one, the next prime minister – whoever they may be – will have everything to prove.