And then there were two.
After weeks of manoeuvring, debates, media appearances and more than a few brickbats aimed at each other, the candidates for the next leader of the UK's Conservative party -- and therefore the successor to Boris Johnson as Prime Minister -- have been whittled down to just two.
Both hold (or held) key positions in Johnson's government. Rishi Sunak was the Chancellor of the Exchequer (equivalent to our Finance Minister) prior to his resignation, while Liz Truss is the Foreign Secretary (equivalent to our Foreign Minister).
However, the similarities stop there.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
Sunak, who previously worked as a hedge fund partner and banker, was born in Southampton to Indian parents who emigrated to Britain. He is married to a daughter of a billionaire and is the current Member of Parliament (MP) for Richmond (Yorks).
He was promoted to Chancellor in 2020, following the resignation of Sajid Javid. During the Covid pandemic, Sunak was known for his "eat out to help out" scheme, which has both been praised for helping small businesses tide through the pandemic and also criticised for possibly leading to more Covid infections.
Sunak, together with Javid (who was serving as Health Secretary), kickstarted the downfall of Johnson after submitting their resignations following the backlash from a sex scandal involving another MP.
This led to a wave of resignations, which ultimately ended with Johnson agreeing to step down. A leadership contest then began, with a number of MPs vying to win enough votes from their fellows to make it to the final two.
The Times reported that Johnson allegedly told his party to "back anyone but Rishi". Sunak has also come under fire for his perceived stage-managed image and supposedly being out of touch with the ordinary voter.
Sunak has distinguished himself from the other contenders by portraying himself as the candidate of fiscal restraint.
He has pledged that the high level of inflation currently afflicting the British economy will be his first priority as PM, and not the tax cuts promised by his rivals.
In the latest round of voting by MPs, Sunak led the pack, as he has done consistently in recent weeks. He received 137 votes, as opposed to Truss's 113. Penny Mordaunt, a trade minister, came in with 105 votes.
So does this mean that Sunak is a shoo-in for the top job?
The Foreign Secretary
Standing in Sunak's way is Liz Truss, the MP for South West Norfolk.
Truss's journey to possibly becoming the next Conservative leader and PM is a long and winding one, even by the standards of British politics.
Her parents were described by Truss herself as "left-wing". She attended Oxford University, where she was the president of the Liberal Democrats association. She later joined the Conservative party, and was a noted opponent of Brexit before changing her stance and supporting it.
This did not go unmentioned by Sunak, who asked her in a recent debate whether she regretted being a Liberal Democrat more than being a "Remainer".
Truss is known for authoring a manifesto (along with other politicians) titled "Britannia Unchained", which advocates cuts to Britain's welfare system and increased deregulation. It also includes a mention of Singapore, where the children do better in math than British children.
While the resignations of Sunak and others forced Johnson to step down, Truss notably did not hand in her resignation, citing her loyalty to Johnson.
However, Truss is also known for a number of memorable gaffes during her political career.
Memes have circulated over speeches she did about Britain's cheese imports and pork markets.
Liz Truss has just become the bookies' favourite to become Britain's next Prime Minister.— Adam Bienkov (@AdamBienkov) July 19, 2022
Here's a reminder of some of her finest moments. pic.twitter.com/RxCmlB91qw
A 2021 Politco EU article claimed that "insiders" they've spoken to described her as "weird" in social situations.
After confirmation that she made it to the final two, Truss tweeted that she is "ready to hit the ground from day one".
However, it was pointed out that Truss should have used the phrase "hit the ground running" instead.
The tweet was later deleted.
Who's likely to win?
Despite this, Truss remains the strong favourite to emerge victorious.
This is due to the fact that while the previous votes have been done by MPs, the final vote between the top two comes down to the members of the Conservative party as a whole.
Sunak and Truss have about six weeks to make their case before the votes of around 200,000 party members are tallied.
However, a recent poll YouGov poll on July 19 shows that among the members, Truss enjoys a strong lead over Sunak.
So while the MPs may favour Sunak, if a majority of party members vote for Truss, she will become Britain's next prime minister.
If so, she will be the third woman PM in the UK's history, after Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May.
Top image from ITV YouTube.