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The race is on: Tories confirm 10 candidates to succeed Theresa May

Nominations closed at 5pm today.
Jun 10th 2019, 3:00 PM 18,256 26

Updated Jun 10th 2019, 6:07 PM

Tory leadership race (left to right) Charles Walker and Dame Cheryl Gillan, joint acting chairs of the 1922 Committee, and Nigel Evans at the announcement of the names of the ten successful candidates Source: Stefan Rousseau via PA Images

TEN CONSERVATIVE MPS have received enough support to take part in the party’s leadership contest, the 1922 Committee has announced. 

The candidates who have been confirmed are: 

  • Michael Gove
  • Matt Hancock
  • Mark Harper
  • Jeremy Hunt
  • Sajid Javid
  • Boris Johnson
  • Andrea Leadsom
  • Esther McVey
  • Dominic Raab
  • Rory Stewart

Eleven Conservative MPs were hoping to succeed May, who quit as the party’s leader last week over her failure to take Britain out of the European Union on time. However, 10 have succeeded in making list in the contest for leadership of the party.

Jeremy Hunt, Dominic Raab, Michael Gove, Esther McVey and Matt Hancock had all launched their campaigns by early afternoon today.

Front runner Boris Johnson has not launched his campaign but his status as the man to beat was clear with candidates lining up to define themselves against “bluff and bluster”.

May remains PM until her replacement is chosen, likely in late July.

The race is dominated by the looming Brexit date of 31 October, with leading Brexiteer Johnson among those talking tough on the need to renegotiate the divorce terms or leave with no deal.

The bombastic former London mayor has been keeping a low public profile but is campaigning hard behind the scenes, and his rivals tacitly acknowledged he is the one to beat.

Several of Johnson’s rivals launched their campaigns today.

“A serious moment calls for a serious leader,” Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt declared at his campaign launch, a thinly veiled jibe at his jocular predecessor.

Hunt opposed Brexit in the 2016 EU referendum but said that the Conservatives — under pressure from populist eurosceptic Nigel Farage’s new party — must deliver on the result or face “annihilation” in the next election.

He received a boost with the endorsement of eurosceptic Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt, although he is likely to anger some in the party by refusing to rule out another Brexit delay.

Former Brexit minister Dominic Raab meanwhile warned that Britain’s EU exit would not happen with “bluff and bluster”.

Tory leadership race Former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab launches his campaign in central London to become leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

“I’m the conviction Brexiteer with the plan, the discipline and the focus to lead us out by the end of October,” he said, while also attacking Johnson’s plans for a tax cut for the rich.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who like Johnson was a figurehead of the 2016 referendum, also launched his campaign with a promise to be a “serious leader”.

But he is battling a scandal over his admission that he took the cocaine on several occasions two decades ago.

Esther McVey also launched her campaign with a speech on front of a photograph of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Her launch was then interrupted by a man who screamed at reporters that they were “fake news” and claimed to be a member of the Conservative Party.

(Click here if video doesn’t play)

‘Heavy heart’

May, who took office after the referendum, was forced to quit after failing repeatedly to get her EU divorce deal through parliament and delaying Brexit twice in the process.

Brussels says it will not renegotiate the terms, which cover Britain’s financial settlement, the rights of EU citizens and the Irish border.

But many of the leadership candidates insist they will try.

Johnson has won praise from US President Donald Trump for threatening to walk away with no deal at all.

But he drew a rebuke from Paris for saying Britain may withhold the multi-billion-euro divorce payment May has agreed, its liabilities from four decades of EU membership.

“Not honouring payment obligations is a breach of international commitment equivalent to a default on its sovereign debt,” a source close to French President Emmanuel Macron told AFP.

Asked about “no deal”, Hunt said: “I would be prepared to without a deal if there was a straight choice between no deal and no Brexit, but I’d do so with a heavy heart.”

Tory leadership race Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt launches his campaign in central London Source: Victoria Jones via PA Images

He claimed at the weekend that he had received encouraging signals for renegotiating the Brexit deal from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

In response, a German government spokeswoman referenced a previous remark by Merkel that the deal cannot be reopened, although a declaration on future ties could be.

Interior Minister Sajid Javid and the Conservative Party’s former leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom are also in the running among several others.

Conservative MPs will hold a series of secret ballots to whittle down the field to a final pair, who will be put to around 160,000 party members.

The first round of voting takes place on Thursday and candidates must receive the support of 17 MPs or be eliminated.

In the second vote scheduled for 18 June, candidates must receive the support of 33 MPs to proceed.

© – AFP 2019 with reporting by Rónán Duffy and Hayley Halpin

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