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The contenders.
The contenders.
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

The Tory leadership contenders ranked from most to least likely

Theresa May officially stepped down on Friday – but she can only move away when a replacement is found. Who is most likely to take up the role?
Jun 8th 2019, 8:10 AM 24,443 23

THERESA MAY HAS formally stepped down from her role as leader of the Conservative Party, but there’s still the small issue of someone else being voted in as Tory leader before she can make her proper exit.

So far over 13 people have thrown their hat in the ring, with some already pulling out of the competition – leaving 10 in the race. 

Because the race has expanded so much, the 1922 committee decided to make it a bit harder for people to take part. So all candidates must have eight nominations from their fellow Conservative MPs by Monday. That will sort the wheat from the chaff – and mean that less popular or less well-known candidates will be out of play.

The eventual aim is to end up with just two candidates for the party’s 160,000 members to vote on. So here are the contenders – ranked from most to least likely.

Boris Johnson

Former Foreign Secretary 

Boris Johnson accusations Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Call him what you want – Bojo, Boris, that lad with the blondey mop who makes an eejit out of himself – but Boris Johnson is an absolute master of making sure he’s in the public eye. Now, we know that’s not in any way the same thing as ‘being able to lead a political party’, but often in politics that’s also neither here nor there.

The thing is, much as some loathe him, others like Boris because though he’s a rich toff, he somehow seems to represent those who kick against the system. Again, this seems like an oxymoron, but he might appeal to Tories precisely because of his ability to seemingly escape unscathed from absolutely every disaster that’s thrown at him. And lord knows the Tories will have some disasters to contend with in coming months, if the last three years are anything to go by.

Johnson also has the most public supporters of all the other candidates – almost 40. That’s probably in large part because he wants the UK to get the hell out of the EU, at any cost. He’s synonymous with the Leave campaign and that could be to his benefit.

Michael Gove

Environment Secretary 

Food waste Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Oh hello there Michael, we see you’re back. This will be Gove’s second time bidding for the top Tory job, but he’s clearly not ashamed to throw his hat in the ring again. He was a key ally of David Cameron, and also found himself supporting May’s Brexit deal when others were dropping like flies out of the cabinet over it.

Gove is not a man much liked by the public, but with his support for May’s deal, his indefatigable sense of wanting to be on top, and his sheer ballsiness (he announced he was running in 2016 the same day as Boris, which wasn’t good for Boris), he is sure to be a top contender. Plus, it’s reported he has 30 public supporters, so there are plenty behind him. One of those is Liz Truss, the chief secretary to the Treasury, and The Guardian reports her support is “coveted”.

Jeremy Hunt

Foreign Secretary 

President Trump state visit to UK - Day One Source: Joe Giddens

Ol’ Jezza, as literally no one in the Conservative Party calls him, is right up there with Gove, having 30 public endorsements. At risk of repeating ourselves, this lad isn’t all that popular with ‘the people’ either, but he’s quite popular with the party. He has said he’ll push for a no-deal Brexit if it’s needed when he’s PM, which should make him popular amongst Conservative members who want the UK out of the EU quicksmart. This is an interesting move as Hunt was at one point a Remainer, but now he’ll need the backing of the Eurosceptics if he’s going to get himself into prime position.

In his campaign video, he emphasised that he’s thinking hard about the best way to move forward, and that he’s quite afraid ‘dangerous’ Jeremy Corbyn could end up PM. He has a plan, he says, and he’s the man to do it. But will fellow party members believe him? 

Dominic Raab

Former Brexit Secretary

Brexit Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Sometimes, Dominic Raab has the look of someone who’s probably never had to battle to get anywhere in life. But then other times, he looks like he’s just waiting for the shoe to drop. Either way, he’s certainly got a battle ahead of him here. Another Leaver, Raab was Brexit Secretary for a spell, but resigned over (you guessed it!) May’s Brexit deal. There’s a pattern here, and that’s people running for Tory leader who feel like their previous leader got things very, very wrong. That said, Raab did say he wouldn’t rule out suspending parliament to force a no-deal Brexit, but was swiftly rapped on the wrist by John Bercow. Oops.

So Raab will be hoping those who are anti-May’s deal will vote for him. But as he doesn’t have a huge amount of experience, he won’t be a lot of people’s first choice. That said, Raab could end up being a surprise contender in a few weeks’ time (especially as he has forked out for Facebook ads). Oh, and in case you were wondering, Raab is “probably not” a feminist. But his campaign is based on fairness.

Sajid Javid

Home Secretary

Scottish Conservatives' party conference Source: Jane Barlow

Sajid Javid is an interesting contender because he represents diversity – something the Tories aren’t known for. And he’s even hit out (it appears) at Boris Johnson, by saying the Conservative Party risks “choosing a new leader who would seek to exploit national divisions in the style of Donald Trump”. He did back Remain, but supports Brexit.

Javid is most certainly positioning himself as the candidate most likely to move the party into a new era, one where it’s less about division and more about bringing people together. For him, it’s about a broad appeal, and showing that the Tories are not just for white middle class people. But will the Conservative members want the same thing as him? The troubling fact is that some may just prefer division for division’s sake. Worth mentioning though that Javid is another no-deal proponent.

Andrea Leadsom

Former House of Commons Leader 

Brexit Source: PA Wire/PA Images

The last time Andrea Leadsom tried to run for Tory leadership, she ended up with her foot in her mouth. She also recently resigned as leader of the House of Commons, and doesn’t have many public supporters. She might last until some of the final rounds, but it’s highly unlikely Leadsom will become within sniffing distance of the Tory leadership. 

Esther McVey

Former Work and Pensions Secretary 

Brexit Source: Stefan Rousseau

One of just two women in the running for May’s job (the Tories possible have ‘gender equality in our top ranks’ fairly low down their list of priorities right now), Esther McVey has always been a fervent Brexit supporter. She even stepped down in protest against May’s deal, and she’s a no-deal supporter. So, like many of her fellow candidates, she’ll be hoping to tap into the no-deal vote. But with so many better known people ahead of her, her chances look slim. 

Matt Hancock

Health Secretary 

Matt Hancock comments Source: Dominic Lipinski

Hancock has been using Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to get his name in the headlines, but has also been putting himself forward as someone who could appeal to younger voters. We’re not sure if putting videos online of himself playing cricket in the office will help there, though. 

He’s not a diehard Brexiteer, which marks him out from a lot of his colleagues in this list, but with the majority of Conservative members supporting Brexit he might find himself out of his depth. Will he get to the last two? Highly unlikely. 

Rory Stewart

International Development Secretary 

Brexit Source: Victoria Jones

Who’s this? You might ask. Well, it’s Rory Stewart, who you didn’t see much of until he declared himself a leadership candidate. 

He’s said that he’s in it because he believes he can win (quite frankly, he won’t be getting any votes if he publicly says he can’t win, but anyway) and has taken to social media in a big way in trying to prove that. He’s even called his campaign a ‘guerilla’ campaign, which would make one wonder if he knows what a guerilla campaign really is. He’s walking the city streets to try and drum up some support, but it’s not believed he’ll end up at No 10 – though as of Friday he was emerging as the favourite among the public. So perhaps those Twitter videos are having an impact…

Notably, he’s ruled out a no-deal Brexit, which makes him a rarity among this bunch – and among Tory members. If anything, this is a decent bid to make himself more well known. Sure look. He could be a dark horse, if he gets enough positive press. His lack of political experience might stand against him in the end though.

Sam Gyimah

Former Minister; MP for East Surrey

Tory leadership race Source: PA Wire/PA Images

One of the least well-known candidates, Gyimah is an interesting proposition – he says that he’s offering something different, and isn’t just presenting the same ol’, same ol’. The MP says when it comes to Brexit the Conservatives should “put the country first” and have a new referendum. He is fervently against No Deal, but did resign as a Minister in November in protest against May’s deal.

He has three MPs who are publicly supporting him – but he says that he has even more waiting in the wings. Gyimah feels that he would shake up the “narrow set of views” currently in the race, but he may have entered the race too late to make a major impact. Still, it is interesting to see an alternative – or as alternative as he can be – voice contributing to the debate.

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Aoife Barry


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