The Tory Leadership Race: who will make it to Number 10?

The Tory Leadership Race: who will make it to Number 10?

During the 2016 Conservative leadership race, Shakespearean references were flying around. Former Scottish Minister, Alex Salmond likened Michael Gove to Macbeth while Boris’s ‘I’m not standing’ speech referenced the words of Brutus.  Three years later and it seems the vitriol and rebuke thrown around amongst the conservative candidates has not changed. The only difference is that instead of a handful of candidates putting their name forward back in 2016, there were more than 11 MPs throwing their hat in the ring, the moment Theresa May announced her resignation on 24 May. So what happened next? The process to vote for the next Prime Minister is usually quite straight forward. In this case, as there are more than two candidates standing, the MPs hold a series of ballots to reduce the number to two. At each round, the candidate with the fewest votes gets eliminated.  

It didn’t take long for May’s colleagues to declare their candidacy. The moment the No10 door closed behind her after her resignation speech, tweets were flying around congratulating May while at the same plotting their own leadership bid.  Political commentators were quick off the mark to suspect Sajid Javid, Jeremy Hunt, Andrea Leadsom, Dominic Raab, Michael Gove, James Cleverly and Boris Johnson leading the way, but more surprisingly was Esther McVey, Mark Harper, Sam Gyimah, Kit Malthouse, Matt Hancock and social media king Rory Stewart also declaring. With less than the 16 votes needed to pass the first ballot, Leadsom, McVey and Harper had already been eliminated. While Malthouse and James Cleverly didn’t see the point in going ahead and so withdrew their name from the race early on.  Health Secretary Matt Hancock, knew he didn’t have enough support to continue and so withdrew from the race a few days after the first ballot. 

And so the 2nd ballot arrived, which requires 10% of Conservative support (more than 32 MPs). No deal champion and former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab lost in this round, which could be a reflection of the lack of support for a ‘no deal’ within the Conservative ranks.  Before the candidates faced the gauntlet of a 3rd and 4th ballot, they were first thrown into the cesspit with the BBC TV debate, which showed all the 5 candidates looking like the retired version of Westlife, as one Twitter enthusiast put it and Rory Stewart’s tie sparking the most interest. They put forward their views on a range of topics from environment, tax to of course Brexit which saw at one point, all 4 candidates disagreeing with May’s deal advocate Rory Stewart. Who has made the most impact on social media than any of the other candidates.

Shortly after the debate, Stewart found himself eliminated from the race at the 3rd ballot, followed by Home secretary Sajid Javid, with fewer votes than the rest of his peers.  Political nerds were at the edge of their seats as the 5thballot approached Thursday afternoon with the remaining trio, Gove, Hunt and Johnson. The media were quick to remind readers of the psychodrama which plagued the leadership race back in 2016, when Gove, (who was chairing Johnson’s campaign) decided to launch his own bid, stabbing Boris in the back at the 11th hour.  But in the end Gove lost by only 2 votes, as foreign secretary Hunt and Johnson became the final two. So what happens next?

The 160,000 Conservative members now get to choose who they wish to be the next Prime Minister. Expect more hustings, TV debates, flamboyant rhetoric and over exuberant promises as the two remaining candidates battle it out over the next few weeks until the new PM is announced on the 22 July. 

By Navjyot Lehl

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