Posted on

UK leadership contest steps up a gear ahead of first round of voting


Boris Johnson during the launch of his campaign to become leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party and Prime Minister at the Royal Academy of Engineering in central London.

Stefan Rousseau – PA Images | PA Images | Getty Images

The race to succeed Theresa May as leader of the ruling Conservative Party and prime minister enters a new phase on Thursday with Tory members of parliament (MPs) set to have their first vote for their preferred candidate.

There are 10 candidates in the leadership contest and any of them that fails to get at least 17 votes when MPs vote in secret ballots, the first of which is Thursday with more rounds to follow, will be eliminated from the race. If all candidates receive at least 17 votes, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated.

When there are only two candidates left after this process of elimination, the wider Conservative Party membership in a run-off vote to elect one candidate as party leader and prime minister. The winner is expected to be announced on July 22.

Brexit, and how the various leadership hopefuls would progress the thorny departure from the EU, has dominated the debate in the run up to the first vote.

Party members, and the wider public, are keen to know how the next prime minister will fare any better than Theresa May did at uniting a divided Parliament behind a Brexit deal that it has already rejected three times. The EU too has already said it will not re-negotiate the deal.

The U.K. is meant to leave the EU on October 31 and with no deal agreed by Parliament, the prospect of a potential “no-deal” departure has returned to the fore.

As such, a lot of attention has been put on the favorite to win the leadership race Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary and mayor of London. Launching his leadership campaign on Wednesday, he said he was “not aiming for a no-deal outcome” but said it was responsible to “prepare vigorously” for such an outcome. He said any more delay to Brexit would mean “defeat.”

On Wednesday, the opposition Labour Party led an attempt to make sure the future prime minister could not push through a “no-deal” Brexit but failed to gain enough votes.

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid delivers a speech as he launches his Conservative Party Leadership Campaign on June 12, 2019 in London, England.

Peter Summers | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The candidates who are more likely to progress in the leadership race are well-known names in U.K. politics. Aside from Boris Johnson, Home Secretary Sajid Javid, current Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Environment Secretary Michael Gove and former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab are expected to reach a second vote of the vote.

Some Conservative MPs have already stated publicly who they will be voting for although as it is a secret ballot, votes could go differently in the event.

The leadership race comes after Theresa May resigned from the party leadership amid tumult over Brexit and her inability to get a majority of Parliament to back her Brexit deal. The agreement struck with the EU lacked support from both so-called “Remainers” and “Leavers” in parliament, however. Remainers in Parliament said it offered worse terms than the current full membership while pro-Brexit lawmakers said it kept the U.K. too close to the EU.

Whoever becomes the next Tory party and prime minister will still have to confront a divided Parliament.


Top News & Analysis