The race to choose a new prime minister officially started Monday with ten hopefuls bidding to win the biggest job in British politics. The list of contenders emerged when a deadline closed with the successor to Theresa May expected to be announced before the end of July.
Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson remains favorite to win the race. To guarantee a place in the final two that will be decided in a national vote among around 160,000 grassroots Conservative party members, Johnson will have to convince enough of the more than 300 Conservative MPs that he is the best person to move into 10 Downing Street. Critical to the process of choosing a successor as leader of the Conservatives will be how each of the politicians taking part in the process plan to handle Brexit, the task described as the poisoned chalice of British politics.
The person chosen as leader will automatically become Prime Minister, though Queen Elizabeth II has to approve the appointment. Johnson was the first in the line-up of contenders to say he would seek a deal with the EU but would be prepared to leave on Oct.31 with no deal. That is likely to put him at odds with MPs, many of them Conservatives, insisting Britain must reject any notion of a no-deal Brexit.
May’s failure to deliver a Brexit deal to bring Britain out of the European Union, was the reason for her exit last Friday as leader of the Conservative Party. She will remain as caretaker prime minister until her successor is chosen. Over the coming weeks the long list will be reduced in a serious of ballots among Conservative politicians at Westminster. When the list is down to just two names the task will be handed over to grassroots members of the Conservative Party.
Another frontrunner is Johnson’s successor as Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Hunt has said a very smart approach is needed to tackle the Brexit question, adding: “I will never take action to provoke a general election before we have delivered Brexit because that would be absolutely fatal for our (Conservative) party.” Among Hunt’s supporters were International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and cabinet colleagues, Amber Rudd and the Work and Pensions Secretary.
Political observers said such a group of heavyweight front-bench politicians have given Hunt’s a better chance of success. Environment Secretary Michael Gove is also in the line-up, having spent the weekend responding to front-page headlines telling how, when he was working as a 30-year-old journalist he took the drug cocaine. Gove was also critical of Johnson saying his “deal or no deal” strategy was destined for failure and could bring about a general election.
It would result in a vote of no confidence in a Conservative government, ushering in a Labour-run government led by their leader Jeremy Corbyn by Christmas, said Gove. Completing the list are Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Home Secretary Sajid Javis, former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, International Development Secretary Rory Stewart, former Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom, former minister Esther McVey and backbencher Mark Harper.