Tory leadership: Who will replace Theresa May?


Graphic - 10 Downing Street

Conservative MPs are throwing their hats into the ring to become the next Tory leader and prime minister, as Theresa May steps down.

Here is a list of the contenders who have said they are entering the contest, which starts on 10 June.

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  • The Brexiteer who led the Vote Leave campaign in the 2016 EU referendum has thrown his hat into the ring for the top job again, three years after his last bid.

    The MP for Surrey Heath, since 2005, was a key ally of former Prime Minister David Cameron. He made his name as a radical education secretary, bringing in major changes to exams and the curriculum and battling teaching unions during his four years in the role.

    In 2016, he famously scuppered the leadership hopes of his friend and fellow Brexiteer Boris Johnson, by announcing his own candidature on the morning Mr Johnson was due to launch his campaign.

    Mr Gove became environment secretary in June 2017 and he proved a key advocate of Mrs May’s Brexit deal, while other Brexiteer cabinet ministers resigned.


  • Former universities and science minister Sam Gyimah became the 10th member of government to resign over Theresa May’s Brexit deal late last year.

    He said a row over involvement in the EU’s Galileo satellite navigation system showed how the UK would be “hammered” in negotiations over Brexit.

    Mr Gyimah, MP for East Surrey since 2010, dismissed the withdrawal agreement as a “deal in name only” and is backing a second referendum.

    The backbencher has said he would vote to remain in the EU if there was another poll.

  • The ambitious MP for West Suffolk was promoted to health secretary after only a few months as culture secretary, when Jeremy Hunt became foreign secretary after Boris Johnson’s resignation.

    Mr Hancock campaigned for Remain in the EU referendum but is now seen as an ally by Brexiteer ministers, recently urging MPs to back the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

    The former Bank of England economist likes to see himself as one of the most technology-savvy politicians at Westminster and was the first MP to have his own smartphone app.

    In launching his candidacy for the top job, he said he hoped to appeal to younger voters.


  • The former chief whip, who has six years as a government minister under his belt, admits he is the “underdog” in the leadership race, but that gives him the “strongest fighting spirit”.

    The MP for the Forest of Dean backed Remain in 2016, but now says he wants the UK to leave with a deal – although he says leaving without one remains an option.

    He believes a further extension to the UK’s Brexit deadline might be necessary to get a “good deal” for the country.

    Mr Harper was a minister in the Home Office and Department for Work and Pensions during the 2010-2015 coalition government.

  • The foreign secretary campaigned to remain in the EU during the 2016 referendum, but has since been reborn as a Brexiteer.

    He even suggested, to widespread criticism, that the EU was like the Soviet Union. However, he has said his party would be committing “political suicide” if it tried to push through a no-deal Brexit.

    An MP for South West Surrey since 2005, Mr Hunt was made culture secretary under the coalition government in 2010 and oversaw the 2012 London Olympics before becoming health secretary.

    In 2018, he became the longest-serving health minister – and arguably one of the most controversial – since the NHS was created, completing six years in the role. During his tenure, he clashed with unions over contracts for junior doctors, who took part in a series of walkouts in 2015.

    Mr Hunt acknowledged this was his most difficult time as health secretary.

  • The home secretary launched his leadership bid with a pledge to “rebuild trust and find unity”. Mr Javid backed Remain in the 2016 EU referendum, but with a “heavy heart and no enthusiasm”. He has never hidden his Eurosceptism.

    Born in Rochdale, Mr Javid is a second-generation migrant whose parents came from Pakistan – he says his bus driver father arrived with only £1 to his name.

    A former protégé of former chancellor George Osborne at the Treasury, he was a successful investment banker before he was elected as an MP for Bromsgrove in 2010.

    He went on to serve as business secretary, culture secretary and communities and local government secretary, before joining Theresa May’s former department – the Home Office.

  • The former mayor of London has long coveted the top job. When he announced he would be standing, he said: “Of course I’m going to go for it.”

    Mr Johnson, a leading Brexiteer, had been at odds with Theresa May’s Brexit vision for some time before he eventually quit as foreign secretary in protest over it last year.

    The MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip has been a loud and prominent critic of Mrs May and her policies ever since. If he becomes leader, the UK will leave the EU on 31 October “deal or no deal”, he has said.

    The Eton and Oxford-educated former political journalist is a popular figure with Conservative members, but has fewer fans in Parliament.

  • The prominent Brexiteer stood against Theresa May in the 2016 leadership contest and has entered the ring again.

    She abandoned her last bid for the top job following an interview in which she suggested that being a mother made her a better candidate.

    Mrs Leadsom served as environment secretary between July 2016 and June 2017 and then became Commons leader. She decisively quit the cabinet in May as the prime minister tried to win last gasp support for her withdrawal bill.

    Mrs Leadsom, who has support on the right side of the party, said she no longer believed the government’s approach would deliver Brexit.

  • An avid Brexiteer and former TV presenter, Esther McVey quit as work and pensions secretary last year over Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

    She told Mrs May that the withdrawal agreement did not “honour the result of the referendum”.

    If the MP for Tatton became leader, she would “ensure” the UK left the EU on 31 October, with or without a deal, she says.

    And only those who “believe in Brexit” would serve in her cabinet until the UK leaves the EU.

  • Staunch Brexiteer Dominic Raab called for the UK to leave the EU long before the referendum.

    Mr Raab, who has been tipped for high office since his election as an MP for Esher and Walton in 2010, has insisted that Brexit must happen on 31 October whether there is a deal or not.

    But he has said he would fight for a “fairer” Brexit deal with the EU.

  • Rory Stewart was promoted to international development secretary, his first cabinet role, in May, having previously served as prisons minister.

    Although he campaigned for the UK to remain in the EU during the 2016 referendum campaign, he said he accepted Brexit, saying: “I am a Brexiteer.”

    He said he also wanted “to reach out to Remain voters as well to bring this country together again”.

    Before he was elected as the MP for Penrith and The Border in 2010, he had a varied career as a Foreign Office diplomat, an author and a professor at Harvard University.

  • James Cleverly is a former Vice Chair of the Conservative Party who advocated Brexit before the 2016 referendum. He represents Braintree in Essex.

    He stood down from his Vice Chair role in April in order to become a minister at the Department for Exiting the European Union.

    Between 2008 and 2016 he represented Bexley and Bromley in the Greater London Assembly. Before joining politics he worked in magazine and web publishing. He has been a member of the Territorial Army since 1991 and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in early 2015.

    He said he had backed Brexit from the beginning and believed remaining was “not an acceptable option”. He was the first candidate to withdraw from the leadership race.


  • Kit Malthouse became MP for North West Hampshire in 2015 and is now a housing minister. He was a deputy mayor of London from 2008, serving under fellow leadership contender, Boris Johnson.

    He came to the fore in the Brexit debate when his name was put to a so-called compromise plan to replace the Northern Ireland backstop with “alternative arrangements”.

    A chartered accountant who has run his own small businesses, he says that in over two decades of frontline politics, he’s signed trade deals around the globe. He was the second candidate to pull out of the race.


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The deadline for nominations is Monday, 10 June. But as well as committing to standing, candidates must get enough backers to even take part.

The party recently decided to change the rules for the contest in order to speed up the process.

Candidates now need the backing of eight colleagues – previously they only required two. Some MPs have already indicated where their allegiances lie.

The order changes slightly if you look at where the support lies among party members – as shown in this survey by ConservativeHome at the end of May.

Some candidates have spent many years in senior positions, both as shadow ministers when in Opposition, or as ministers and in the Cabinet.

Those who make it to the first ballot on Thursday, 13 June, need to win at least 17 votes in the first round and 33 votes in the second to proceed further.

There will then be a series of hustings around the UK for those left in the race, followed by a postal ballot of 124,000 Conservative Party members.

The winner will be known during the week beginning 22 July.

A fool and his, or her, money are soon parted, but the bookies are also taking a guess at who is out in front.