Who could replace Theresa May as Tory leader?

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The Prime Minister once again resisted calls for her to name the date of her departure from Number 10.

Theresa May has agreed to set a timetable for the election of her successor as Tory leader amid growing speculation over who could replace her.

The Prime Minister once again resisted calls for her to name the date of her departure from Number 10 and no official leadership contest is under way.

But a lack of confidence in the PM among Conservative MPs has prompted Boris Johnson, Rory Stewart, Andrea Leadsom and Esther McVey to declare their candidacies.

A series of high-profile media appearances recently from Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove and Dominic Raab have also buoyed speculation that they will run.

Sajid Javid, Steve Baker and Amber Rudd have also been tipped as potential leaders.

– Esther McVey: MP for Tatton

Esther McVey
Former work and pensions secretary Esther McVey (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“I’ve always said quite clearly if I got enough support from colleagues then yes I would, and now people have come forward and I have got that support, so I will be going forward,” she said.


The former work and pensions secretary said the Tories needed a leader who “believes in Brexit”.

Ms McVey resigned from the Government in November when Mrs May’s draft deal was announced, then voted for Britain to leave the EU without a deal in March.

– Rory Stewart: MP for Penrith and the Border


International Development Secretary Rory Stewart (Victoria Jones/PA)

“If you want someone who really enjoys doing stuff and loves government and is really proud of the country and feel that’s their thing, I’m really enthusiastic,” he said.

Mr Stewart described himself as one of the only “genuine specialists” in Parliament, and was once a private tutor to princes William and Harry.

He is a public defender of Mrs May’s Brexit deal, a loyalty that saw him promoted to International Development Secretary on May 1, replacing Penny Mordaunt.

– Andrea Leadsom: MP for South Northamptonshire

The Andrew Marr Show
Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom (Jeff Overs/BBC)

The Leader of the Commons described the UK’s continued membership of the EU as “disgusting”, and claimed that a Eurosceptic prime minister would have delivered Brexit already.

Mrs Leadsom had a high-profile role in the Leave campaign in 2016, and ran for the leadership of the Conservative Party after David Cameron’s resignation.

She was eventually forced to drop out of the race after she made comments about her children that were widely interpreted to be an attack on Theresa and Philip May’s inability to have children.

– Dominic Raab: MP for Esher and Walton

Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab (House of Commons/PA)

He argued for a new law that would make it illegal to make pregnant mothers redundant, and for a cut to the basic rate of income tax.

“I think the basic rate, taking a penny off that, would be talking to the people who need to know we are on their side,” he said.

The interview appeared alongside glossy photos of him and his wife Erika in their home kitchen, and was widely interpreted to be an attempt to boost his popularity in advance of a leadership bid.

– Jeremy Hunt: MP for South West Surrey

Jeremy Hunt comments
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt (Jane Barlow/PA)

The Foreign Secretary described Mrs Hunt in an interview as the “perfect partner”, and was pictured with her during a week-long trip to Africa.

Mr Hunt identifies as a one-nation conservative, campaigned for Remain in the 2016 referendum and would be a moderate candidate on Brexit in any leadership election.

– Sajid Javid: MP for Bromsgrove

Sajid Javid speech on violent crime
Home Secretary Sajid Javid giving a speech about violent crime (Jonathan Brady/PA)

In a speech to the Welsh Conservative Conference, Mr Javid joked about helping his father on his market stall.

Speaking to police officers and social workers about knife crime last month, Mr Javid said he “could have had a life of crime” after growing up on “Britain’s most dangerous street”.

His hard stance on the return of Shamima Begum, the former Bethnal Green schoolgirl who joined Islamic State, boosted his popularity among some Conservatives but dismayed others.

– Michael Gove: MP for Surrey Heath

Scottish Conservatives’ party conference
Environment Secretary Michael Gove (Jane Barlow/PA)

He said his decision to end Boris Johnson’s candidacy in 2016 was “not my finest hour”, but would not be drawn on whether he would run in any new contest.

Mr Gove’s time as Environment Secretary has allowed him to rehabilitate his reputation as a Machiavellian figure in the Tory Party.

He supports the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal and has been involved in negotiations to gain backing for it from the Labour Party.

– Boris Johnson: MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip

Boris Johnson breach
Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson (Brian Lawless/PA)

And on Thursday he confirmed he would be a contender when the contest took place, telling a business event in Manchester: “I’m going to go for it. Of course I’m going to go for it.”

In a documentary in 2013, Mr Johnson said being prime minister “would be a great, great thing to have a crack at”, if “the ball came loose from the back of the scrum”.

Since resigning from his post as foreign secretary over Mrs May’s Brexit strategy in June 2018, Mr Johnson has sat on the backbenches and been critical of the Government.

– Amber Rudd: MP for Hastings and Rye

Amber Rudd speech
Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Ms Rudd is one of the most senior Remain-supporting Tories, and has regained standing in the Government since resigning in April 2018 over the Windrush scandal.

Last week, she announced that the Government was reducing the maximum sanction for those who breach benefits rules from three years to six months.

She said she hoped to “reverse” any damage done to the Conservative brand through harsh benefit sanctions, in what could be seen as an attempt to improve her own image as well.

– Steve Baker: MP for Wycombe

Steve Baker, former Brexit minister (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Tories who argue that Brexit must be delivered by a Brexiteer prime minister may look to Mr Baker as a possible leader.

He named David Davis, Mr Raab, Mr Johnson and Ms McVey as his preferred candidates, and said the next leader of the Conservative Party cannot be an MP who has voted for Mrs May’s deal.

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