Theresa May steps down as Tory leader Friday, but who will take on the unenviable role of guiding Britain through Brexit stormy waters? Boris Johnson is the favorite, but beware the outsider who may end up pipping him to the post.
May leaves after a somewhat tortuous three years as Tory prime minister, who fundamentally failed to pass her flagship policy – Brexit. On Monday the Conservative Party begins the process of electing her successor with 11 candidates standing for the top job.
Boris Johnson – The Favorite
The gaffe-prone but highly charismatic former foreign secretary is leading the field. He’s gained large support from both Tory MPs and grassroots members who want the party to shift to a harder line on Brexit, even countenancing a ‘no-deal’ Brexit.
The fear is that failure to counter the rise of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, could plunge the Tories into an existential crisis.
There are a number of pro-remain Conservative MPs hostile to the prospect of him ever becoming leader, but it certainly looks, on the face of it, an incredibly tall order for anyone to stop Boris.
Odds: 4/6 Fav
Jeremy Hunt – Trump’s new best friend
The current foreign secretary who has been winning plaudits from the likes of US President Donald Trump, no less, who remarked during his recent UK state visit, that Hunt “would do a good job.”
After a torrid time as health secretary, where he managed to upset both doctors and nurses who staged numerous protests in anger over his reforms, Hunt has managed to reinvent himself as a serious contender for Tory leader.
Recently trolled for a promotional video he posted on social media, after claiming that he had to “grind to stay alive” as a young entrepreneur, Hunt is seen as a unifier, less divisive than Johnson who, even though voted remain, believes in Brexit.
Jeremy Hunt endured “the daily grind just to stay alive”.
▪️Son of Admiral Sir Nicholas Hunt and Lady Hunt
▪️School at Charterhouse
▪️Worth £14 million
▪️Pulled himself out of the ghetto of his loft conversion office
He’s the British version of Dr Dre. https://t.co/e5P5dCtNaM
— James Melville (@JamesMelville) June 5, 2019
Michael Gove – the Tory teachers love to hate
The environment secretary, who was accused of “treachery” and “stabbing Boris in the back,” during the last leadership contest in 2016, after surprising everyone by not supporting Johnson and instead running for leader himself.
In his role as education secretary from 2010 to 2014, he suffered the wrath of teachers who saw his “1950s” reforms as based on ideology and personal experience.
The fact Gove was a key figure of the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign during the EU referendum and someone that wants to respect Brexit with a deal would, in normal times, enhance his prospects of claiming May’s crown.
However, these are not normal times and he may be shunted out of the way in favor of a Tory with better popularity ratings. He’s only the 20th most popular Conservative with the British public, according to polling company YouGov – one place behind Jeremy Hunt.
Rory Stewart – the outsider
A relative unknown, Stewart is the International Development Secretary, who was a Labour member as a teenager, but quit over the 2003 Iraq War… for the Tories – a party that backed the Iraq War.
Stewart’s chances at present are thin, but you cannot fault him for effort, utilizing social media to post selfie videos of him out and about trying to engage with the public around the UK. His latest venture took him to London’s famous Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park where he gave an animated speech on the Brexit turmoil.
Some thoughts from speaker’s corner on common ground and compromise – in a hoarse voice with a lot of hand-waving to communicate to the back row…next rally Wednesday pic.twitter.com/9O3t9zg3Yo
— Rory Stewart (@RoryStewartUK) June 3, 2019
Seen as a ‘moderate’ within Tory circles, Stewart may not get the top job this time round, due to a lack of cabinet experience, voter recognition and his position on Brexit, which is to rule out a no-deal.
The Conservatives have a lot of thinking to do ahead of a new leader being announced on July 22. The threat of the Brexit Party on the right, hijacking their core base of hardline Brexiteers and Labour on the left, mopping up Remain supporters if they finally commit to a second referendum, is real.
Theresa May may be gone, but the Tories’ problems are set to continue for a good while yet.
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