Tory leadership hopefuls hang fire despite Brexit delay – for now
The clock is ticking down to the end of Theresa May’s premiership, but midnight seems to have been pushed a little further back over the weekend.
A clamour for her to quit followed the latest Brexit delay but this seems to have been quelled by Cabinet colleagues apparently willing to prop up the PM in the short term.
For now, it seems leadership rivals are content to see Mrs May drain the poisoned chalice of Brexit, biding their time until the deadline starts looming once again in the run-up to Halloween.
The Tories jockeying for position ahead of the big race are:
The front-runner among grassroots Tory members is still Boris Johnson, who has been strengthened by Mrs May’s decision to go into talks over a softer Brexit with Labour.
The former foreign secretary’s latest Daily Telegraph column sets out his leadership stall, calling for the country to be able to move on from Brexit and refocus on tax cuts and tackling crime.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid is also putting out the bunting as he makes a speech on Monday on moving towards a public health model on knife crime – treating violence as a disease in a bid to stop the death toll continuing to rise.
Mr Javid has drawn criticism over the hostile environment policy towards immigration and his handling of asylum seekers crossing the Channel so may be trying to build a more compassionate image.
Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab is still in the running as a potential leader who would switch tack to a harder Brexit, having quit the Cabinet over Mrs May’s deal after four months in post.
Mr Raab has had a series of articles in Sunday newspapers over the last few weeks as he tries to raise his profile and become more of a household name.
The popularity of Environment Secretary Michael Gove flickers as wary Conservatives struggle to decide if he can be trusted after stabbing his Brexit partner Mr Johnson in the back during the last leadership contest.
Mr Gove has shown himself to be a strong performer, laying into Labour’s Brexit policy as bollocks during one memorable debate, and is also unfailingly complimentary to colleagues.
Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom has revived her image, which was damaged by her gaffe over motherhood in the last leadership contest, with strong performances on women’s rights in the Chamber.
Mrs Leadsom has not wavered over Brexit either, still demanding German Chancellor Angela Merkel re-open the Withdrawal Agreement as late as last week, despite the EU negotiators’ refusal to countenance this.
International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt remains on the margins of the contest but has been unflappable in her Cabinet role as well as supporting Mrs May and backing Brexit compromise despite being a Leaver.
Ms Mordaunt’s experience as a Royal Naval Reservist, serving as an acting sub-lieutenant, should stand her in good stead as accusations of sexism among some in the ERG faction continue to swirl.