Runners and riders emerge for Tory leadership race
Esther McVey has become the third Tory MP to publicly declare their candidacy for the leadership of the Conservative Party, amid widespread speculation about other potential contenders.
Although there is no leadership contest under way, a lack of confidence in Theresa May among Conservative MPs has prompted Rory Stewart, Andrea Leadsom and Ms McVey to declare their candidacies.
A series of high-profile media appearances from Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove and Dominic Raab in the last week have also buoyed speculation that they will run.
Boris Johnson, Sajid Javid, Steve Baker and Amber Rudd have also been tipped as potential leaders.
Under current Conservative Party rules, the Prime Minister is free from an internal challenge to her leadership until December 2019, but could step down before then.
– Esther McVey: MP for Tatton
Unlike some of her more senior Tory colleagues, Esther McVey was happy to declare openly that she would run for the leadership in an interview on TalkRadio on Thursday morning.
“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
Rory Stewart began his leadership bid in an interview with The Spectator last month.
“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
Andrea Leadsom said on Wednesday that she was “seriously considering” running for the Conservative leadership when the Prime Minister resigned.
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.
Ms 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
Dominic Raab, the former Brexit secretary, appeared to set out policies for a future manifesto in an interview on Sunday.
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 has not confirmed that he will run for party leader, but like Mr Raab used a newspaper profile on Sunday to introduce voters to his wife, Lucia.
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 is a popular potential candidate for the Tory leadership, and references to his background at recent public appearances have boosted speculation that he will run.
In a speech to the Welsh Conservative Conference on Saturday, 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
Suggestions of another Michael Gove leadership bid emerged on Saturday after he appeared in an interview from his parents’ home in Aberdeen and said he had learned from his 2016 leadership attempt.
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 has long been seen as the frontrunner among Brexit-supporting grassroots Tory members.
Mr Johnson has not formally announced any leadership plans, but has long harboured ambitions to be party leader.
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
Last month, Amber Rudd refused to rule out running in the next Conservative leadership race, saying she is “keeping the door slightly ajar” to the possibility.
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.
On Thursday, 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 rose to prominence after the 2016 referendum as one of the leaders of the European Research Group, which counts many Tory Brexiteers in its ranks.
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.