Runners and riders in the leadership race: 10 potential candidates

Theresa May’s resignation speech has fired the starting gun on the official  Tory leadership race, by setting a departure date of June 7.

The unofficial race has been running for weeks as her premiership sputtered to a halt, with the final nail in the coffin being the Cabinet revolt over her latest Brexit deal and the Withdrawal Agreement Bill being ditched against her wishes.

Here are the top 10 runners and riders vying to take on the mantle of Conservative leader by winning over Tory MPs and grassroots members.

– Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson nearly beat Theresa May to the top job in 2016 (Gareth Harmer/National Lottery Community Fund)

Former foreign secretary and London mayor Mr Johnson, 54, is considered by most as the favourite to win the leadership race (Ladbrokes odds 5/4).

Easily recognisable thanks to his popularity on comedy TV shows, he nearly beat Theresa May to the top job in 2016, until his colleague Michael Gove decided to scupper his chances.

Since then, Mr Johnson has burnished his Leave credentials by walking out of Cabinet alongside David Davis in July last year, and has also cleared the decks on a notoriously complicated personal life.

He has already confirmed he will stand, telling a business event “of course I’m going to go for it”.

– Dominic Raab

Dominic Raab
Dominic Raab resigned as Brexit secretary (PA/Andrew Matthews)

Former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has refused to rule out standing in a leadership contest and has a semi-official Ready for Raab Twitter account ready for a leadership bid (William Hill odds 9/2).

The 44-year-old MP for Esher and Walton also posed for a classic kitchen photo with his wife in a recent profile in The Sunday Times, showing off the family life of this son of a Czech-born Jewish father.

Mr Raab was a prominent Brexiteer in the referendum campaign and Mrs May appointed him as her second Brexit secretary in July, but he quit the role in November, saying he could not support her eventual deal.

In his resignation letter on November 15, he wrote: “Ultimately, you deserve a Brexit secretary who can make the case for the deal you are pursuing with conviction. I am only sorry, in good conscience, that I cannot.”

– Andrea Leadsom

Andrea Leadsom
Former Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom (Isabel Infantes/PA)

Former Leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, said she was “seriously considering” running for the Conservative leadership before she quit her role on Wednesday.

Her refusal to bring the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to the Commons could be seen as the final nail in the coffin for Mrs May’s premiership and was widely interpreted as positioning for a leadership bid (Bet365 odds 14/1)

The 56-year-old has previously described the UK’s continued membership of the EU as “disgusting” and claimed that a Eurosceptic prime minister would have delivered Brexit already.

She was elected MP for South Northamptonshire in 2010 and is married with three children.

– Michael Gove

Michael Gove
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove (Jane Barlow/PA)

Michael Gove has been working to resuscitate trust among colleagues since he wielded the knife against Boris Johnson in the previous leadership contest, despite being his campaign manager.

He withdrew his support on the morning that Mr Johnson was due to declare, and threw his own hat in the ring instead, but trailed behind ultimate winner Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom after the first round of voting.

Since then, he has made some memorable Commons appearances, notably in defence of Mrs May’s deal, and has a reputation for mastering complicated briefs (William Hill odds 9/1).

Mr Gove, 51, was born in Edinburgh, studied English at Oxford and was a journalist before becoming an MP. He is married to Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine.

– Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The Foreign Secretary, 52, campaigned for Remain in the 2016 referendum and would be a moderate candidate on Brexit in the leadership election (Ladbrokes odds 10/1)

He battled with doctors as health secretary before being appointed Foreign Secretary in July last year, when Boris Johnson quit.

The MP for South West Surrey did not run in the previous contest, instead backing Mrs May, and he was one of the last Cabinet members she met in Downing Street.

Mr Hunt is married to Lucia Guo, who was born in Xian in central China, and they have three children. During a recent trip to China he dropped a clanger by saying his wife was Japanese.

– Penny Mordaunt

Penny Mordaunt
Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt (Victoria Jones/PA)

Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt became the UK’s first female defence secretary at the start of the month, following the sacking of Gavin Williamson (Bet365 odds of 20/1).

She has been named by Jacob Rees-Mogg as one of his favoured candidates and has a higher public profile than most due to her 2014 appearance on reality TV show Splash!

Ms Mordaunt, 45, supported Andrea Leadsom in the 2016 Conservative leadership contest, but has been publicly supportive of Mrs May in recent months.

She has been an MP for Portsmouth North since 2010 and is a Royal Navy reservist.

– Sajid Javid

Sajid Javid
Home Secretary Sajid Javid (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Home Secretary Sajid Javid signalled his leadership ambitions by arguing that he wanted the Tories to be the party of social mobility, in an interview with the Spectator (Ladbrokes odds 20/1).

Mr Javid, 49, who backed Remain in the referendum but has since positioned himself as a firm Leaver, became the first home secretary from an ethnic minority background when he was appointed in April 2018.

He is expected to be a popular candidate, with policies including his hard stance on the return of Shamima Begum, the former Bethnal Green schoolgirl who joined Islamic State, boosting his position among some colleagues.

The son of a Pakistani bus driver from Rochdale, he was a managing director at Deutsche Bank before becoming an MP in 2010. He is married with four children.

– Rory Stewart

Rory Stewart
Secretary of State for International Development Rory Stewart (Isabel Infantes/PA)

New International Development secretary Rory Stewart was promoted from prisons minister at the start of this month when Penny Mordaunt was promoted (Paddypower odds 20/1).

He is known for pledging to resign from his prisons minister post if he couldn’t get a grip on rising levels of drugs and violence in UK jails.

Mr Stewart, 46, previously served as environment minister in David Cameron’s government, and has served in the Black Watch and in the Foreign Office.

He began his leadership bid in an interview with The Spectator last month, saying: “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.”

– Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock
Matt Hancock has hinted he is interested in the job (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, 40, has refused to rule himself out and said he has a “strong view about the sort of leader we need” (Betfred odds 50/1).

His previous role as digital, culture, media and sport secretary saw him launch his own app, to some mockery, and he has pushed his digital transformation agenda hard.

Known for being close to George Osborne and David Cameron, he has said the new leader should put the Tories “four square in the centre ground”.

He worked as an economist at the Bank of England before he became the MP for West Sussex and is married with a daughter and two sons.

 – James Cleverly     

James Cleverly
James Cleverly advocated Brexit during the referendum (Victoria Jones/PA)

James Cleverly was appointed Brexit Minister in April this year, following  a stint as Conservative party deputy chairman (Betfair odds 66/1).

He strongly hinted that he would make a leadership bid at an unofficial hustings held by the Telegraph earlier this week.

Mr Cleverly advocated Brexit during the referendum and has also supported scrapping the minimum wage and cuts to disability benefits.

The MP for Braintree is married with two sons. He has served in the Army and the Territorial Army and worked in publishing before he was elected in 2015.

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