Redwood’s guide to the Conservative Party leadership election.
The Conservative Party leadership election, triggered by David Cameron’s resignation following the EU Referendum result, is now in full flow, with Cameron’s successor expected to be announced on 9 September. We take stock as the race begins in earnest after the first round of voting.
The Conservative Party’s 1922 Committee, a committee of backbench MPs also known as “the 22”, is tasked with overseeing the process. The five original candidates – Theresa May, Stephen Crabb, Michael Gove, Andrea Leadsom and Liam Fox – all required the backing of at least two Conservative MPs in order to get onto the ballot paper. As the former frontrunner for the leadership, Boris Johnson’s surprise decision to drop out of the race – ousted by what was being called a “cuckoo nest plot” involving his former campaign manager, Michael Gove – proves the old adage that in a Conservative Party leadership election, ‘the favourite never wins.’
As there are more than two candidates, Conservative MPs will now hold a series of secret ballots to narrow the candidates down to two frontrunners. The candidate with the least number of votes after each ballot drops out of the race. This process will continue with a secret ballot held every Tuesday and Thursday until only two candidates remain. The winner will then be decided by a vote by the Conservative Party membership, comprising around 150,000 members.
As the first round of voting closed yesterday Theresa May topped the ballot with 165 of 329 votes by Conservative MPs. The candidate with the least votes, Liam Fox, subsequently dropped out, as did Stephen Crabb by his own choice. All eyes are now on Thursday’s election, and with Theresa May the clear frontrunner, Andrea Leadsom and Michael Gove will likely compete for the final place on the ballot paper.
Theresa May’s extensive experience and clear popularity with Conservative MPs makes her the favourite in the contest, however the Home Secretary’s coronation is anything but assured with the final decision laying with the Conservative Party membership. Whoever the winner, alongside leading the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, the next Prime Minister will also have the unenviable task of attempting to heal deep wounds within the Conservative Party inflicted by a long and bloody referendum campaign.