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Tory leadership race: the favourites to replace May

The Guardian logo The Guardian 24/05/2019 Peter Walker Political correspondent
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With Theresa May about to quit No 10, you can barely move in Westminster without bumping into a minister making a “wide-ranging” speech spelling out their merits and political philosophy. Here are the runners and riders for the Tory leadership.

Boris Johnson

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The out-and-out favourite, so popular with the Tory grassroots – polling for the Times showed he is the first choice of 39% of them, with Dominic Raab trailing him on 13% – that it would be hard for MPs to not make Johnson one of the final two. He has been relatively quiet recently, beyond his regular Telegraph column, but this is very deliberate.

Odds: 6/4 favourite

Dominic Raab

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Few things say “would-be leader in waiting” like a kitchen photoshoot with your spouse, and the former Brexit secretary duly obliged with this image awash with tasteful pastel hues.

Among the more core constituency of Conservative MPs, Raab has been pushing hard, as has his semi-official “Ready for Raab” Twitter feed.

Odds: 4/1

Jeremy Hunt

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Fears that the foreign secretary would be another overly woolly compromise choice – “Theresa in trousers”, to use the critics’ phrase – were hardly assuaged when after a set-piece speech, he seemed unable to outline why his brand of Conservatism might appeal to voters.

Odds: 10/1

Michael Gove

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The environment secretary has not done anything specific to merit his place in the decliners list, but that is perhaps the point – he has not done very much at all to cement his place in the hearts of Tory MPs.

Robust Brexiters in particular dislike the fact he has stayed loyal even in the final days of the crumbling May regime.

Odds: 12/1

Andrea Leadsom

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The House of Commons leader, who left Theresa May as the last candidate standing when she pulled out of the previous leadership race in 2016, is still considering another tilt at the top job.

But even with her staunch Brexiter tendencies, she would be seen as an outsider.

Odds: 16/1

Sajid Javid

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The home secretary still has the same weaknesses: he is an uninspiring speaker and some worry he is too fond of headline-grabbing, illiberal political gestures.

But he is almost as ubiquitous as Liz Truss, and clearly believes this is his time.

He even has a grassroots/astroturf Twitter feed – “Avid4Javid”.

Odds: 16/1

Matt Hancock

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The health secretary remains a relative outsider, but the longer the race goes on, the more he gains ground for the seemingly basic virtues of being apparently competent and broadly similar to a normal human being, albeit a particularly energetic one.

A concerted effort would probably require an image consultant.

Odds: 20/1

Penny Mordaunt

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Previously seen as a definite outsider, her promotion from international development secretary to defence after the sacking of Gavin Williamson has significantly bolstered her position.

As both a confirmed Brexiter and a social liberal, she could unite different camps, but Mordaunt remains relatively untested.

Odds: 20/1

Rory Stewart

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The cabinet’s most recent arrival – Mordaunt’s promotion to defence saw Stewart made international development secretary – certainly has the necessary ambition and self-belief, plus a privileged if unorthodox backstory covering Eton, Oxford, a senior role in postwar Iraq and a bestselling book about walking across Afghanistan. He remains an outsider, not least because of his remain tendencies and slightly 2010 view of compassionate Conservatism.

Odds: 20/1

Esther McVey

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The former work and pensions secretary, who quit last year over May’s Brexit plans, has launched her own in-party campaign group/leadership vehicle called Blue Collar Conservatism, promising to make the party more amenable to voters in deprived communities – mainly through a promise to deliver a strong Brexit, and policies such as diverting much of the foreign aid budget to schools and police.

Odds: 50/1

Liz Truss

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As much for effort as inspiration. The chief secretary to the Treasury has been almost everywhere the past few weeks – including modelling some slightly alarming trousers in the Mail on Sunday – to explain her free market, libertarian philosophy.

Everyone knows what she thinks, but this will still perhaps not be enough.

Odds: 50/1

Amber Rudd

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The frontwoman for a new group of self-declared “one nation” Conservatives, Rudd’s remainer tendencies and slender majority in her Hastings constituency make her an outsider, and there is speculation she might be mainly seeking to curb the Brexit-y tendencies of Johnson.

Odds: 66/1

James Brokenshire

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A not entirely serious place in the list for the housing and communities secretary, who insists he is not standing, for the achievement of gaining unexpected prominence simply through owning four ovens.

Leadership bids have been made and lost on less.

Odds: 200/1

  • All odds via Ladbrokes

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