Cirque du Tory – The Conservative Leadership Race Explained

Roll up, Roll up!

Come one, come all, to the greatest show in town!

In case you hadn’t noticed, things have got a bit crazy lately. Theresa May, ringmaster to the absolute circus that British politics has become, has finally elected to hang up her riding crop and jodhpurs, leaving a vacuum on the centre stage.

By the 23rd of July, we will have a new Prime Minister.

Everyone from the lion-tamer to the dancing elephant has thrown their hat into the ring, which means plenty of choice but also plenty of confusion as to what each one actually stands for. Well, have a throw at the coconut shy, get yourself some candy-floss, then come and take your seat – we’ll explain it all for you.

Who Is Running?

Below is a list of the candidates. Each is a hyperlink – click through to learn more about the candidate.

Boris Johnson

Jeremy Hunt

Michael Gove – eliminated at 5th vote

Sajid Javid – eliminated at 4th vote

Rory Stewart – eliminated at 3rd vote

Dominic Raab – eliminated at 2nd vote

Matt Hancockpulled out 14/06

Andrea Leadsomeliminated at 1st vote

Esther McVey – eliminated at 1st vote

Mark Harper – eliminated at 1st vote

Sam Gyimahpulled out 10/06

James Cleverlypulled out

Kit Malthouse – pulled out

And How Does It All Work?

Well, first of all, we as bog-standard British citizens have no say in it. (Unless one of you reading is a member of the Conservative Party, in which case you do. You should probably know this if so.)

Each leadership hopeful will announce their candidacy, then go out and campaign – most candidates have now started doing this in earnest.

However, unlike a General Election, where candidates are trying to earn the votes of every single citizen of Britain, their campaigns here are to win over the other MPs in their own party and their own Party membership. 

The first part of the election is held by a vote of all Tory MPs. Multiple votes are held, where the candidate with the least amount of votes is whittled away each time until just two are left standing.

This means that candidates will have been playing a very careful and considered game to get as much support as possible from their colleagues as early as possible. However, a strong public campaign is also extremely useful in generating support from their peers, as support among the public => more support for the party => more chance of their MPs remaining in power.

Once there are just two left standing, the party membership votes for their favourite, who then becomes new Party Leader, and, in this case, the new Prime Minister.

The party membership are fee-paying supporters of the Conservative Party, who pay £25-a-year to be able to attend the Party Conference and vote in elections such as these.

Among the Tories, there are around 125,000 members. The average age of a party member is 72.

And these members will choose our new Prime Minister.

And What Does This All Mean For Brexit?

It really depends on who wins.

There are some quite progressive candidates on the list, such as Rory Stewart and Sam Gyimah, but also some staunch no-deal advocates such as Esther McVey and Dominic Raab.

A hardline Brexiteer will likely struggle to actually carry out their intentions – while a new Prime Minister may well inspire some former dissenters through strong leadership, the Parliamentary arithmetic will stay the same. No-deal will almost certainly continue to be defeated by Parliament, therefore, as whoever becomes leader will simply not have enough support for it to pass.

Additionally, renegotiating the Withdrawal Agreement with Brussels has also been flatly refused by the EU multiple times. Boris Johnson and many other candidates say that they would try to press for a better deal, but this will be next-to-impossible, too.

So, come the deadline on October 31st, a hardline Brexiteer may find that they cannot leave with no-deal, have no better deal to try and win Parliament over, and rely on a support-base that refuses to allow an extension.

Essentially, exactly where Theresa May found herself.

Whoever becomes Prime Minister next will have an extremely tough time – I would bet good money on whoever gets the job being forced out by the end of 2019. It could be the end of a prominent politician’s career…

Or even the end of the Tory Party. 

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