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UK Conservatives Begin Race to Replace Theresa May

Eleven candidates are vying for the leadership of Britain's oldest political party, and the keys to 10 Downing Street.


Conservative members of the UK parliament will on Monday see the confirmed list of their colleagues who want the top party job when nominations close at 5 pm. (1600 UTC).

A record 11 candidates are challenging after former leader and still Prime Minister Theresa May sent in her letter of resignation on Friday.

Heading the pack to win the vote are:

  • former Foreign Secretary and London mayor Boris Johnson
  • current Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt
  • former Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom
  • current Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

How does the process work?

Due to the high number of applicants, there will be several rounds of voting among the party’s 313 lawmakers to narrow the field.

Two remaining candidates will then go forward to a runoff vote among the party membership, which is believed to number about 150,000, but there are no published, audited records to verify the figure.

Whittling down the numbers

(Declared candidates)

Campaigning among the candidates on policies and promises has been mixed with revelations about their behaviour, leading to doubts they can garner support.

Michael Gove’s challenge is in the balance after a new book revealed he had taken cocaine on several occasions when working as a journalist 20 years ago.

Johnson also admitted in a GQ interview in 2007 to trying cocaine and cannabis at university.

Hunt said he had a “cannabis lassi” in India, Leadsom smoked cannabis at university. Dominic Raab admitted taking cannabis as a student; Rory Stewart smoked opium in Afghanistan; a friend of Matt Hancock’s said he “tried cannabis a few times,” while Esther McVey told the BBC she had “tried some pot.” Savid Javid, Mark Harper and Sam Gyimah have denied ever taking drugs.

May’s downfall

Brexit was the cause of May’s downfall after she failed to get the Withdrawal Bill through parliament three times.

Appealing to the hardline Brexiteers in the Conservative party membership, the candidates have all claimed they can present a better Brexit than May. Several are threatening to take the UK out of Europe at the end of October, without an agreement. Johnson is saying he would refuse to pay the UK’s agreed debts to the EU during its membership.

What happens next

Once Conservative MPs hold their votes this week, the final two candidates will present themselves to the party membership in a series of meetings over the coming weeks. Party members will then send in their votes.

A decision is expected by the end of July, just in time for the new leader to make a statement in the House of Commons before the assembly closes for a summer break in August. It would be back in session at the start of September.

This article was originally published on Deutsche Welle.

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