Wednesday 18 September 2019

Who could replace UK PM Theresa May? Here's how her would-be successors line up

Penny Mordaunt. Photo: PA
Penny Mordaunt. Photo: PA
John Downing

John Downing

Theresa May is battling to save a draft divorce deal with the European Union after her Brexit secretary and other ministers quit in protest.

The question now is: how and when will Mrs May exit the UK Prime Minister’s office? As the race heats up, John Downing looks at the would-be successors.

BORIS JOHNSON: Former foreign minister, best known on this side of the Irish Sea has been a bookies’ favourite.  A substantial figure physically, he is more about style politically.

Flipped from Remain to Leave in spring 2016.  A favourite among Conservative Party members who would choose from two final candidates chosen by the party’s MPs.

David Davis and Boris Johnson
David Davis and Boris Johnson
Sajid Javid
Andrea Leadsom
Environment Secretary Michael Gove (David Mirzoeff/PA)

Big doubt is whether he would make it through the MPs’ selection process and on to the ballot paper.

JACOB REES MOGG: Dubbed “the Honourable Member for the 18th Century” he is a determined “young fogey” with an epic level of ignorance about Ireland and the border.

Has a parliamentary party following and is a darling with a certain section of the party membership. But like Boris Johnson,  there are big doubts about him making the last two in the MPs selection process to get on the ballot.

PENNY MORDAUNT: The overseas development minister and ardent Brexiteer Penny Mordaunt, is judged by some observers to have “insufficient authority and profile in the near-term.” But as a woman candidate she could prove more formidable than that.

SAJID JAVID: Home secretary or justice minister, is seen as the favourite among younger Tories, representing the new face of a multicultural party.

Colleagues say he is “trying to recover from a Referendum positioning error”.  In June 2016 Mr Javid voted for “Remain” but later tried to present himself as a pragmatic re-Leaver.

A man with wide experience of government office, and unafraid of controversy on many issues, including race matters, he could be the candidate to come through the MP selection process. His face on a ballot paper would test members’ attitudes to change.

Read more: John Downing: 'The only five things you need to know about the Brexit deal'

Ruth Davidson
Ruth Davidson
Former British Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab. Photo: Getty Images
Jacob Rees-Mogg
Chancellor Philip Hammond (Joe Giddens/PA)

PHILIP HAMMOND: The finance minister and former foreign minister is a determined “remainer” who has done all he could to deliver the softest Brexit possible. He has good credibility among the business community and enjoyed good relations with his Irish and EU counterparts.

But colleagues often say he is “charismatically challenged” and he is derided as “spreadsheet Phil” for his love of that format of presentation. While he does have a following he looks an unlikely candidate at this point.

MICHAEL GOVE: Famed for stabbing colleague Boris Johnson last time in summer 2016. Colleagues turned on him after that and he lost his cabinet job for a time.

Now environment minister, he is a high-profile Leave campaigner, he could position himself well this time out.  Will be considered a real contender.

ANDREA LEADSOME: Made it on the ballot in 2016 after a series of MPs’ votes for a run-off against Theresa May. But she ran an ill-judged campaign and quit early announcing that she did not have enough support.

An internal party document last spring on the likely succession dubbed her “unsuitable” but she is an ambitious campaigner. A supporter of EU membership as recently as 2016, she advocated a Leave vote in 2016.

RUTH DAVIDSON: The popular Scottish Conservative delivered their best performance in Scotland for more than 30 years with 13 MPs returned to London in May 2017.

She showed courage in demanding assurances from Mrs May that commitments to gay rights stood despite the government propping-up deal with Democratic Unionist Party for her minority government in June 2017.

But Ms Davidson is not an elected MP which she would need to be in order to stand.

DOMINIC RAAB and DAVID DAVIS: Two former Brexit ministers who crashed out of Mrs May’s cabinet because she disregarded their views.  Both names will be mentioned but must be seen as marginal contenders.  David Davis was seen as a low-energy and non-committal in his job. Dominic Raab did himself huge damage by recently admitting he did not know how important the Dover-Calais link was to British commercial life.

Online Editors

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