Conservative Party UK

UK’s next prime minister — who are the lead candidates?

A guide to who’s most likely to lead on Brexit

The contest to become Britain’s next prime minister is down to the last two men standing: Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt.

The Conservative party’s 160,000 members will next month choose as leader either Mr Johnson, the former foreign secretary, or Mr Hunt, his successor in the post.

The victor, who is scheduled to be announced on the week of July 22, will take Theresa May’s place in Downing Street.

Mr Johnson is the overwhelming favourite in the race. Mr Hunt only just managed to secure his place on the run-off ballot, eliminating environment secretary Michael Gove by a margin of only two votes in the final round of voting by the party’s 313 MPs on Thursday June 20.

Who has the most support?

Number of Conservative MP supporters

Boris Johnson
Jeremy Hunt
Not all Tory MPs have publicly declared their support.

A first ballot of Conservative MPs on June 13 whittled the number of hopefuls from the 10 original candidates down to seven. Matt Hancock withdrew the following day. Dominic Raab was eliminated in the second round of voting on Tuesday June 18, while Rory Stewart was eliminated in the third round on Wednesday June 19 and Sajid Javid was knocked out earlier on Thursday June 20.

Explore who is backing whom, each candidate’s chances of winning, and the figures working behind the scenes on this interactive page. So far 63 MPs have yet to declare who they are supporting.

Who are the candidates?

Portrait of Boris Johnson MP

Boris Johnson

160*Conservative MP supporters

Boris Johnson has been the bookmakers’ favourite since before Mrs May announced her resignation. The darling of the party’s grassroots and the face of Brexit, the former foreign secretary is running on a platform of leaving the EU by the end of October, combined with centrist domestic policies. With broad support from across the party, the race is his to lose.

2016 EU referendum split among public MP supporters
Odds: 93%
Polling: 77% of Conservative party members thought Boris Johnson would make a good party leader in a 14 June YouGov poll.
Campaign staffers: James Wharton (chairman), Gavin Williamson MP (parliament), Lee Cain (media), Grant Shapps MP (parliament), Oliver Lewis (policy) and Carrie Symonds (adviser).
*Not all Tory MPs have publicly declared their support.
Portrait of Jeremy Hunt MP

Jeremy Hunt

77*Conservative MP supporters

Jeremy Hunt depicts himself as the candidate who can do deals, bring the Tories together and make Brexit a reality — although he has warned of the risks of leaving without a deal. The foreign secretary, who previously served at health and culture, may have supported Remain but has gathered support across the Tory parliamentary party.

2016 EU referendum split among public MP supporters
Odds: 11%
Polling: 56% of Conservative party members thought Jeremy Hunt would make a good party leader in a 14 June YouGov poll.
Campaign staffers: Sue Beeby (adviser), Tim Smith (media), Ed Jones (adviser), Philip Dunne MP (parliament), Christina Robinson (adviser)
*Not all Tory MPs have publicly declared their support.

Withdrawn or eliminated

Portrait of Michael Gove MP

Michael Gove

Michael Gove was eliminated in the final round of voting on June 20. He became the candidate for those Tories who believe the party has to be led by a Brexiter — only not Mr Johnson. The environment secretary’s pitch was based on his experience in reforming several departments, such as education and justice.

Campaign staffers: Josh Grimstone (media), Mel Stride MP (parliament), Henry Newman, Henry Cook
Portrait of Sajid Javid MP

Sajid Javid

Sajid Javid was eliminated in the fourth round of voting. His pitch was broadly based on his “back story”: the son of a migrant who made it from what he has described as “the most dangerous street in Britain” — in northern Bristol — to investment banker, and most recently to one of the most senior jobs in government. The home secretary, who backed Remain and served in several cabinet roles, churned out plenty of policy ideas and had a strong following among Tory MPs.

Campaign staffers: Matthew Elliott (co-chair, adviser), Robert Halfon MP (co-chair, parliament), Nick King (head), Emma Dean (media), Samuel Coates (speechwriter), James Hedgeland (policy), Gareth Milner (digital), Andy Silvester (media) and Olivia Robey (policy).
Portrait of Dominic Raab MP

Dominic Raab

Dominic Raab was eliminated in the second round of voting. He ran an anti-establishment campaign, promising to deliver a hard Brexit and a “fairer Britain”. He attacked Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party over alleged anti-Semitism and promised to empower consumers. The former Brexit secretary, who campaigned for Leave, vied with Mr Johnson for the mantle of chief Eurosceptic.

Campaign staffers: Henry Bellingham (chairman), Paul Stephenson (adviser), James Starkie (media), Beth Armstrong (policy), Nadhim Zahawi MP (parliament), Hugo Swire MP (treasurer), Peter Butler, (press) and Rhiannon Padley (press)
Portrait of Rory Stewart MP

Rory Stewart

Rory Stewart, a former diplomat and Harvard lecturer, took to the streets of Britain and posted social media videos of his chats with voters. He was eliminated in the third round of voting. The international development secretary recently joined the cabinet, but built up centrist support for his bid. He won the initial backing of Ken Clarke, the former chancellor, Gary Lineker, the ex-footballer, and Brian Cox, the scientist.

Campaign staffers: Eva Barboni (digital), Lizzie Loudon (media), Peter Lyburn (adviser), James Johnson (polling), David Gauke MP (parliament) and Shoshana Clark (advser).
Portrait of Matt Hancock MP

Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock withdrew on the day after the first round of voting, where he received the support of just 20 MPs. He wanted to win over the centre of the party with a pragmatic approach to Brexit and economic policies intended to appeal to businesses. The health secretary, who supported Remain, tried to make the case for a break with the recent past in a similar way to David Cameron's successful bid for the party leadership in 2005.

Campaign staffers: James Bethell (chairman), Adam Atashzai (head), Gina Coladangelo (strategic communications), Ameet Gill (adviser), Jamie Njoku-Goodwin (media), Daniel Korski (adviser) and Damian Green MP (parliament).
Portrait of Andrea Leadsom MP

Andrea Leadsom

Andrea Leadsom was eliminated in the first round of voting after securing 11 of the 16 required votes. The former leader of the Commons, an ardent Leaver, stood on a platform of delivering a hard Brexit: she ruled out further delays to leaving the EU and said she would use domestic legislation to mitigate the impact of a no-deal exit. With her resignation, Ms Leadsom played a direct role in bringing Mrs May’s premiership to an abrupt end.

Campaign staffers: Lucia Hodgson (media), Chris Heaton-Harris (parliament)
Portrait of Mark Harper MP

Mark Harper

Mark Harper was eliminated in the first round of voting after securing ten of the 16 required votes. Mr Harper served as Tory chief whip during David Cameron’s government and had attempted to turn his lack of public profile into an advantage. His candidacy was based on his status as one of the few Conservative MPs who was not tarred by the controversies of the May government and its failure to see Brexit through.

Portrait of Esther McVey MP

Esther McVey

Esther McVey was eliminated in the first round of voting after securing nine of the 16 required votes. She had been trying to put together an electoral coalition based on “blue collar Conservatism”, aimed at gaining the support of Brexit-supporting areas in the Labour party’s traditional heartlands.

Campaign staffers: Ed Baker (media), James Roberts (adviser), Clark Vasey (adviser)
Portrait of Sam Gyimah MP

Sam Gyimah

Sam Gyimah withdrew on the day of the nomination deadline, saying that he had not had enough time to build the necessary support among Conservative MPs. He was running to raise the profile of a second referendum. The former universities minister was one of the few ardent Remainers standing for the leadership of an increasingly Brexit-supporting party.

Percentage probability calcuated from odds ratio. Odds taken from Ladbrokes, updated as of 20 June. Numbers of supporters include the candidate.
Sources: Ladbrokes, YouGov
Photos: © UK Parliament, Getty
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