Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 16 October 2019

Seven contenders to watch as Theresa May resigns Conservative leadership

Current and former foreign secretaries and a leading British Muslim

Conservative MP Boris Johnson is one of the runners and riders vying to succeed UK Prime Minister Theresa May. Getty Images
Conservative MP Boris Johnson is one of the runners and riders vying to succeed UK Prime Minister Theresa May. Getty Images

Theresa May has announced she will be stepping down as Conservative leader on June 7, triggering a party contest to choose the new prime minister of the United Kingdom.

Here's a look at some of her party members who are contenders:

Boris Johnson, 54.

A polarising figure within ruling Conservative party who is envied by colleagues and rivals for his level of public recognition but seen as a political opportunist who has repeatedly failed to master his political and minister briefs. The Brexit-supporting Mr Johnson quit as foreign secretary over Mrs May’s Brexit strategy and is favourite to take over her role. His calamitous campaign to become leader in 2016 failed after Justice Secretary Michael Gove, his running mate in a leadership ‘dream team’, quit to make his own (failed) run for the leadership. “Of course I’m going to go for it,” he said last week in response to a question about his plans to run.

Sajid Javid, 49.

The Home Secretary and the most prominent Muslim in British political life gave a speech early this week announcing an overhaul of treason laws in what was seen as a pitch for the top job. The son of a bus driver, Mr Javid has often spoken of his working-class roots and told of how his protective upbringing by Pakistani immigrant parents prevented him from being tempted into crime as a boy. He moved into politics after a career in finance and became Home Secretary in 2018 after his predecessor was forced to quit over an immigration scandal.

Andrea Leadsom, 56.

Resigned as leader of the House Commons just this week. The former banker was the closest challenger to Theresa May during the 2016 leadership election. The ardently pro-Brexiteer with a background in finance pulled out of the contest after it became clear that she did not have the numbers to defeat Mrs May in a final vote. Her campaign was tarnished after she hinted that having children meant she was more suitable than Mrs May to become prime minister. She became environment secretary after Mrs May became prime minister.

Jeremy Hunt, 52.

Mr Hunt took over the foreign affairs brief from Boris Johnson after a long and controversial spell as a reformist health secretary. Following the often-chaotic tenure of Mr Johnson, he has been a steadier presence as the UK’s chief diplomat. He has been a staunch defender of the campaign to secure the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian national detained in Tehran. This week announced an international envoy for human rights in a bid to shape his reputation as a reformer.

Matt Hancock, 40.

At 40, Mr Hancock, the health secretary, is the youngest of the potential challengers and also the rank outsider. He is known as a keen user of social media and as culture secretary became the first MP to launch his own smartphone app. Has championed the introduction of a digital revolution in the health service. Mr Hancock is closed to modernising wing once led by David Cameron and George Osborne.

Rory Stewart, 46.

The former serviceman is one of the more interesting MPs with a back story that has included a spell as a tutor to royal princes William and Harry, as an administrator in Iraq and running a development charity. He has only just been promoted to the Cabinet after serving as prisons minister and making a bold claim to quit if he failed to improve some of the worst jails in the country. He was given a new role as international development secretary before the time elapsed on his pledge. He became the first cabinet minister to publicly announce that he planned to run for the top job.

Dominic Raab, 45.

Trained solicitor who worked in the British Foreign Office before entering politics. A Brexit hardliner he was appointed by Mrs May to lead the department in charge of withdrawal. However the deal negotiated with Brussels, nominally by him, proved unacceptable and he resigned at the end of 2018. Mr Raab has since been running a campaign for the top job, offering a vision of a low-tax, lightly regulated economy in a series of speeches in recent months.

Updated: May 24, 2019 02:24 PM

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