THERE were just five candidates for leadership of the Conservative Party, and therefore future Prime Minister, when the window of opportunity closed at noon on June 30.
In the current climate, it is impossible to forecast anything with accuracy and the surprise decision by Michael Gove to act as Brutus against Boris Johnson’s Caesar came as so much of a surprise that Boris decided that he would not carry the blue rinse and Colonel Blimp brigade with him, so did not declare himself part of the race.
The candidates in possible order of popularity are:
Theresa May who has been Home Secretary for six years, a slightly wishy-washy Remainer who kept a fairly low profile during the lead up to the referendum vote. Seen to be hard on immigration but considered by many to be somewhat austere and without the ‘common’ touch.
Michael Gove Justice Secretary who managed to make himself unpopular with most parents and teachers in the UK when Education Secretary. Perhaps less Brutus and more Macbeth as his wife is a Daily Mail writer and he enjoys the support of both Paul Dacre and Rupert Murdoch all of whom were Brexiteers.
Stephen Crabb, the young working class Works and Pensions Secretary who could appeal to the more centralist arm of the party although his relative inexperience and the fact that he was a Remainer could work against him.
Andrea Leadsom, the former banker who is currently Energy Secretary was well to the forefront of the Brexiteer campaign and is known for her strong stance on immigration.
Liam Fox, former Defence Secretary who stood as leader in 2005 and the only back bencher standing for election has very strong views on exit from the European Union and has already said that there should be no ‘backsliding’ in complying with the referendum result.
Apart from the unexpected decision by Boris Johnson not to compete, the other slightly less surprise withdrawal was from Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt who had been indicating that he would like to become leader so that he could delay the invoking of Article 50.
With five candidates, the next step is for Conservative MPs to vote for their preferred candidate next week with on-going votes until just two names are left. Once this has been achieved, the final vote will rest with members of the party and the person with the most votes will then be declared leader on September 9.