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Tory leadership race: Who are the contenders and where do they stand on Brexit?

UK News | Published: | Last Updated:

This weekend has seen a number of people join the race to be the next prime minister.

The race for Number 10 is heating up as several prominent Tories have thrown their hats in the ring for the top job.

Here are the main runners and riders, where they stand on Brexit and what they have had to say about their bid to take on the mantle of Conservative leader.

Declared:

Boris Johnson

The former foreign secretary and London mayor is considered by most as the favourite to win the leadership race (Ladbrokes 11/10).

Since then, Mr Johnson has burnished his Leave credentials by walking out of Cabinet alongside David Davis in July last year, and has also cleared the decks on a notoriously complicated personal life.

In a speech in Switzerland on Friday, he was deemed to have vowed to take Britain out of the EU on October 31, “deal or no deal”, if he is made PM.

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Backers include Johnny Mercer, Karl McCartney, and Nadine Dorries.

Dominic Raab

The former Brexit secretary formally entered the Tory leadership race over the weekend with a call for a “new direction” (Coral 5/1).

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The MP for Esher and Walton added: “The country now feels stuck in the mud, humiliated by Brussels and incapable of finding a way forward.

“The Prime Minister has announced her resignation. It’s time for a new direction.”

Mr Raab was a prominent Brexiteer in the referendum campaign and Mrs May appointed him as her second Brexit secretary in July, but he quit the role in November, saying he could not support her eventual deal.

Helen Grant has announced her support.

Jeremy Hunt

The Foreign Secretary campaigned for Remain in the 2016 referendum and would be a moderate candidate on Brexit in the leadership election (Ladbrokes 12/1).

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt campaigned for Remain in the referendum (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Mr Hunt claimed his business background would help resolve Brexit, telling the Sunday Times: “If I was prime minister, I’d be the first prime minister in living memory who has been an entrepreneur by background.

“Doing deals is my bread and butter as someone who has set up their own business.”

David Morris has said he is supporting Mr Hunt.

Rory Stewart

The new International Development Secretary launched his leadership bid in an interview with The Spectator last month (Coral 12/1).

Rory Stewart
Rory Stewart was recently appointed International Development Secretary (Victoria Jones/PA)

In what is likely to be seen by many as a dig at Mr Johnson, the 46-year-old MP for Penrith and The Border tweeted: “The star name will not always be the best choice. There may be times when Jiminy Cricket would make a better leader than Pinocchio.”

Esther McVey

Former work and pensions secretary Ester McVey announced her leadership bid as she hosted an LBC call-in on Friday (Ladbrokes 66/1).

Esther McVey
Esther McVey announced her leadership bid while hosting an LBC call-in (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, the 51-year-old said: “This country needs a genuinely bold, new approach. So we must now leave the EU on October 31 with a clean break.

“It’s time to recapture that optimism which brought about the referendum result, provide the country with a clear direction and deliver the clean Brexit people voted for,” she added.

Backers include Pauline Latham and Ben Bradley.

Matt Hancock

Health Secretary Matt Hancock waited until Saturday morning to announce that he was in the running (Betfred 25/1).

Health Secretary Matt Hancock
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has joined the Tory leadership race (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

He said he would take a different approach to try to get Commons support for a Brexit deal than the one Theresa May used.

He said: “She didn’t start by levelling with people about the trade-offs.

“I think it is much, much easier to bring people together behind a proposal if you are straightforward in advance.”

He told the BBC that a no-deal Brexit “simply won’t be allowed by Parliament”.

Backers include Maggie Throup and Bim Afolami.

Andrea Leadsom

Former leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, formally entered the race over the weekend, telling the Sunday Times that, if she is elected PM, the UK would quit the EU in October with or without a deal (Betfred 20/1).

The MP for South Northamptonshire said: “To succeed in a negotiation you have to be prepared to walk away.”

She has previously described the UK’s continued membership of the EU as “disgusting” and claimed that a Eurosceptic prime minister would have delivered Brexit already.

– Michael Gove

The Environment Secretary announced on Sunday that he is running to be next prime minister (Ladbrokes 8/1).

Mr Gove is posing as a self-styled “unity candidate”.

“I believe that I’m ready to unite the Conservative and Unionist Party, ready to deliver Brexit, and ready to lead this great country,” he said.

His intervention is likely to cause concern to current front-runner Boris Johnson, after a spectacular falling-out between the two former allies in the 2016 leadership contest helped destroy both men’s chances of the top job.

Backers include Nick Gibb, Kevin Hollinrake, John Stevenson, Sir Edward Leigh, Bob Seely.

– Sajid Javid

Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced his leadership bid in a video he tweeted on Monday (Ladbrokes odds 25/1).

Highlighting the Tories’ poor performance in the European elections, Mr Javid said his party “must get on and deliver Brexit.”

“It’s time to rebuild trust, find unity and create new opportunities across the UK,” he said.

Mr Javid had previously signalled his leadership ambitions by arguing that he wanted the Tories to be the party of social mobility, in an interview with The Spectator.

The son of a Pakistani bus driver from Rochdale, he was a managing director at Deutsche Bank before becoming an MP in 2010.

Robert Halfon and John Glen have announced their support.

Considering bids:

Sir Graham Brady

Sir Graham Brady quit as the leader of the 1922 Committee – a position which gave him a significant role in the Prime Minister’s departure – on Friday in order to consider a leadership bid (Ladbrokes 33/1).

Sir Graham Brady
Sir Graham Brady was chairman of the 1922 Committee (Victoria Jones/PA)

The 52-year-old told the Sunday Times the only way to regain people’s trust is by leaving the EU by October 31.

Penny Mordaunt

Penny Mordaunt became the UK’s first female Defence Secretary at the start of the month, following the sacking of Gavin Williamson (Bet365 22/1).

Penny Mordaunt
Penny Mordaunt recently took over as Defence Secretary (Victoria Jones/PA)

MP for Portsmouth North since 2010, she supported Mrs Leadsom in the 2016 Conservative leadership contest.

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