A leadership contest has kicked off in the U.K. after the resignation of beleaguered Prime Minister Theresa May and it looks like former Foreign Secretary and London Mayor Boris Johnson – a politician known for having a sharp wit as much as for his gaffes – could be the next leader of the country.
Monday was the deadline for nominations of those standing in the ruling Conservative Party’s leadership race and although there are 10 candidates on the final list, some names are more well-known than others including Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt (the current foreign minister), Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Michael Gove, the environment minister.
To be able to run as a candidate, Tory members of parliament (MPs) had to have the backing of eight colleagues. Now the final list of 10 candidates are known, a series of votes will take place to whittle the number down to two candidates who will face the wider Tory party membership who then pick their preferred candidate and decide on the party’s – and country’s – next leader. The final winner will be announced on July 22.
One frontrunner, Michael Gove, has seen his leadership bid hit by revelations about past cocaine use, leading to increased scrutiny on all the candidates, with some admitting to recreational drug use during their university years. Boris Johnson, meanwhile, has attracted some criticism for his promise of an income tax cut for those who earn over Â£50,000 a year (around $63,000).
British Prime Minister Theresa May stood down as the leader of the Conservative Party last Friday and will act as an interim prime minister until a leadership contest is complete. Conservative MPs will have their first vote on Thursday this week and that will see the least popular candidate eliminated from the leadership race (if they get less than a certain amount of votes).
The race to succeed her has put Brexit, by now something of a torturous parliamentary wrangle over the departure from European Union, both at the forefront of the political debate and on the backburner, because dealing with Brexit has been delayed by the leadership contest.
Most leadership candidates have been keen to promote their pro-Brexit credentials as the wider Conservative Party and pro-Brexit members of the public call on the government to make progress on leaving the EU by the new deadline of October 31.
Boris Johnson, who is widely expected to become Tory party leader according to polls, has said that he would try to renegotiate the Brexit deal that May hammered out with Brussels, claiming that he would withhold paying a Â£39 billion divorce bill that was previously agreed would be paid when the U.K. leaves the bloc.
After three years of Brexit negotiations since the Brexit referendum in June 2016, the potential prospect of talks being re-opened under Boris Johnson will send a long sigh of exasperation through the political establishment in Brussels.
Officials there have already said the deal on offer will not change making the possibility of a “no deal” departure from the union more like come October, even though the majority of lawmakers in the British Parliament have voted against such a scenario. Philip Hammond, Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer, told CNBC on Saturday that the probability of a no deal departure is “very small.”