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Who Will Be The UK's Next Prime Minister?

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Update 30th June, 12:30 p.m.: In an announcement that will surprise many, Boris Johnson has ruled himself out of the Conservative party leadership, according to The Guardian. In a press conference this morning, the former Mayor of London and Brexit campaigner told the assembled media that he would “support” the next Tory leader but that it would “not be me”. He went on:

"My role will be to give every possible support to the next Conservative administration to make sure that we properly fulfil the mandate of the people that was delivered at the referendum and to champion the agenda that I believe in, to stick up for the forgotten people of this country."

His Vote Leave ally, Michael Gove, who has also confirmed he is standing, is now widely seen to be a frontrunner along with Theresa May.

Yesterday, Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb and Liam Fox, the former Defence Secretary, also confirmed they would be standing.
This story was originally published at 10am, 28th June, 2016.

Last week, we voted to leave the European Union. Since then, Nigel Farage has appeared on television gloating, the pound has plummeted, and a wave of racism and hate crimes have swept across the UK.
The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has also resigned.

It’s a lot to take in.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the volatile politics of the past week, and dreading more instability, here’s a rundown of what’s happened so far in the Conservative Party's leadership contest, and what’s expected to happen over the next few months.

How will the new Prime Minister be chosen?

By a Conservative Party leadership election — as the Tories are already in power, the new party leader will automatically become Prime Minister. This means that, for the first time ever, around 150,000 Conservative party members will choose the Prime Minister, rather than Members of Parliament or the entire electorate.

The leadership election will be supervised by a group of backbench Conservative MPs known as the 1922 Committee. Nominations will open and close this week, and then the election will proceed in two stages:

1. Conservative MPs will elect two candidates from the list of nominees.
2. A postal ballot will be sent out to all Conservative Party members, letting them choose between the two candidates.

The winner of this ballot will become the new leader of the Conservative Party and will be invited to form a Government by the Queen.

Can anyone join the Conservative Party and vote in the election?

Anyone can join the Conservative Party for a fee of £25, or £5 if you’re under 23, but people who sign up now probably won’t be entitled to vote. According to The Telegraph, there’s a Conservative Party rule that says you must have been a member for at least three months before you can vote in a leadership election.

Who is the new Prime Minister likely to be?

The bookies’ favourite is changing all the time. At the time of writing, former Mayor of London Boris Johnson stands at odds of 11/8 on William Hill. This is despite him having been variously described as a "shaved orangutan with Owen Wilson’s hair" by Jamie Oliver, a "court jester" by former PM John Major, and "a cut-rate Donald Trump" by former Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Owen Smith – all since he threw himself into the Brexit campaign in February. Johnson, like Cameron (another old Etonian), is the only MP to have officially announced his intention to stand for Tory party leader and Prime Minister since the referendum result was revealed.
Today, current Home Secretary Theresa May – with odds of 11/10 – is moving ahead of Johnson as favourite, particularly after a YouGov poll found her to be the public's primary choice, according to reports in The Independent. May has presided over the UK’s controversial immigration detention system, asked universities to spy on their students in the name of counter terrorism, and deported thousands of overseas students since she took up her post in 2010. May supported the Remain Campaign but was repeatedly accused of staying strategically quiet in the run up to the referendum and during the fallout, so as not to ruin her leadership bid.

Other possible contenders include: Michael Gove, a Leave Campaigner who was shuffled out of his role as Education Secretary in 2014 after angering nearly all of the country’s teachers; Andrea Leadsom, the Treasury and Energy Minister, who is another avowed Brexiter; Priti Patel, the Employment Minister who co-authored a book essentially arguing that having too many rights makes British workers lazy and who has suggested she would strip away half the legislation that protects workers if we leave the EU; Chris Grayling, the former Justice Secretary who tried to ban prisoners from having access to books; and George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer who famously cried at Margaret Thatcher’s funeral.

Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb, Leader of the Scottish Conservatives Ruth Davidson, former Defence Secretary Liam Fox, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, and Business Secretary Sajid Javid could all stand too. In fact, it could be almost anyone from inside the Conservative Party – it’s going to be hard to rule anybody out completely until nominations are closed, which will be on the 30th of June, according to The Independent.
What else are the commentators saying?

Although most people agree that Johnson is likely to be the next Prime Minister, political commentators have previously speculated that continuity could win out, meaning the party could vote for someone who is more like Cameron. The thinking behind this is that a party grows to look like its leader, rather like dogs grow to look like their owners. A Cameron-ish party would be expected to vote for a more Cameron-ish leader than Johnson, perhaps May or Osborne.

According to various news outlets, the primary concern of many MPs at the moment is simply to keep Johnson out. This could also work in May’s favour, as the ‘Anyone But Boris’ campaign (that's the MPs who are looking for someone else to be PM) might support her simply because she is the most feasible alternative.

As the most high profile candidate, Johnson’s also getting particularly bad press. Business Minister Anna Soubry said on Sunday that he only backed Brexit because of his ambition “to be Prime Minister”, and journalists have fact-checked and ripped apart an article he wrote for The Telegraph, branding it full of “lies, half truths, omissions and magical thinking” (see this article on Quartz for more on that).

When will we know?

Initially, Cameron said he wanted the new leader to be in place by the Conservative Party Conference in early October. The Telegraph reported on Sunday that some senior Tory MPs were concerned that this didn’t allow enough time and put him under pressure to stay on longer as Prime Minister. According to the Guardian, a short election usually favours the frontrunner — in this case Johnson — as it prevents other, less well-know candidates from establishing themselves.

But far from heeding the request for more time, the 1922 Committee yesterday announced a 10 week deadline for appointing a new leader. As aforementioned, nominations are expected to close on Thursday the 30th of June, and a new leader will probably be in place by the 2nd of September.

A Senior 1922 Committee member told a journalist from the Sun: “The process is designed to be as swift as possible without looking panicky.”

But unfortunately it might not be this straightforward…

It’s likely that we’ll have a new Prime Minister by the 2nd of September, but it’s also possible that they’ll only be in power for six weeks; there are rumours – according to The Independent yesterday – that the 1922 Committee intend for parliament to call a general election for the 13th of October. The idea behind this is probably to unite the Tories behind a plan for Brexit, and to secure a personal mandate for the new Prime Minister, but even if the Conservative party choose to call the election, it’s obviously not safe to assume they’ll win it.

And who will the Conservative nominee be up against if there is a general election? Again, hard to say. According to The Telegraph, it is expected that the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn will today face a "vote of no confidence" from Labour MPs, which could ultimately lead to his deposition. MP Yvette Cooper has been one of his harshest critics within the party. According to The Telegraph, she said: "I do not think he is able to lead us into a General Election in just a few months time." If Cooper replaces Corbyn, and May replaces Cameron, we could see two women go head to head for the role of British Prime Minister come October...