The race to replace David Cameron as prime minister of the United Kingdom and leader of the Conservative Party is on, with five candidates declared.
Cameron announced he would resign following the Brexit vote, triggering a leadership contest for the Conservative Party. Since the Conservatives are the governing party with a majority in parliament, the next Conservative leader will also be prime minister of the U.K. (RELATED: UK Prime Minister Demands His Opponent Resigns Because He’s Too Weak)
Five candidates are running for the position. The contest is initially decided by Conservative members of parliament (MPs), who choose two of the candidates to put forward to a vote of the wider party membership. They will announce the winner September 9.
The Brexit referendum will be a decisive factor in the race, with candidates flaunting their euro skeptic credentials, promising not to betray the people’s vote to leave the EU.
Work and Pensions Minister Stephen Crabb is pitching himself as someone who knows what it’s like to live through hardship and can connect to voters usually beyond the reach of the Conservative Party.
Crabb, 43, is the son of a single mother who was dependent on welfare and charity for several years. His backstory is radically different from the typical Conservative leader. Crabb campaigned for Britain to remain in the EU but argues the country must unite around Brexit. His vision for the party’s future is one focused on social mobility and so-called “blue collar conservatism.”
Widely acknowledged as the front-runner and the bookies’ favorite, the Home Secretary Theresa May supported Britain’s EU membership and was notably absent from the referendum campaign. Her support for the EU was seen as lukewarm at best when she did intervene and counterproductive at worst. A steady hand, she has suffered no major disasters in one of the most difficult jobs in British politics.
One of the most prominent leaders of the campaign to leave the EU, Justice Secretary Michael Gove, is popular among the Conservative grassroots and is seen as one of the intellectual standard-bearers of British conservatism. He is less popular in the country at large after his time as education secretary where he clashed with teachers unions and divided opinion over his reforms to the school system. Some conservative MPs may also be skeptical of his integrity as he was expected to endorse the former mayor of London and fellow leave campaigner Boris Johnson for the leadership, but instead decided to run himself.
An arch euro skeptic and one of the right’s leaders, Liam Fox served as defense secretary from 2010-2011. He unsuccessfully stood for the leadership of the party in 2005 where he lost to David Cameron. A committed free marketeer and ardent Brexit supporter, Fox plays well in conservative heartlands. He could stumble with fellow MPs who think his appeal is too narrow to reach undecided and Labour voters. Fox warns the next prime minister mustn’t “try to backslide” over the Brexit referendum. (RELATED: Blow To EU Fanatics: Huge Majority Oppose Second Brexit Vote)
The 53-year-old energy minister campaigned vigorously for Brexit, taking part in both the national televised debates, where she performed strongly. After working in the banking industry for 25 years, she was elected as an MP in 2010 and became a member of the Conservative Party’s Free Enterpise Group.
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