Next Conservative Party (UK) leadership election

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Party leader and Prime Minister Theresa May in late 2017

The next Conservative Party leadership election has not yet been formally launched. Speculation of a leadership election arose following the party's poor showing at the 2017 snap general election that the Leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister, Theresa May, had called in hope of increasing her parliamentary majority for Brexit negotiations. However, the Conservatives lost their majority in the House of Commons due to a swing towards the Labour Party; where some Conservative safe seats unexpectedly fell to Labour for the first time ever.

Background[edit]

After Britain voted to leave the EU, David Cameron resigned as Leader of the Conservative & Unionist Party and as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom which triggered the 2016 Conservative Party leadership election. Home Secretary Theresa May won the contest, after the withdrawal of Andrea Leadsom, and succeeded Cameron as Prime Minister on 13 July. As Prime Minister, May began the process of withdrawing the UK from the European Union, triggering Article 50 on 29 March 2017. In April 2017, May announced a snap general election in June, in order to "strengthen her hand" when she negotiated with the European Union. Opinion polls originally predicted a huge landslide victory for the Conservative Party and May aimed to substantially increase her party's slim majority. However, the result was a hung parliament, in which the number of Conservative seats fell from 330 to 317, prompting her to broker a confidence and supply deal with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to support her minority government.

May's handling of the campaign was widely criticised, particularly the role of her two chiefs of staff, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill. On 11 June 2017, former Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, described May as a "dead woman walking".[1] A survey on the website Conservative Home found that almost two-thirds of Conservative party members want Theresa May to resign.[2] A YouGov poll of 1,720 adults for the Sunday Times had 48% saying May should resign, with 38% against.[3] A Survation poll of 1,036 adults online for the Mail on Sunday had 49% of people wanting her resignation, with 38% against.[3] Former Cabinet minister Anna Soubry called for May to "consider her position" after the election result. Former Cabinet minister Nicky Morgan said that May could not lead the Conservative Party into the next general election and called for a leadership election in the summer or in 2018 before the Brexit deal is finalised. Brexiteers pledged loyalty to May but many reportedly threatened an immediate leadership challenge should May plan to dilute her initial plans for Brexit. After the Grenfell Tower fire, May's leadership faced more criticism after her initial refusal to meet victims and her poor handling of the crisis.

With May's position weakened, senior colleagues in the party were said to be preparing for a leadership contest and "jostling for succession," as a July article in the Financial Times put it.[4] Politicians and journalists do not expect May to lead the party at the next general election, with the Sunday Times Political Editor Tim Shipman describing "the first shots in a battle that could tear the government apart" in a July 2017 article as the three leading contenders for the leadership, David Davis, Boris Johnson and Philip Hammond, brief against each other.[5] Junior ministers were also said to be frustrated at Cabinet ministers for propping up a Prime Minister with no authority in order to further their careers with some ministers preparing to resign in order to trigger a leadership election. Andrew Mitchell, an ally of Davis, was said to have told a dinner that May was finished and was said to be organising letters to force May to name her date of departure.[6] A July 2017 report in The Independent said a core of 15 Conservative MPs were ready to sign a letter of no confidence, with 48 needed to trigger a contest.[7]

May reportedly announced to Conservative MPs in August 2017 that she would resign as Prime Minister on 30 August 2019, making it likely that the next leadership election would take place in the summer of 2019.[8] However, May subsequently announced on 31 August 2017 that she intended to stay on to fight the next general election, which under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 is scheduled to be in 2022 (though it can be held earlier if MPs vote for this, as happened for the snap election of 2017).[9]

On 16 September 2017, Johnson published an article in The Daily Telegraph laying out his vision for Brexit. Many people saw this as him positioning himself for a leadership challenge,[10][11] although some commentators, like Newsnight's political editor Nick Watt and columnist Iain Dale, argued this was the wrong interpretation and that Johnson's motivation was to assert his influence in Brexit negotiations. The timing of the article, a few days before May was to give a significant speech on her plans for the UK's relationship with Europe after Brexit,[12] and shortly after a terrorist attack in London, was criticised.[13]

Following Cabinet agreement for May's proposals on Brexit, Davis resigned from his government position on 8 July 2018.[14][15] Following that, Steve Baker also resigned. On the same day it was reported that May was facing the threat of a leadership contest amid mounting anger from Brexiteers over her government's Brexit policy.[16] Conservative Party backbencher Andrea Jenkyns called on for the Prime Minister to be replaced. saying “Theresa May's premiership is over”.[17][18] Johnson later resigned as Foreign Secretary on 9 July 2018.[19]

A Daily Telegraph article opposing the burqa ban in Denmark by Johnson in early August 2018 sparked controversy given some of the language he used, saying women wearing the burqa look like letter boxes or bank robbers. Some saw it as an attempt to court an anti-Islamic segment of the Conservative Party membership,[20] the electorate in a leadership campaign, while others defended him as straight-talking. Dominic Grieve MP said on 8 August that he would not remain in the party if Johnson became leader.[21]

In September 2018, former chair of the Prime Minister's policy board George Freeman called on May to stand down as leader once a Brexit deal was secure, and suggested himself as a potential successor.[22]

Candidates[edit]

While a large number of potential candidates have attracted speculation, the main contenders were initially seen to be Philip Hammond, David Davis, Boris Johnson and Amber Rudd.[23][24][25][26] By early August 2017, Jacob Rees-Mogg was receiving considerable attention and he had risen to second in the betting markets after Davis.[27]

Following renewed speculation about May's leadership after Johnson and Davis resigned from the Cabinet in summer 2018, press interest focused on Johnson, Rees-Mogg, Michael Gove, Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt.[28][29][30] Ruth Davidson also continued to receive considerable speculation, despite being ineligible as she is not currently an MP at Westminster.[31][30] She ruled herself out as a candidate in September 2018.[32]

Opinion polling[edit]

Public polling[edit]

Date(s)
administered
Poll
source
Sample
size
Ruth Davidson MSP .pngRuth
Davidson
Official portrait of Mr David Davis crop 2.jpgDavid
Davis
Official portrait of Michael Gove crop 2.jpgMichael
Gove
Official portrait of Mr Philip Hammond crop 2.jpgPhilip
Hammond
Official portrait of Mr Jeremy Hunt crop 2.jpgJeremy
Hunt
Official portrait of Sajid Javid MP.jpg
Sajid
Javid
Boris johnson (cropped).jpgBoris
Johnson
Official portrait of Penny Mordaunt crop 2.jpgPenny
Mordaunt
Official portrait of Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg crop 2 (cropped).jpgJacob
Rees-Mogg
Official portrait of Amber Rudd crop 2.jpgAmber
Rudd
Official portrait of Gavin Williamson crop 2.jpgGavin
Williamson
Don't Know Others
19-20 Jul 2018 YouGov/The Times 1,668 8% N/A 1% N/A 2% 4% 15% 1% 12% N/A 1% 25% 32%
Jul 2018 Opinium/Observer N/A 7% 3% 5% 4% N/A 12% N/A 10% N/A 25%
Others

Polls of Conservative Party members[edit]

Free choice polling[edit]

Date(s)
administered
Poll
source
Sample
size
Ruth Davidson MSP .pngRuth
Davidson
Official portrait of Mr David Davis crop 2.jpgDavid
Davis
Official portrait of Michael Gove crop 2.jpgMichael
Gove
Official portrait of Mr Philip Hammond crop 2.jpgPhilip
Hammond
Official portrait of Mr Jeremy Hunt crop 2.jpgJeremy
Hunt
Official portrait of Sajid Javid MP.jpg
Sajid
Javid
Boris johnson (cropped).jpgBoris
Johnson
Official portrait of Penny Mordaunt crop 2.jpgPenny
Mordaunt
Official portrait of Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg crop 2 (cropped).jpgJacob
Rees-Mogg
Official portrait of Amber Rudd crop 2.jpgAmber
Rudd
Official portrait of Gavin Williamson crop 2.jpgGavin
Williamson
Don't Know Others
5-8 July 2018 YouGov 966 Conservative members 20% N/A 11% N/A 4% 17% 11% 2% 29% N/A 1% 4% <----Others---->
20-27 September 2017 YouGov 927 Conservative members 19% 11% N/A 5% N/A 1% 23% N/A 17% 5% N/A 5%
Others
21 June-11 July 2017 YouGov 1,002 Conservative members N/A 21% N/A 5% N/A N/A 17% N/A 6% 4% N/A 26%

Davis vs Rudd[edit]

Date(s)
administered
Poll
source
Sample
size
Official portrait of Mr David Davis crop 2.jpgDavid
Davis
Official portrait of Amber Rudd crop 2.jpgAmber
Rudd
Would not vote Don't Know
20-27 September 2017 YouGov 927 Conservative members 51% 32% 8% 9%

Johnson vs Rudd[edit]

Date(s)
administered
Poll
source
Sample
size
Boris johnson (cropped).jpgBoris
Johnson
Official portrait of Amber Rudd crop 2.jpgAmber
Rudd
Would not vote Don't Know
20-27 September 2017 YouGov 927 Conservative members 57% 33% 5% 5%

Davis vs Johnson[edit]

Date(s)
administered
Poll
source
Sample
size
Official portrait of Mr David Davis crop 2.jpgDavid
Davis
Boris johnson (cropped).jpgBoris
Johnson
Would not vote Don't Know
20-27 September 2017 YouGov 927 Conservative members 39% 46% 9% 7%

Polls of Conservative Party voters[edit]

Date(s)
administered
Poll
source
Sample
size
Ruth Davidson MSP .png
Ruth
Davidson
Official portrait of Mr David Davis crop 2.jpg
David
Davis
Official portrait of Michael Gove crop 2.jpg
Michael
Gove
Official portrait of Mr Philip Hammond crop 2.jpg
Philip
Hammond
Official portrait of Sajid Javid MP.jpg
Sajid
Javid
Boris johnson (cropped).jpg
Boris
Johnson
Official portrait of Dominic Raab crop 2.jpg
Dominic
Raab

Official portrait of Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg crop 2 (cropped).jpgJacob
Rees-Mogg

Official portrait of Amber Rudd crop 2.jpgAmber
Rudd
None of the above Don't Know Others
7-8 Nov 2017 YouGov / The Times 573 Conservative voters N/A 7% 3% 2% 2% 12% 7% 18% 6% 14% 29%
Others
23 Sep 2017 Survation/Mail on Sunday 364 Conservative voters N/A 8% 3% 6% N/A 31% N/A 9% 8% 12% 23%
Others
19-22 Sep 2017 Opinium/Observer 511 Conservative voters 15% 11% 3% 8% 3% 26% N/A 10% 9% 1% 15%
31 Aug - 1 Sep 2017 Survation/Mail on Sunday 315 Conservative voters 5% 11% 4% 10% N/A 23% N/A 14% 5% 6% 23%
Others

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "General election 2017: Theresa May is 'best placed person' for Brexit". 11 June 2017. Retrieved 9 September 2017 – via www.bbc.co.uk. 
  2. ^ Maidment, Jack (10 June 2017). "Almost two thirds of Conservative Party members want Theresa May to resign as Prime Minister". telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 10 June 2017. 
  3. ^ a b "48% think Theresa May should step down as Prime Minister, poll shows". home.bt.com. 11 June 2017. 
  4. ^ "Theresa May braced for a fall as Brexit tests loom". amp.ft.com. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  5. ^ Editor, Tim Shipman, Political. "Mr Grey, Mr Blond and Mr Brexit: battle of the big guns". Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  6. ^ editor, Rowena Mason Deputy political (9 July 2017). "May attempts to reassert grip over Tory party amid talk of challenge". Retrieved 9 September 2017 – via The Guardian. 
  7. ^ "15 Tory MPs 'sign no confidence letter in Theresa May'". 23 July 2017. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  8. ^ Smith, Adam (27 August 2017). "Theresa May is apparently 'going to resign in 2019'". Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  9. ^ Wright, Robert (31 August 2017). "Theresa May vows to fight next UK election as prime minister". Financial Times. Retrieved 31 August 2017. 
  10. ^ "YouGov - What the world thinks". yougov.co.uk. 
  11. ^ "Theresa May just responded to Boris Johnson's '£350m claim' for the NHS". 18 September 2017. 
  12. ^ "May 'driving from the front' on Brexit". 18 September 2017 – via www.bbc.co.uk. 
  13. ^ Newsnight, BBC2, 18 September 2017
  14. ^ Rayner, Gordon (8 July 2018). "David Davis resigns as Brexit secretary". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 8 July 2018. 
  15. ^ "Brexit Secretary David Davis resigns". BBC News. 9 July 2018. 
  16. ^ https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-latest-theresa-may-leadership-challenge-plan-tories-mps-chequers-jacob-rees-mogg-a8437706.html
  17. ^ http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/07/top-uk-brexit-officials-resign-in-blow-to-theresa-may.html
  18. ^ https://www.rte.ie/news/brexit/2018/0709/977344-brexit-british-government/
  19. ^ "Boris Johnson resigns as foreign secretary over May's Brexit plans". The Guardian. 
  20. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/08/world/europe/boris-johnson-trump-burqa.html
  21. ^ Newsnight, BBC2, 8 August 2018
  22. ^ "I'll stand for leader if asked - Tory MP". BBC News. 2018-09-14. Retrieved 2018-09-15. 
  23. ^ "Main candidates to replace Theresa May would all make Tories less popular, poll suggests". 11 June 2017. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  24. ^ "Who could replace Theresa May as Tory leader? The runners and riders - and latest odds". Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  25. ^ "The 5 Conservative politicians most likely to replace Theresa May as Tory leader". Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  26. ^ Savage, Michael (22 July 2017). "Tory members turn to David Davis in battle to succeed Theresa May". Retrieved 9 September 2017 – via The Guardian. 
  27. ^ "Look beyond Jacob Rees-Mogg's cartoony shtick at what he really stands for". Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  28. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jun/30/sajid-javid-is-surprise-choice-of-tory-activists-to-be-next-party-leader
  29. ^ https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/boris-johnson-conservative-leader-theresa-may-brexit-cabinet-tory-poll-members-a8472341.html
  30. ^ a b http://www.theweek.co.uk/94917/tory-leader-race-who-would-be-in-the-running
  31. ^ https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-07-18/britain-s-next-conservative-leader-may-be-the-least-tory-ever
  32. ^ "Ruth Davidson rules out becoming next Conservative leader for sake of relationship". Sky News. Retrieved 2018-09-15.