Tories jostle for position in the battle for Downing Street

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (front row C) poses for a group photograph with Conservative Party MPs, at the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain  © Stefan Rousseau
The bid for Number 10 is well underway as Tory MPs vying to succeed outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron have begun to declare their intentions to run as their party’s leader.

After Britain voted for Brexit last Thursday, 'Remain' campaigner Cameron announced that he would stand down as the Conservative Party’s leader, saying that his successor should be elected by the time of the party’s conference in October.

Nominations for the contest will open on Wednesday evening and candidates have until noon on Thursday to come forward.

Key issues for the candidates will be whether they would hold an early general election, their approach to Brexit negotiations with the EU, and their stance on immigration and free movement.

MPs wanting to stand for election must be nominated by two others to get on the ballot paper.

If there are three or more candidates, all of the party’s 331 MPs will vote in order to whittle the contenders down to two. Those candidates are then put to the wider membership for a vote that will choose the winner.

A leader is expected to be in place by September 9.

So who is likely to run for the top job?

Boris Johnson

The Brexiteer and former mayor of London is a frontrunner to be the next occupant of Downing Street and is thought to have the backing of up to 100 MPs.

His key supporters include Michael Gove, Dominic Raab, and Ben Wallace.

The 52-year-old journalist-turned-politician’s unconventional political style has made him one of the most well-known figures in British politics. He is thought to have been harboring ambitions to be prime minister for some time.

According to the BBC, Johnson is regarded as an electoral asset in the party, but some are concerned that he does not have the right temperament and political judgment for the top job.

Johnson’s allies say he would not seek a general election and does not see ending free movement as a red line, according to the Guardian.

Johnson backed the 'Leave' vote in the EU referendum, but many in the party questioned his reasons for doing so.

Theresa May

May has overtaken Johnson as the bookies’ favorite to be the next Tory leader, and has long been mentioned as a potential future party leader.

One of the longest-running home secretaries in history, May has gained a reputation as one of Whitehall’s toughest operators.

The 59-year-old is considered the leading “stop Boris” candidate, given her extensive experience in government and the low profile she maintained during the EU referendum campaign.

Those close to May have argued that she would be in a better position than Johnson to resist holding another general election because she was a cabinet minister when the last one was won, according to the Guardian.

Stephen Crabb

Crabb, the work and Pensions secretary, is running on a joint ticket with business secretary Sajid Javid.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he laid out a plan to lead a government that “delivers the expectations” of those who voted to leave the EU, while ruling out the possibility of a second referendum.

“We cannot allow this leadership election to be defined by divisive labels like ‘remainer’ and ‘Brexiteer.’ The quicker we can focus on the future, the better chance we have to unite our party and our country.”

He added: “I want to lead a government that delivers on the expectations of the 17 million who voted for Britain to leave the EU. One of the overwhelming messages from that vote was the need to take back control of immigration policy in the UK. So for me, freedom of movement is a red line.”

Crabb campaigned for 'Remain' in the referendum, but said “we are all Brexiteers now.”

His bid has already come under fire because of his previous links to “gay cure” groups and his vote against marriage equality in 2013.

Crabb has previously sponsored events that refer to gay and bisexual people as “sexually broken,” saying they could become “ex-gay.”

Jeremy Hunt

Hunt, the Health Secretary, is also expected to throw his hat into the ring, saying he is “seriously considering” running for leadership.

He had previously said that he expected his role as health secretary “to be my last big job in politics,” but has since noted “I said it might be… things change in politics very, very rapidly,” according to the BBC.

Hunt campaigned for 'Remain' in the EU referendum, and has suggested that any Brexit deal struck with the EU should be put to the people for a vote through a second referendum or a general election.

He would like to see a deal that secures free trade, but controls the movement of people.

Liam Fox

The former defence secretary is expected to announce his intention to run on Thursday morning.

Fox, a voice behind the UK leaving the EU, came in a close third in the 2005 leadership contest that saw Cameron emerge as the winner.

His cabinet career was cut short in 2011 when he resigned after being found to have breached a ministerial code regulating work related relationships.

Nicky Morgan

Education Secretary Morgan says that she is still considering whether to run, and wants to be sure a “positive case” is made for immigration.

She said she would position herself in the political center, adding: “We cannot have the next three-and-a-half years just defined by Europe.”

Other possible contenders are:

  • Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservative part
  • John Baron, who represents Basildon and Billericay in Essex
  • Andrea Leadsom, a prominent Brexit campaigner and the minister for energy and climate change
  • Priti Patel, Work and pensions minister
  • Michael Gove, justice secretary
  • Dominic Raab, justice minister and key figure behind the scenes in the “Leave” campaign

And who has ruled out a leadership bid?

  • George Osborne