If Theresa May Goes, Who Could Lead the Tory Party Next?

The knives are out.

by Mac Hackett
15 November 2018, 4:34pm

Theresa May. 

Update, 27/03/19: We published this in 2018, when it looked like Theresa May was going to get the boot. It is now 2019, and it still looks like Theresa May is going to get the boot – but this time, on her terms. Today, May announced she will step down if her Brexit deal passes, saying: "I am prepared to leave this job earlier than I intended in order to secure a smooth and orderly Brexit."

Disgruntled Brexiteer Tory MPs seem to finally be limbering up to enact what they have been threatening for ages: to submit letters that could trigger a vote of no confidence in Theresa May.

Today, Jacob Rees-Mogg – leader of the Ultra-Brexiteer European Research Group – submitted a letter of no-confidence in May. Forty-eight MPs need to do the same to trigger such a vote. There's no guarantee May would lose that, but here are some people who could throw their names into the ring if a vacancy for the most thankless job in the world comes up.

Official Parliament portrait

Michael Gove

The Pob lookalike has been pretty quiet today, with talk of a genuine family emergency. But he's confusingly currently slated to either be Theresa May's new Brexit Minister or to KO May and take the top job. According the Telegraph he'll do the former if he's allowed to re-negotiate May's deal with Brussels – good luck with that.

Brexit position: The human face of hard Brexit.

Tony Timmington / Alamy Stock Photo

Esther McVey

Resigning today as Work and Pensions Secretary was probably doubly appealing to McVey. Now, she doesn't have to deal with questions raised by the UN special rapporteur on poverty, who will file a report tomorrow that's likely to blast things like the introduction of Universal Credit. She’s been a keen advocate of these reforms, making her a target of hatred from disability rights groups.

Brexit position: A Brexiteer, but not one of the super high profile ones who are tainted by the whole sorry mess.

John Gaffen / Alamy Stock Photo

Jacob Rees Mogg

Has ruled himself out.

Boris Johnson

Who? The Marmite King – the love him or hate him candidate. Which is sort of a nice way of saying he’s a deeply contemptible man who evil people really like.

Has been angling for the top job pretty much since he was cucked by Michael Gove in the 2016 leadership race. This year's Conservative Party conference was largely billed as Bojo vs May.

That affable/nauseating persona, plus the unending white noise of Brexit chaos, makes it easy to forget that in the summer he wrote that women who wear the burka look like "Ninjas" and "bank robbers" – a foghorn-sized racist dog-whistle that caused a wave of Islamophobia on the Tory internet.

He's pretty popular among the grassroots, but enough Tory MPs hate his blatant self-serving exploits that he probably wouldn’t beat May in a fight.

Brexit position: So opportunist that it's always hard to know what he really thinks, but his absurdly well-remunerated Telegraph columns have criticised May’s handling of Brexit for not delivering a largely illusory halcyon tomorrow.


Penny Mordaunt

Who? International Development Secretary who has used her position to suck up to Trump.

Once gave a speech in Parliament about poultry welfare, just so she could say the word "cock" several times, as a dare for her chums in the Royal Navy Reserve. And possibly your next Prime Minister.

Brexit position: Hard Brexit Ideologue

David Davis

Dopey former Brexit secretary who resigned over Chequers.

Always get mentioned as a leadership contender, which is some kind of indictment of the quality out there.

Brexit position: True believer

Dominic Raab

Has the same lunch every day. From Pret. "He has the chicken Caesar and bacon baguette, super fruit pot and the vitamin volcano smoothie every day. He is so weird. It's the Dom Raab Special," said one of his staff members to an undercover Mirror reporter in April.

Raab was one of the "new Tory right" who contributed to 2012's Britannia Unchained, a book in which the authors said, "Too many people in Britain, we argue, prefer a lie-in to hard work."

Brexit position: Was Brexit Secretary until he resigned this morning. Britannia so Unchained that we can bring back the 18-hour work day.

Justine Greening

Appeared on ITV’s Good Morning Britain in October and refused to rule herself out of a leadership bid, saying, "Things need to change." She's a staunch Remainer, so presumably has no chance.

She's a former Education Secretary on the somewhat lesser-evil wing of the Tory Party. In 2015 she laughably tried to offer working class people "the British Dream" of a "levelled up Britain", whatever that means. If she was to become leader, pundits would fall over themselves to proclaim a new, progressive dawn had broken.

Brexit position: Wants a second referendum.