After Theresa May’s self-imposed condition for handing in her resignation was not met – i.e. MPs passing her Brexit deal through parliament in the third meaningful vote – she predictably hasn’t made another mention of it. Nonetheless, potential future Tory leaders are already lining up to take her place.
This week, home secretary Jeremy Hunt said that a leadership contest had to wait until a Brexit deal passes through parliament, adding that there will be “a time for all those discussions about whether this shade of person or that shade of person is the right person to take over from the prime minister.”
This hasn’t stopped the home secretary from sizing up his own leadership bid chances, however. When asked on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme about going for the leadership, Hunt couldn’t resist taking a jab at Boris Johnson, the man most likely to be in the running for the top job.
“There is one very big difference between me and Boris, which is that I am foreign secretary and I have a very big job to do to try and get this [Brexit] deal over the line and that has to be my focus,” he said.
Most of the favourites amongst Conservative voters are firmly on the pro-Brexit side of the argument, with Johnson leading many polls amongst the Tory electorate.
Most believe that Johnson is the favourite amongst the majority of Conservatives voters – despite his hard Brexit stance dividing opinion. He is certainly more popular amongst the Tory electorate than Michael Gove, the man who scuppered his chances of running for leader last time, pulling out as his support man at the last minute to run himself.
Meanwhile candidates such as Work and Pensions secretary – formerly home secretary – Amber Rudd, Health and Social Care secretary Matt Hancock, and the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Tom Tugendhat are firmly outside bets, with far less support as potential leaders.
In fact, many believe Rudd could be a potential backer of Johnson, after she appeared to distance herself from comments she had previously made about his Brexit stance being “pure fantasy”.
Asked about Johnson being a potential Tory leader, Rudd said: “I’m not going to be drawn on any individual candidates and I’m afraid that does include Boris.”
Whether or not Theresa May is replaced in the coming months remains to be seen, but first the prime minister will likely pump as much blood back into her Brexit deal as possible, before she abandons it for ‘alternatives’.