David Cameron’s decision to stand down by October fires the starting gun on a Conservative leadership contest.
MPs must whittle down the contenders to a shortlist of two, who will then be elected as leader by party members, and will become Prime Minister. It will be up to the victorious candidate to decide whether to ask Parliament to back a fresh election.
Here are the contenders:
• Boris Johnson
The obvious favourite. He gambled his career on backing Brexit, knowing that a vote to leave the EU would all but guarantee that only a figure from the Out camp could become the next Tory leader. That gamble has paid off today. Popular among the party membership, and one of the most well-known political figures in the country, he is the candidate to beat.
His decision to back Brexit was viewed in many quarters as opportunistic and his willingness to head a campaign which at times appeared to be trashing the Conservative government’s record will mean he has bridges to build with many senior Conservative figures. He will have to be emollient, and non-triumphalist, and perhaps above all, distance himself from Nigel Farage.
David Cameron's premiership - in pictures
David Cameron's premiership - in pictures
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II greeting David Cameron at Buckingham Palace for an audience to invite him to be the next Prime Minister on 11 May 2010
Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha wave from the steps of Number 10 Downing Street on 11 May 2010
On 12 May 2010 Prime Minister David Cameron said in a press conference with Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, who was then deputy PM, they plan to "take Britain in a historic new direction" and Conservative-led coalition government would be united and provide "strong and stable" leadership
A decade ago, David Cameron visited the Arctic to witness the effects of climate change. However since coming to power in 2010, his government has gradually dropped down a succession of green policies
Prime Minister David cameron told the then New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Queen had “purred down the line” after he told her Scotland had voted against independence in September 2014. He was forced to apologise for breaking constitutional convention
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron greeted soldiers working on flood relief in York city centre after the river Ouse burst its banks, in northern England in December 2015
Claims that David Cameron performed an obscene act with a dead pig and smoked cannabis during his studies at Oxford University spread around the world in September 2015. The extraordinary allegations were made in an unauthorised biography of the Prime Minister written by Lord Ashcroft
David Hartley/REX Shutterstock
In 2016, Mr Cameron was caught up in a worldwide scandal dubbed the “Panama papers”
Prime minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha with seven week old Regan as they meet her parents, first time home buyers Robert Arron and Kelly Jeffers at the Heritage Brook housing development in Chorley, Lancashire. David Cameron has joked that he wants "another baby" and said that he feels a "bit broody" every time he sees a newborn on the campaign trail
Prime Minister David Cameron was criticised for branding refugees in the Calais ‘jungle’ camp as a “bunch of migrants” in January 2016 after thousands of refugees died in their attempt to cross the Mediterranean in 2015
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron speaks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker during an EU summit meeting on 17 March 2016 at the European Union council in Brussels. Cameron was in Brussels to renegotiate deal of UK membership with other European leaders. The deal, sealed after hours of haggling at a marathon summit, paved the way for a referendum on whether Britain will stay in the EU
President Barack Obama shakes hands with British Prime Minister David Cameron at a meeting at 10 Downing Street in London on 22 April 2016. The President and his wife visited 10 Downing Street where he joined press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron and made his case for the UK to remain inside the European Union
After David returned from Brussels claiming victory in his renegotiation with European leaders, Boris Johnson announced that he will not support the Remain campaign. The prime minister said publicly he was "disappointed but Boris remains a friend"
Prime Minister David Cameron makes a joint appearance with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan as they launch the Britain Stronger in Europe guarantee card at Roehampton University on 20 May 2016 in London. The 'guarantee card' lists five pledges should Britain remain in the EU, including the protection of workers' rights, full access to the single market and stability for Britain
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron speaks outside 10 Downing Street on 24 June 2016. Cameron announced his resignation after Britain voted to leave the European Union after a bitterly divisive referendum campaign
• Theresa May
The longest-serving Home Secretary in 100 years took a back seat in the referendum campaign. While backing Remain, she did not hit the campaign trail and delivered only a handful of speeches and interviews, and was critical of many aspects of the EU, particularly the European Convention on Human Rights. Hedging her bets allows her to now emerge as a ‘unity’ candidate, and she is said to have been building up her back-room staff in preparation for a leadership bid.
She has the significant advantage of having served in one of the great offices of state, in a steady and competent manner that has won her many admirers within party and the civil service. At a time of great instability, it may be that she is viewed as steady hand on the tiller. Mrs May does however, lack the ‘star quality’ of a Boris Johnson and party members may doubt her ability to connect with ordinary voters.
• Michael Gove
The Justice Secretary may be able to set himself up as ‘the thinking Tory’s Brexit candidate’. Made an enormous political and personal decision to back Leave, taking on his old friend David Cameron. He performed well during the TV debates, and will be an admired figure among Eurosceptic Conservatives. Along with Johnson, he will be hindered by the fact that he led a very divisive campaign, characterised by ‘blue-on-blue’ action. MPs may also judge that he lacks Boris Johnson’s wider appeal with the electorate. Possibly more likely that he will settle for being his new bosom buddy Boris’s Chancellor.
• Ruth Davidson
The Scottish Conservative leader is a hugely-admired figure, and would offer the Tory party appeal among voters few other candidates could reach. Leading the Conservatives to a second place finish in May’s Scottish parliament elections was an extraordinary achievement for a party that was close to vanishing off the electoral map in Scotland not very many years ago. However, would have to become an MP first, and will be tarnished in the eyes of many Tory MPs and members by her outspoken support for Remain. It may well be too soon for her, but she will have a very influential voice in the debate.
• George Osborne
As Chancellor of the Exchequer, for years considered David Cameron’s natural heir, George Osborne would in ordinary circumstances be top of the list of runners and riders. In today’s circumstances, he only just scrapes in as a contender. His stock among Conservative MPs and members was already falling as a result of a succession of bungles, culminating in a Budget that was overshadowed by the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith and a U-turn over swingeing disability cuts.
He was David Cameron’s right-hand man arguing for Britain to remain an EU member, and attracted furious anger from Eurosceptic Tories after he spearheaded warnings about the economic consequences of Brexit, which were branded ‘Project Fear’, and then proposed a 'Brexit Budget' that was viewed as nothing short of blackmail by many Tory MPs. If he survives the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote with his job intact, he could be a contender, but his stock is now so low in the Tory party he’ll struggle to make it over the first hurdle.
• Stephen Crabb
Highly-rated Work and Pensions Secretary, raised on a council estate, so could reach out to non-traditional working class Tory voters.
• Andrea Leadsom
One of the most prominent figures in the Leave campaign, seen to have performed well in TV debates.Reuse content