2019 Conservative Party leadership election

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The 2019 Conservative Party leadership election was a campaign to select the new leader of the United Kingdom's Conservative Party who, as leader of the largest party in the House of Commons, would also be Prime Minister (although since the Tories are well short of a majority, that isn't entirely automatic).[1] The contest was launched after Prime Minister Theresa May was politely asked to fall on her own sword by the 1922 Committee, who were unable to change the party's constitution to vote her out in a vote of No Confidence.


Per the result of the 2016 EU referendum, the Conservative Party's chief policy became to 'deliver Brexit'. With the resignation of David Cameron, Theresa May was elected leader and Prime Minister, and began a programme for negotiating a withdrawal deal favourable to the UK's economy. Negotiations with the twenty seven member states were difficult, as they had to be unanimous, and although much could be agreed upon the recurring problem was that of Northern Ireland's border with the Republic of Ireland. With the Troubles' still fresh in Ireland's collective imagination, the Republic would not accept a police-patrolled border in Ireland and, refusing to back down, forced Britain to change its policies once more. This led to two possible solutions which would respect the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement: either the entire UK stays within a customs union with the EU, or Northern Ireland does. Both possibilities were objected by the increasingly-emerging Tory hardliners, who saw any negotiation with the EU as a betrayal of Brexit and would rather the UK leave the EU without any safety net than compromise. Due to this opposition, in April Theresa May reluctantly entered talks with the Labour Party to reach an agreement that would earn just enough support from Labour and Tory MPs that it would pass and become law. This led to even more opposition from MPs who considered her a traitor to her party. Finally, in mid-May she was forced to resign.


Due to the party's perception that Brexit was delayed entirely due to May's incompetence, a number of Tory MPs have jumped at the opportunity to lay on a bed of nails wear a crown of thorns take over for her. Per party rules, the Conservative Party's MPs will vote for their preferred candidate, with those with the lowest votes being eliminated each round. Ultimately, when only two candidates are left, their 160,000 members (70% men, 97% white and a majority over 55)[2] will take over and vote for the leader.

Currently, the candidates have split into two camps: Eurosceptics who are aiming for a No Deal scenario, and former Remainers who will do anything to reach a Deal.

Definitely running[edit]

Boris Johnson[edit]

Boris Johnson guitar.jpeg
Boris Johnson
Age: 56
Foreign Secretary (2016-2018); Mayor of London (2008-2016)
Disadvantages: Doesn't even care for the negative business consequences of Brexit, something Tories are supposed to care about. Famously said "fuck business".[3] Since he can't make No Deal government policy, he instead intends to demand a renegotiation with the EU, which won't happen. Has a history of making borderline racist remarks, which could persuade other Tories to think it's OK.[4] Wants tax cuts, but only for the well off within his own tax bracket.[5]

Jeremy Hunt[edit]

Official portrait of Mr Jeremy Hunt crop 2.jpg
Jeremy Hunt
Age: 54
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Advantages: Wants the business taxes reduced to be equal to Ireland. Might not be so good for the budget in the long-run, but at least he knows how to slow down the number of companies ditching the UK.[5] Otherwise very youth-centred policies, such as mental health support for every school; net-0 carbon emissions by 2050, lowering the interest on student debt and building 1.5 million new homes.[6]
Disadvantages: Wants the abortion time halved to just 12 weeks. While he's promised not to seek it as PM, that's likely just because he lacks a majority.[7] Aggressively anti-EU to the point of thinking they're literally no different from the Soviet Union. Not the right leader for post-Brexit UK-EU affairs.[8]

Withdrew and defeated[edit]

James Cleverly[edit]

Prior experience
Former Deputy Chair of the Conservatives, now working in the Exiting the European Union department

Seen as a Theresa May loyalist, however he holds the view that a No-Deal Brexit is better than no Brexit at all.[9] Withdrew on 4 June[10]

Kit Malthouse[edit]

Prior experience
Housing Minister

Has only been an MP since 2015, but before that worked in London's City Hall under then-Mayor Boris Johnson. Campaigned to leave the EU in 2016. Chief claim to fame was the Malthouse Compromise, supposedly a brilliant plan to create a Brexit that all Conservatives could support; the EU laughed and it failed ignominiously.[11] Withdrew on 4 June. [12]

Sam Gyimah[edit]

Sam Gyimah
Minister for Universities (2018)
Advantages:Is fine with the idea of a Second Referendum on EU membership.[13]
Disadvantages: Is opposed to Theresa May's deal, seeing Britain as ultimately being worse off than remaining or leaving without one.[13]

Esther McVey[edit]

Esther McVey
Age: 53
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
Disadvantages: Stole Raab's idea of curtailing democracy to Brexit to restore the supposedly-lost democracy in the UK.[14] Liable to believing tabloid scare stories.[15] Her Thatcherite views make her adamant that poor people not succeeding must be their own fault.[16] She is also a low-key supporter of Section 28, and wants parents to have the right to withdraw their children from sex education the moment gay people are mentioned.[17]

Eliminated on 13 June[18]

Andrea Leadsom[edit]

Andrea Leadsom
Age: 57
Leader of the House of Commons (2017-2019)
Disadvantages: Hasn't said much on her Brexit policy, but her attitude that the UK must be prepared to walk away to get a successful negotiation is popular with voters, who believe the current deal to be pro-EU.[19]

Eliminated on 13 June[20]

Mark Harper[edit]

Mark Harper
Age: 51
Chief Whip
Minister of State for Immigration
Advantages: Wants Article 50 to be delayed to allow time to seek possible negotiations. It's bad for the party, but this isn't a general election.
Disadvantages: Fervent supporter of fox hunting.[21] Believes in homeopathy and how power lines are the cause of cancer.[21] Been treated as a joke for the past few years after being caught employing a cleaner with an overstayed visa for the Immigration ministry.[22]

Eliminated on 13 June[23]

Matt Hancock[edit]

Matt Hancock
Age: 42
Health Secretary (2018)
Advantages: Actually wants a deal without it being a ploy.[8]

Withdrew on 14 June. [24]

Dominic Raab[edit]

Dominic Raab
Age: 47
Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (2018)
Advantages: Wants a 25% tax break for basic income earners (less than £50,000).[5]
Disadvantages: Shares Johnson's idea of crashing out by demanding an impossible renegotiation, with the addition of refusing to pay the so-called Divorce Bill as a means of intimidating the EU into more negotiations.[8] Also wants to suspend Parliament for months to prevent democracy working against him as PM, which is getting negative feedback.[25][4]

Eliminated on 18 June [26]

Rory Stewart[edit]

Rory Stewart
Age: 48
International Development Secretary
Advantages: Wants to compromise between Remain and Leave voters across the UK to get a Soft Brexit with just enough either way people will be satisfied.[8]
Disadvantages: Despite much searching, explorers are yet to find where he keeps his personality.

Eliminated 19 June [27]

Sajid Javid[edit]

Sajid Javid
Age: 51
Home Secretary
Advantages: Has a Pakistani rags-to-riches background,[8] so might not be as disconnected about the often ignored poverty-stricken and BAME citizens. Has been the target of racist social media comments by fellow party members, so understands there is a racism problem in the party. Also understands that negotiating with the Republic of Ireland can potentially eliminate the Backstop and get the Withdrawal bill passed.
Disadvantages: He's already made condescending remarks about Ireland in discussing the aforesaid negotiation, so cosying up might have been ruined.[28]

Eliminated 20 June[29]

Michael Gove[edit]

Michael Gove
Age: 53
Secretary of State for Education (2010-2014), Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (2017-)
Advantages: Might have made cocaine use uncool.
Disadvantages: Already hated by the party for backstabbing Johnson in the last leadership election.[8] Is an admitted Cocaine user, something he should get a 7 year jail sentence for.[30]

Eliminated 20 June [31]

Looked like they'd run but didn't[edit]

Sir Graham Brady[edit]

Prior experience
Chairman of the 1922 Committee, former

Brady's career has generally been to represent the Tory backbenchers (MPs not in the government), and for nine years was Chairman of the very oversight committee which tried to oust May in 2018. In putting his hat in the ring, Brady has thrown away his career for this race, so has an additional incentive to win.[8]

Penny Mordaunt[edit]

Prior experience
Secretary of State for Defence, 2019-present

Mordaunt was part of the Vote Leave campaign.

Priti Patel[edit]

Prior experience
Secretary of State for International Development, former

Seen as being on the right-wing of the Tory Party. Supported leaving the EU in the 2016 referendum. Forced to quit Theresa May's cabinet after holding secret meetings with the Israeli government while ostensibly on holiday.[32]

Final results[edit]

After weeks of campaigning, the results were announced on 23 July. Surprising nobody, Boris Johnson won by a margin of 66% - 33% [33]


  1. Current State of the Parties, UK Parliament, accessed 31 May 2019
  2. [1]
  3. BBC - "Boris Johnson challenged over Brexit business 'expletive'".
  4. 4.0 4.1 Independent - "Sajid Javid attacks Boris Johnson over comments about Muslim women: 'No serious politician should use language like that'".
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Guardian - "Boris Johnson promises tax cut for 3m higher earners".
  6. Independent - "Jeremy Hunt promises 1.5 million homes for 'generation rent' as Tory leadership hopeful makes pitch for young voters".
  7. Sky News - "Jeremy Hunt attacked for repeating 'incredibly alarming' abortion views".
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 BBC - "Theresa May: Who will be the next prime minister?"
  9. https://twitter.com/jamescleverly/status/1133649307398225920?lang=en
  10. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-48513888
  11. The 'Malthouse compromise': everything you need to know, Guardian, 29 Jan 2019
  12. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-48513888
  13. 13.0 13.1 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-48489392
  14. Independent - "Esther McVey: Tory leadership hopeful threatens to suspend parliament to force no-deal Brexit".
  15. iNews - "Esther McVey tweets false claim all EU members must adopt the Euro from next year, then deletes it".
  16. Liverpool Echo - "Outrage over Esther McVey's claims poor families "prioritise new phones over food".
  17. Independent "Esther McVey: Tory leadership hopeful sparks backlash with remarks over LGBT+ relationship lessons".
  18. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-48624579
  19. BBC - "Tory leadership: Dominic Raab and Andrea Leadsom enter race".
  20. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-48624579
  21. 21.0 21.1 Gloucestershire Live - "Which Conservative candidates would vote to bring back fox hunting".
  22. BBC - "Immigration minister Mark Harper quits over cleaner's visa".
  23. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-48624579
  24. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-48631706
  25. BBC - "John Bercow rejects ending Commons session to force no-deal Brexit".
  26. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-48680189
  27. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-48696619
  28. Guardian - "Sajid Javid criticised for calling Ireland 'tail that wags the dog' on Brexit".
  29. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-48707448
  30. Independent - "Senior Tory calls for Michael Gove to quit leadership race over cocaine admission".
  31. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-48711077
  32. Priti Patel forced to resign over meetings with Israeli officials – Politics live, The Guardian, 8 Nov 2017
  33. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-49084605