Theresa May Resigns: Tory Leadership Hopefuls Urged to Formally Nominate Themselves for Party Leader

The call has gone out for nominations to be the new Conservative leader after Theresa May formally stood down from the post. The prime ministers resignation as Tory leader came in a private letter to the acting chairs of the partys backbench 1922 Committee . She will remain acting leader until the election of a successor, expected in the week of 22 July.

And she will stay on as prime minister until her replacement is in place to take over the reins of power. In a statement, 1922 acting chairs Charles Walker and Dame Cheryl Gillan said they had received notification from the prime ministershe was standing down as party leader and were therefore inviting nominations for a successor. As expected, nominations will close at 5pm on Monday 10 June.

Some 11 candidates have already declared their intention to enter the race, but it is thought that some may withdraw their names over the weekend if they are struggling to secure the necessary eight nominations, while others such as defence secretary Penny Mordaunt or former cabinet minister Priti Patel may put themselves forward. Boris Johnson has already established a commanding lead in the polls but will face fierce competition from rivals including Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove and Dominic Raab. Ms Mays successor will be chosen by an estimated 160,000 Tory members in the country, through a postal ballot, froma shortlist of two candidates chosen by Conservative MPs through a series of votes.

The first MPs ballot takes place on Thursday 13 June, with the least popular candidates eliminated and further votes scheduled for the following Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday until only two remain. The length of the leadership contest will allow her to leapfrog Neville Chamberlain to become the UKs 33rd longestserving PM, having outlasted Gordon Brown last month. All declared contenders have been warned not to drop out if they make it to the final shortlist, in a move that would prevent a coronation for Mr Johnson.

The warning is designed to avoid a repeat of Andrea Leadsoms shock withdrawal in 2016, which left the way clear for Theresa May to claim the leadership and the keys to Downing Street by default. Ms May had come top of the MPs votes, which produced the final shortlist, but her elevation without a members ballot has come under criticism in recent days for failing to subject her to the kind of intense scrutiny which might have exposed her shortcomings. Ms Mays formal removal as Tory leader was not marked by any ceremony or fanfare.

Having returned from commemorations of the 75th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, the PM sent her resignation letter to Mr Walker and Ms Gillan from her Maidenhead constituency. The letter, and their reply, are not expected to be published. The final day of Ms Mays stint at the Tory helm was marked by defeat at the ballot box, as the party slumped into third place in the Peterborough by-election behind both Labour and Nigel Farages insurgent Brexit Party.

Failure to win back a seat that was Conservative as recently as 2015 set the seal on a calamitous period in power for a prime minister who was forced out by her own troops amid electoral debacle and an inability to deliver Brexit . Having entered office on 13 July 2016 with a promise to take Britain out of the European Union and tackle burning injustices in UK society, Ms May found her premiership bogged down in Brexit negotiations and she failed in three attempts to get her eventual deal through parliament. She had secured the Tory leadership two days earlier by defaultafter her only remaining rival Andrea Leadsom dropped out of the contest.

But she lost her majority in a disastrous general election, held at a time of her own choosing in 2017, and became the only PM in history to have her government found in contempt of parliament. MPs votes will take place in conditions of strict secrecy. Ballot papers will be stamped with a committee mark to guarantee authenticity, and the colour of the paper will be changed for each vote, with the colour chosen the night before.

MPs will be required to show their parliamentary passes to enter the Westminster committee room where voting booths and two black tin ballot boxes will stand, and only a few will be allowed access at any time during each two-hour voting period.

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Numbers Game: the Subterfuge and Suspicion of a Tory Leadership Contest
The MP paused to check his phone, sighed, and turned casually to a colleague waiting at the same lift in Portcullis House. Boris is inviting me for a chat, he confided. I havent made my mind up yet, what do you think? They talked in murmurs for a minute before the MP checked his phone again and remembered an appointment. He slipped away leaving his more innocent colleague unaware he had been expertly interrogated by a sleeper. In the shady world of subterfuge and suspicion that makes a Tory leadership contest, the Sleeper is one of a cast of characters who inhabit Westminster. Low-profile MPs who affect to be open-minded, their job is to draw others into unguarded revelations. Sleepers were used by John Majors team in 1995 to sniff out MPs who had falsely sworn loyalty to him while secretly backing John Redwood. They use your friends to test you, scowled a Brexiteer who has learned to be wary of approaches. Le Carr takes over from Erskine May as a source of parliamentary tradecraft. Another ruse is the false coat trail, when an MP purports to be drumming up support for, say, Jeremy Hunt, while really reporting reactions back to Michael Gove. The trick might winkle out the ambitious backbencher who tries to ingratiate himself with more than one candidate. An ex-minister who has taken part in four leadership contests is blunt. Any candidate who doesnt have a decent intelligence network deserves to be humiliated and probably will be. The parliamentary Conservative Party has been called the most sophisticated electorate in the world, which is a polite way of saying bare-faced liars. How MPs voted in the secret ballot between 10am and 12pm today may bear no relation to what they declared in public or promised in private. It is why less experienced campaign managers were dreading this afternoons opening of the ballot box, when their ability to assess the numbers would be laid bare. Some have far fewer supporters than they assured their candidate would be the case. More is at stake than reputations, because knowing when to jump off a crashing bandwagon is vital. A candidate who might yesterday have traded his endorsement in return for a promotion will have no leverage if eliminated unexpectedly. Some have big decisions to make about whether to cash in their chips, said a rival teams adviser. They might pick up more votes, but they could lose votes between now and the second ballot. The reality is that most MPs will now gravitate to the frontrunners. The godfather of the numbers game is Lyndon B Johnson, 36th US president, whose rule was learn to count. The textbook is Robert Caros Master of the Senate which describes LBJs meticulous vote-counting techniques that won him influence and victories. If a potential recruit is identified, it is reported back to the numbers man at HQ. Boris Johnsons team is managed by ex-MP James Wharton, but he also has the services of former defence secretary Gavin Williamson, who has a chief whips counting ability. A campaign manager may flatter a target with an invitation to meet the candidate. Michael Goves manager Mel Stride holds discreet dinners at his home and is said to serve the best food and wine of any of the campaigns. Another technique is blitzing, where an MP is bombarded with a propaganda message. It worked for Tony Blair in 1994, but is seen as counter-productive by seasoned Tory campaigners. The master list records supporters, hopefuls and those who might transfer later. Accuracy is vital: no time to waste on MPs who cant be persuaded. Secrecy is essential: rivals are fighting for the same intelligence. Francis Maude stores the list he kept for Mr Majors 1990 bid in a bank vault. Cross-checking is important. Some MPs give false promises because they are scared to say no if a big beast corners them. Others do so out of ambition. After the 2016 race, rival whips compared notes and found a North-West MP had guaranteed his ballot to each of them. Security is paramount. After crashing out in the first round of the 1997 contest, Peter Lilley realised there had been a spy in his camp when the votes were counted and he had one fewer than the number of MPs on his team. With a third of Tory MPs yet to reveal their intentions in public, nothing can be taken for granted. Which is why, for the next seven days, Westminster will resemble East Berlin.
2021 05 14
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