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.