Who’s Running the Race to Be the Next British PM?

It’s time for the first votes to be cast in the Tory leadership race.
Updated on

First there were five. Now there are three.

With Liam Fox eliminated in the opening ballot and Stephen Crabb dropping out, the momentum is with front-runner Theresa May in the race to become the next U.K. prime minister.

The next round of voting in the contest to succeed David Cameron as leader of the Conservative Party is on Thursday, and Britain will have a new prime minister by Sept. 9.

Tasked with delivering Brexit, here are the profiles of the remaining candidates:

Theresa May: The Favorite

Theresa May, 59, is front-runner, winning 165 out of 329 votes of support from Conservative Party lawmakers in the first round of voting. That put her 99 votes ahead of her nearest rival.

May has served as home secretary — one of the traditional great offices of state — since Cameron came to power in 2010. The most powerful woman in the government over the past six years, she’s also the longest serving home secretary in more than a century. She had to overcome several crises at the Home Office in her first term, including delays in issuing passports.


A known Euro-skeptic who’s pushed for lower immigration, she only reluctantly backed the “Remain” camp and kept a low profile during the European Union referendum campaign, allowing her to position herself as a unifying candidate for the party.

May said at the news conference to launch her campaign that “Brexit means Brexit,” and there could be no attempt to remain inside the EU or hold a second referendum on membership. Exit negotiations from the bloc should not be triggered before the end of 2016, she said, and she ruled out an early general election.

Andrea Leadsom: The Ex-Financier

Andrea Leadsom, 53, was a prominent advocate of Brexit during the referendum campaign and has the backing of Boris Johnson. She won 66 votes in the first ballot of Tory lawmakers. Claims about her successful career in the finance industry before entering Parliament, which included stints at Barclays Plc and Invesco Perpetual, have come under fire for being misleading, allegations she has denied. After a failed bid for Parliament in 2005, she was elected in 2010 to represent the South Northamptonshire constituency in central England.


Leadsom attended high school in Kent, southeast England, before earning a politics degree from Warwick University. After entering Parliament, she served on the Treasury Select Committee, earning praise for grilling former Barclays CEO Bob Diamond during the Libor scandal. She joined the government in 2014 as economic secretary to the Treasury.

A junior energy minister, Leadsom wants to push ahead with the process of withdrawal from the EU. “I intend to keep the negotiations as short as possible,” she said at her campaign launch. “Neither we nor our European friends need prolonged uncertainty.”

Michael Gove: The Man Who Didn’t Want the Job

Justice Secretary Michael Gove, 48, a former journalist and Secretary of State for Education, made a surprise entry into the leadership race just hours ahead of the deadline. Having previously said – quite forcefully and repeatedly – that he is not suited to the role of prime minister, Gove changed tack at the last minute, launching a stinging attack on Johnson as he showed his hand.

"I wanted to help build a team behind Boris Johnson,” he said. “But I have come, reluctantly, to the conclusion that Boris cannot provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead.”


 Gove, who won 48 votes of support in the first ballot, is a former Times newspaper journalist and an old friend of David Cameron. The adopted son of a Scottish fish merchant was unpopular with voters when he was education secretary for seeking to push through radical reforms to the curriculum. He was later demoted to chief whip. He saw his popularity surge during the “Leave” campaign as voters and party members saw him as the reasoned, sensible foil to Johnson’s erratic charisma.

In a BBC interview, Gove set out some of his policies, saying he wouldn't be “hurried or hassled” into triggering the EU withdrawal process.  He said he'd “negotiate with toughness” on a new deal and work to bring down immigration through an Australian-style points system.

Out of the Race

Stephen Crabb

Stephen Crabb, 43, is a relatively recent recruit to the cabinet. Elected to Parliament in 2005, he became Welsh secretary two years ago and was promoted to work and pensions secretary in March. He backed “Remain” in the referendum campaign and also insists there can be no attempt to dilute or sidestep the referendum result. He won just 34 votes in the first round of voting before pulling out and endorsing Theresa May.



Liam Fox

Liam Fox, 54, a former defence secretary, unsuccessfully ran for the Tory top job the last time it was contested in 2005, losing to Cameron. He came out on the winning side of the referendum, having been a vocal advocate of “Leave”. He won just 16 votes in the first ballot and is now endorsing Theresa May.

Seen as a Thatcherite and popular on the right wing of the party, Fox had to resign from the defense job in 2011. He was subsequently found to have breached ministerial rules over his association with a friend and self-styled adviser, Adam Werritty, on numerous foreign trips.