Who Could Be New Conservative Leader With May Under Fire?

Updated on
  • Five Tories who could step into job after shocking result
  • Rudd, Johnson and Davis in the running as Brexit talks loom

Falconer Says May a Completely Lame Duck Prime Minister

A shocking U.K. election result threw the Conservative Party into turmoil and has Theresa May scrambling to shore up her position. If history is any indication, the Tories will waste little time in seeking a new leader. So who can lay claim to the Tory crown?

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May has moved fast to try and cling to power as she got permission from the Queen to form a government with the backing of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party. That buys her some time but does not guarantee her political survival. Here are some potential contenders if she doesn’t last:

Boris Johnson, 52: The Comeback Kid

Boris Johnson

Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Gaffe-prone Boris -- he’s one of the few politicians known by his first name -- remains a popular figure and in the past he’s made no secret of his ambition to be prime minister one day. In the aftermath of the 2016 Brexit referendum, he looked a shoe-in until he got ambushed and outplayed in palace intrigue. He owes his place in the Cabinet to May needing to burnish her Brexit credentials with the star of the Leave campaign. As foreign secretary he’s made diplomatic errors but his common touch and spontaneity are beyond dispute, and in stark contrast to May’s stiffness and rehearsed lines. Could it be second time lucky for the former mayor of London?

David Davis, 68: Mr. Brexit

David Davis

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Popular among grassroots Tory members, the Brexit Secretary is also well-liked by lawmakers in Parliament and has friends in rival parties. He’s twice stood for the leadership in the past, most recently in 2005 when he made the final two, losing out to a fresh-faced David Cameron who made Davis’s traditional right-wing campaign look like the past. May revived his political career when she plucked him unexpectedly from the backbenches last summer.

Amber Rudd, 53: The Lady in Waiting

Amber Rudd

Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Rudd made her mark in the campaign as an able performer, most notably when she stood in for the prime minister in a live televised debate, just days after the death of her father. Even so, the home secretary barely squeaked by to hold on to her seat in Hastings, southeast England, by a mere 346 votes. Rudd has enjoyed a high profile in the Home Office given the challenge of reducing immigration and spate of recent terror attacks. An ardent Remainer in last year’s Brexit campaign, as home secretary she’s taken a hard-line stance on immigration that caused ructions in her own party. Her rise has been meteoric -- she entered Parliament just seven years ago and now holds one of the four so-called great offices of state. Can she make it all the way to the top?

Michael Fallon, 65: Dark Horse

Michael Fallon

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

He’s a veteran defense secretary who first served in government under Margaret Thatcher. Ousted from Parliament in 1992, Fallon returned to the safe seat of Sevenoaks in 1997 and is regarded by Tory strategists as one of the steadiest media performers in the Cabinet. He’s regularly been deployed as the party’s attack dog, with both May and Cameron sending him out to defend the Tories at times of difficulty -- and to savage Jeremy Corbyn’s record on national security. When the shocking exit poll flagging a hung Parliament was released, it was Fallon who was on live television, responding calmly and staying poised.

Philip Hammond, 61: Safe Pair of Hands

Philip Hammond

Photographer: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg

Known as "Spreadsheet Phil," the chancellor of the exchequer has played down his political ambitions, saying his only focus was running the country’s finances. Hammond is seen as a moderating voice to the Brexit hardliners in May’s government. That is likely to play well with Remainers, but less well with the party faithful. He may not have enough of a base within Tory ranks for a leadership bid to really gain traction. But after much speculation before the election that May was set to sack him, could he now aspire to the top job?

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