London: Should UK Prime Minister Theresa May lose the no-confidence vote in her leadership, a general election would not be automatically triggered. Instead, the Conservative party would hold a leadership contest to replace May.
But even if May wins that contest, she still faces a fractured party that is bitterly divided over Brexit — and the deal she negotiated with the European Union over the UK’s withdrawal from the bloc. Lose, and there’s a leadership race.
If there is more than one candidate, a secret ballot of party MPs whittles down the field, with the candidate with the lowest votes being eliminated. Ballots will be held each Tuesday and Thursday until two candidates remain.
These two candidates are then put to a postal ballot of the winder Conservative party membership — though in essence the one with least support among MPs is likely to stand aside and concede. That occurred in 2017, when Andrea Leadsom conceded to May, who had the backing of a clear majority of MPs.
The top 10 Conservative contenders
Here are the likely top 10 contenders should UK Prime Minister Theresa May lose the challenge to her leadership of the Conservative party:
The former Brexit Secretary, who resigned over the deal reached by May with the European Union, is the bookies favourite to become the next Conservative leader. He’s 44 years old.
The former Foreign Secretary was the very public face of the Leave campaign in the Brexit referendum. The 54-year old is popular with party members, but not so much among MPs.
The 48-year-old Home Secretary is the son of a Pakistani immigrant bus conductor who says he will lead Conservatives one day. Originally backed Remain but now supports the Leave side.
A leading Brexiteer, the Environment Secretary ran against May in the 2016 leadership race. The 51-year old believes he can get the best Brexit deal to protect fishermen and the environment.
The 69-year old staunch Leaver was appointed Brexit minister following the 2017 general election, and previously contested the party leadership in 2005, losing to David Cameron.
The voice of the hardline Brexiteers wing of the conservative party, the 49-year-old father of six says he does not want the leader’s job, but may be convinced to stand by the right of the party.
The 49-year-old Foreign Secretary said on Wednesday that he would be backing May in the leadership vote. Known as ‘Teflon’ Jeremy, he’s a popular choice with moderates in the party.
The 54-year-old Pensions and Work Secretary is a former Home Secretary who backed Remain. She has been pushing for ‘Plan B’, rejecting May’s Brexit deal negotiated with the EU.
The International Development minister says she would vote for May in Wednesday’s vote, but the 45-year old has written on improving political leadership in the UK, a pitch for the leader’s job.
The Leader of the House of Commons and a leading Brexiteer was the runner-up in the 2016 leadership race, conceding to May when it became clear she had majority support of MPs.
— Mick O’Reilly is the Gulf News Foreign Correspondent based in Europe