UK Conservative Party agree leadership election rules to reduce numbers

File photo. An effigy depicting (L-R) British Prime Minister Theresa May, former Foreign secretary Boris Johnson, Environment secretary Michael Gove, and former Brexit secretary David Davis is displayed outside of the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, 15 January 2019. [Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA/EFE]

Britain’s governing Conservatives on Tuesday (4 June) agreed rules for the contest to replace Prime Minister Theresa May as party chief, including measures to eliminate candidates more quickly from a crowded race.

May is due to resign as leader of the Conservatives on Friday, but will remain prime minister in a caretaker capacity until a successor is appointed – a process which the party has said should be completed by the end of July.

Whoever takes over will inherit a deadlocked parliament and a polarised nation, with little time to find a way to deliver a deal on Britain’s exit from the European Union before the country is due to leave on 31 October.

Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, his successor Jeremy Hunt, former Brexit minister Dominic Raab and environment minister Michael Gove are among the frontrunners in the contest.

The party’s influential 1922 Committee, which represents Conservative lawmakers, said it had agreed that those wanting the job would need the support of eight lawmakers to enter – a higher threshold than in previous contests.

Candidates would then need to win 5% of a vote – or 16 votes – among lawmakers to get through the first round, and then 10% to stay in the contest in the second ballot.

Then, the least popular candidate would be eliminated in successive rounds of voting.

The first ballot of Conservative lawmakers will take place on 13 June, the party said, with further ballots scheduled for 18, 19 and 20 June.

The final two candidates will then be put to the party’s roughly 160,000 members nationwide in a postal ballot concluding in the week beginning 22 July that will decide Britain’s next prime minister.

The rules provide the party with a way to whittle down the 11 candidates – reduced from 13 on Tuesday when two withdrew – running for the position more quickly.

That would hasten an end to the uncertainty triggered by May’s resignation over her failure to deliver Brexit almost three years after a referendum vote in favour of the move.

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