The first round of voting by 331 Conservative Party MPs to elect the next party leader and prime minister began on Tuesday, with home secretary Theresa May leading the five-cornered contest that may give Britain its second woman prime minister after Margaret Thatcher.
Besides May, the other four candidates are Michael Gove, Andrea Leadsom, Liam Fox and Stephen Crabb. May is publicly backed by more than 100 MPs, while Fox’s support so far is in the single digit. Each candidate has made public statements on their suitability for the post.
The final result will be declared in early September but the winner will be apparent within a week or two. Voting for the preferred leadership candidate began at 11am GMT, with the poll closing at 6pm GMT. The result will be declared around 7pm GMT.
The candidate who finishes last will be eliminated and others may choose to drop out if they feel they have no realistic chance. More rounds will be held until the candidates are whittled down to two, and the next round is on Thursday.
After the final two are elected by MPs, the party’s members will vote through a postal ballot to decide the leader, who will also take over as prime minister. David Cameron resigned as premier after Britons voted in a June 23 referendum to leave the European Union.
May and Crabb campaigned to remain in the EU, while Gove, Leadsom and Fox were leading lights of the Brexit camp. May has promised to forge unity in a divided Britain after the EU referendum, while others insist a Brexiter should lead the next government.
According to May, the next government should be much more than about Brexit. She has pledged to create a department to handle Brexit negotiations with Brussels, and appoint a leading Brexiter to head it.
As support for Leadsom increased in recent days – including from leading Brexiter Boris Johnson – the final two candidates could be women, which will return a woman prime minister – the first after Thatcher, who was prime minister from 1979 to 1990.