Boris Johnson, a friend and supporter of President Trump, a man who the president has recently praised, is the smart money to be the next prime minister of the United Kingdom. He easily won the first round of the Tory Party leadership race.
His ascension would bode well for the U.S., as Johnson is the closest thing the Tories have to Donald Trump. He’s also an avid fan of the president’s acumen in trade negotiations.
The Tories, aka the Conservatives, are in the process of whittling down six leadership candidates to two. The process took place yesterday and will again on the 18th, the 19th, and 20th, or until they get to the final duo.
This part of the voting is all by Tory members of parliament. You had to have the backing of at least eight of your fellow Tory MPs to get in the race at all. To be included in the second ballot you had to have to have 17 MPs in your corner after yesterday’s voting. 32 will advance a candidate to the third round, if there is one.
If all candidates are above that, then the person with the least votes gets the boot, and on again, until there are two left. In the next phase of the contest the final two start campaigning on June 22nd to get the nod from the 124,000 paid members of the party nationwide.
They hit the hustings for about a month, paid-up members vote, and the winner is announced the week of July 22. That person will be the new prime minister. Right now, it looks like Johnson.
Those are the rules. Here are the six players, all men, left after the first ballot.
The favorite– Boris Johnson. Way out in front with 114 after yesterday’s first ballot (next closest is Hunt with 43), he is the likely choice. He’s endorsed by Trump, amusing, conservative, American-born, and has proven he can take votes from other parties. That’s the way he was elected mayor of London. The Tories are scared to death of the next general election, especially given the beating they took in the recent EU race, coming in fifth place.
Most Tory MPs think the sarcastic and non-PC Johnson —he refuses to back down to the left— is their insurance against another election debacle. In fact, a recent Daily Telegraph poll found that if he led the Tories they’d win the next general election by over 100 seats. He might also be able to bring Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party, as Boris is a hard Brexiteer, back in the Tory fold.
He led the winning Brexit campaign and promises, one way or another, the UK leaves the EU on this Halloween. Full stop. He says he may even refuse to pay the EU-mandated £39 billion fee for leaving if he doesn’t get a better deal. With 114, he’s a shoe-in for the final two.
Next, Jeremy Hunt. Most other candidates are defining themselves on how they differ from Boris and are trying to paint him as erratic and too talkative. That’s Hunt’s basic message. It’s the same things that were said about Trump in 2016. Hunt is a typical Tory cabinet minister, rather milquetoast and boring.
He is the safe choice for soft backers of Brexit who don’t like Johnson. Like other opponents of Boris, he says he could back another Brexit delay. A Remainer in 2016.
Then, Michael Gove. This is a grudge match between Boris and Gove, as Gove stabbed Boris in the back in 2016 when he was Boris’s campaign manager in this exact type of scenario. He dumped Boris, ran on his own, and they both lost to May. Considered smart but not trusted for obvious reasons. More of an Iago than a Thatcher. If Boris crashes, an outside shot. Would delay Brexit in a heartbeat.
And then, Dominic Raab. I think he is the underrated dark horse in the race. Telegenic, smart, young, and very much a hard Brexit man. Backs a no-deal exit and said he might even suspend parliament if necessary to get it. If Boris unexpectedly stumbles Raab would pick up much of his support.
Sajid Javid– Soft on Brexit. The Tories will not make the same mistake they made with May, putting a 2016 Remainer in to get the UK out of the EU, just to watch him sabotage the thing. Thus, no real traction here. As the son of Pakistani parents, he’s trying to play the diversity card. It’s not working. Not a Trump supporter.
Rory Stewart– What would happen if Steve Buscemi, Don Knotts, and Mick Jagger had a love child? Rory Stewart. Anti-Brexit, hates Boris, way liberal, a 2016 Remainer, and likely going nowhere by the end of this race. Though interestingly, he was the tutor to Princes William and Harry. Not an acolyte of The Donald.
Okay, those are the rules and players that define the current game. Will bring you up to speed when it comes down to the last two standing.