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2019 Conservative Party Leadership Election: Who Succeeds May?

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2019 Conservative Party Leadership Election

The 2019 Conservative Party leadership election is not the leadership election Tories in Britain wanted, but the one they needed.

Brexit has laid their government to waste. It has claimed two Conservative prime ministers, David Cameron and Theresa May, in the last three years. The last weeks and months have been less kind than her already low average to May. Early in May (the month), her party got hammered in local elections. Towards the end of the month, they got hammered again in the European Parliament elections. (Labour did not do well, either, but that’s neither here nor there.) On 6 June, her Conservatives got smashed in the Peterborough by-election.

Sure, she survived a leadership challenge at the end of 2018, but that’s of little solace to her or the Conservatives now.

Now, after the Tories cratered in the polls following parliamentary deadlock, Theresa May stepped aside and the party will choose a new leader.

May formally vacates the Conservative Party leadership on 7 June 2019. Her premiership will end at some point in July 2019, when the results of the leadership election are announced. The Tories and the United Kingdom will then have their third prime minister since 2016. Will they stick with another former Remainer or will Conservatives, frustrated at the rise of the Brexit Party, turn to a Leave leader to steamroll Brexit through to its conclusion?

During the course of the Tory leadership race, we will track who is in and who is out, and who wins the race for Number 10.

Editor’s Update: See below for final results.

2016: The Last Tory Leadership Race

After David Cameron’s humiliation in the Brexit referendum, he cleared the deck for a new leader. That person was Theresa May, who did not have to go to a ballot of the Tory membership. She was opposed then by Andrea Leadsom, Michael Gove, Stephen Crabb, and Liam Fox. Mr. Fox was eliminated on the first ballot, Crabb quit the race, Gove was nixed on the second ballot, and then Leadsom bailed. May carried a majority of the party vote on both ballots she faced.

How The 2019 Conservative Party Leadership Election Will Work1

As of 28 May, the details are still being nailed down, but it will be the same basic format as in 2016.

There will not be only one candidate, but were there to be, that person (obviously) becomes Conservative leader and prime minister. If only two ran, it would go straight to a postal ballot.

Since we are expecting three or more to make it to the main stage for the big event, it will start with a ballot of sitting Tory MPs. Multiple ballots will be held if there are four or more contenders. The idea is that the least-favoured candidate drops off after each ballot and their votes scatter, with minimum vote thresholds each time. In the end, we will be left with two candidates, and then they go to the postal ballot of the membership.

In order to qualify, a candidate must be a member of the House of Commons.

2019 Conservative Party Leadership Final Results

2019 Conservative Leadership final results

The new leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party is Boris Johnson, going wire-to-wire and winning every ballot. He will become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on Wednesday, 24 July.

Johnson attracted the support of nearly two-thirds of voting Tory members.

The Tories announced their new leader just one day after the Liberal Democrats elected Jo Swinson to head their party.

First and central to the Boris Johnson agenda will be Brexit. You know, the topic that vanquished the two prior Conservative prime ministers. The present target date for Brexit is 31 October, which Johnson has said he will meet at all costs.

2019 Conservative Party Leadership Fifth Ballot

2019 Conservative Leadership Fifth Ballot UK

On the final ballot of the Parliamentary Conservative Party, Jeremy Hunt got back over Michael Gove and onto the final ballot with Boris Johnson. While Johnson increased his total by only three, Hunt increased by 18 while Michael Gove jumped only 14, two short of a tie.

Accusations flew threw Westminster on Thursday that Hunt made it through to the big finale because of tactical voting. It is alleged in at least one news source that a handful of Boris Johnson voters switched to Hunt solely to keep Gove out of second place.2 We may never know the truth, but one thing is clear: Gove is out, and Boris and Hunt are in – for now.

2019 Conservative Party Leadership Fourth Ballot

2019 Conservative Leadership Fourth Ballot UK

Michael Gove leapt over Jeremy Hunt for second place, but Boris Johnson remained the clear winner while Sajid Javid lagged far behind the others. His elimination reduced the field to three.

With 157 votes on the fourth ballot, Johnson secured an overall majority of Conservative MP votes.

2019 Conservative Party Leadership Third Ballot

2019 Conservative Leadership Third Ballot UK

So much for Tuesday’s momentum: Rory Stewart was eliminated on the third ballot of the Tory leadership race. All other candidates gained votes after Dominic Raab dropped except for Stewart, who lost ten defectors. Some blamed what was called a poor performance during a televised debate which took place just hours after the second ballot results were announced.3

Stewart went from a candidate moving in the right direction to out of the race in just 24 hours time. Benefitting from his collapse were remainers Jeremy Hunt and Sajid Javid – though we do not truly know how all the votes moved in this secret ballot. Now Javid is on the clock again in the fourth ballot, having to make up a significant amount of votes in Thursday’s vote to stay afloat and leapfrog Michael Gove. He would then have to find even more support to take down Jeremy Hunt.

Nobody will touch Boris Johnson in the MP vote. The only question is if he claims an overall majority by Thursday’s fifth and final ballot, should it take place. He is only 14 away.

2019 Conservative Party Leadership Second Ballot

2019 Conservative Leadership Second Ballot UK

In the 18 June second ballot, Boris Johnson was once again the winner, securing 126 votes. He is still short of an overall majority of the 313 Conservative MPs (157), but creeping up on that number. He gained 12 since the last time, signifying the second-largest amount of forward momentum. The candidate who gained the most votes was Rory Stewart, who almost doubled his share of the vote from 19 to 37. Stewart improved to fourth place behind Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, and Michael Gove. Sajid Javid was the last candidate to escape with 33 votes. 33 were needed to advance to the third ballot on Thursday. Dominic Raab came up short with 30 and was eliminated.

The remaining ballots will eliminate the candidate with the lowest backing, regardless of how many votes they get. Assuming there are no withdrawals from the race, there will be a third ballot on 19 June and two ballots on 20 June. After the fifth and final ballot on Thursday, the Conservative membership will get its say.

2019 Conservative Party Leadership First Ballot

2019 Conservative Leadership First Ballot UK

Boris Johnson was the top vote-getter by a mile in the first ballot of Conservative MPs on Thursday, 13 June.

Three candidates were eliminated for failing to reach the five-percent threshold: Esther McVey, Andrea Leadsom, and Mark Harper.

2019 Conservative Party Leadership Election Candidates

The following MPs are confirmed candidates as of 10 June 2019. In brackets next to the candidate’s name is how they aligned in the 2016 Brexit referendum.
These were candidates on the first ballot; the list has since whittled down.

Michael Gove [Leave]
MP for Surrey Heath (2005-pres.)
Matt Hancock [Remain]
MP for West Suffolk (2010-pres.)
Mark Harper [Remain]
MP for Forest of Dean (2005-pres.)
Jeremy Hunt [Remain]
MP for South West Surrey (2005-pres.)
Sajid Javid [Remain]
MP for Bromsgrove (2010-pres.)
Boris Johnson [Leave]
MP for Henley (2001-08), MP for Uxbridge & South Ruislip (2015-pres.)
Andrea Leadsom [Leave]
MP for South Northamptonshire (2010-pres.)
Esther McVey [Leave]
MP for Wirral West (2010-15), MP for Tatton (2017-pres.)
Dominic Raab [Leave]
MP for Esher and Walton (2010-pres.)
Rory Stewart [Remain]
MP for Penrith and the Border (2010-pres.)

2019 Conservative Party Leadership Election Withdrawals

James Cleverly MP[Leave]
Withdrew on 4 June 2019
Sam Gyimah MP [Remain]
Withdrew on 10 June 2019
Kit Malthouse MP [Leave]
Withdrew on 4 June 2019


1: “Who will be the next prime minister?” (BBC News website, published 27 May 2019, accessed 28 May 2019)

2: “Hunt to face Johnson amid rumours of tactical voting in Tory leadership race” (by Heather Stewart and Peter Walker, The Guardian website, published 20 June 2019, accessed 20 June 2019)

3: “Rory Stewart ‘looked like he was on a drunken night out’ during TV debate” (by Joe Roberts, Metro website, published 19 June 2019, accessed 19 June 2019)

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