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2016 Leader Selection

Britain made a historic decision 23 June 2016 to leave the European Union in a referendum that stoked passions on issues of immigration and sovereignty, and prompted the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron.

For years, Boris Johnson was hugely popular with Britons. In his role as London mayor until early May 2016, he offered a steady supply of quirks, trademark messy hair and a deep reserve of entertaining quotes. ("My policy on cake is pro having it and pro eating it.") But he lost a lot of credibility when he took up the "Leave" cause - and lost much more when he likened the European Union to Hitler. He also didn't make any friends when he claimed that Obama's African heritage made him anti-British.

A leadership challenge within the Tory party can be triggered if 50 MPs sign a letter of no confidence in the party leader and send it to the chairman of the "1922 Committee" of Conservative backbench lawmakers. The 1922 Committee, also known as "the 22", is a committee of all backbench Conservative MPs that meets weekly when the Commons is sitting. Its chair, usually a senior MP, is elected by committee members and has considerable influence within the Parliamentary Party. The 1922 Committee takes its name from a meeting of Conservative MPs in October 1922 which led to the end of the party's coalition government with the Liberals.

The parliamentary party, all the current Conservative MPs, would vote to narrow the field to two candidates, and then the entire party membership of some 170,000 would vote in a postal ballot a process that would take weeks.

A leadership competition looked likely to feature four main contenders: the pro-EU George Osborne, the countrys current finance minister and a brilliant electoral tactician; Theresa May, the long-serving and tough-minded interior minister, also pro-EU; and the leaders of the Leave campaign, the cerebral Justice Minister Michael Gove and the colorful former London mayor and author Boris Johnson. Osborne was damaged by his close association with Cameron. Johnson was not popular among Conservative MPs, who saw him as overly ambitious, often disloyal and ill disciplined. Boris Johnson said June 30, 2016 he would not be running for Prime Minister of Britain.

Possible pro-Brexit figures include Justice Minister Dominic Raab, Treasury Minister Andrea Leadsom and Work and Pensions Minister Priti Patel. And Former ministers Liam Fox and David Davis also emerged as possible contenders from the Right of the party as some senior Eurosceptic MPs cast doubt on Mr Johnson's Brexit credentials.

Some party insiders expected Justice Secretary Michael Gove and Home Secretary Theresa May to face-off in the postal ballot. Gove infuriated party members who want to remain in the European Union with his attacks on Cameron. May was in the Remain camp, but is hardly an enthusiast for the bloc and stayed largely above the day-to-day fray of referendum campaigning. She had been careful in her choice of words. May reminded some insiders of another iron-willed Conservative politician, Margaret Thatcher.

Five candidates officially declared their intent to stand for selection: Theresa May, the clear frontrunner; Michael Gove; Andrew Leadsom; Stephen Crabbe; and former defence secretary Liam Fox. According to bookmaker William Hill, Theresa May was favored to win the Conservative leadership election, while justice secretary Michael Gove was in second place and Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom, who emerged as the leading standard-bearer for those who campaigned for Brexit, was in third.

Theresa May and energy minister Andrea Leadsom were expected to contest in a Conservative runoff to replace Cameron. However, on 11 July 2016, Leadsom announced her withdrawal from the race leaving May as the sole candidate. "A nine week leadership campaign" at a time when Britain is negotiating its withdrawal from the European Union is "highly undesirable," Leadsom said

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Page last modified: 11-07-2016 17:43:32 ZULU