Who's up and who's down? The 10 Tories hoping to replace May | Jessica Elgot and Peter Walker

Stock of five leadership hopefuls rises while dream begins to fade for another five

Who’s Up?

Dominic Raab

The former Brexit secretary has a loyal fanbase and a professional team, including support from Vote Leave’s ex-comms director Paul Stephenson. MPs are forming the view that the next party leader should be a younger face from a new generation of politicians – which gives Raab the edge over Boris Johnson. However, he is resented by some MPs for holding out too long before backing the PM’s Brexit deal.

Matt Hancock

While the response of many voters to mention of the health secretary is still likely to be “Who?”, to some he is starting to have the makings of a from-the-sidelines contender. The former culture secretary is only 40 but has six years of frontbench experience, and is on to his second cabinet post. Amid a trio of hopefuls speaking at an event about young voters Hancock had the best lines, saying voting Conservative “used to be something people started to think about doing when they got their first paycheck – now it’s when they get their first winter fuel allowance”.

Boris Johnson

Still the favourite for the top job, Johnson has kept himself out of some of the messiest Tory warfare over the last few weeks and has enthusiastic support from younger Brexiter MPs – and the patronage of Jacob Rees-Mogg. His supporters insist no other name on the list can connect with voters in the same way and win a general election. However, his reputation is still severely damaged from his time as foreign secretary and there is a concerted “anyone but Boris” campaign among party colleagues.

Tom Tugendhat

It is Tugendhat’s achievement so far to be considered among the rising contenders while indicating he’s not necessarily going for the top job, as he did at the event about young voters this week. At the same event Tugendhat showed why some nonetheless think he is a possible future leader despite being a backbencher (albeit one who chairs the foreign affairs committee), answering questions thoughtfully and fluently.

Liz Truss

Truss has worked the circuit more than almost any other potential candidate, speaking on the future of the Tory party at almost any venue that will have her – thinktanks, launches and in weekend newspaper spreads. She hopes to win Brexiter backing with a publicly enthusiastic embrace of a no-deal Brexit – much to the scepticism of Treasury colleagues.

Who’s down?

Penny Mordaunt

The international development secretary is a confirmed Brexiter, which will appeal to much of the leadership electorate, but is also decidedly liberal on social issues, so could be seen as a unifier. So why is she down? Perhaps because the idea of Mordaunt is, to some, more credible than the reality. Some observers at the young voters event/unofficial hustings felt her contribution veered towards the vague and woolly, lacking a coherent narrative. There is still, however, time for her to turn this impression around.

Sajid Javid

The home secretary is reported to have told Tory MPs he is the only one who can beat Jeremy Corbyn in a general election, but has made less of an impact on the warm-up races than first predicted. Several MPs believe that the case of Isis bride Shamima Begum was mishandled and find Javid’s speeches and vision less than inspiring. “He has a back story, but he needs a front story,” one colleague remarked.

Jeremy Hunt

Certainly not out of the race yet but the nickname “Theresa in trousers” has stuck. Most colleagues speak about his candidacy unenthusiastically and warn about his reputation with the country after having weathered the junior doctors’ strike. He could still succeed by bridging the Brexit-remain divide and attracting colleagues looking for a moderate grown-up.

Amber Rudd

The work and pensions secretary, the favourite among the party’s left, has all but ruled herself out of the race. She could still be a powerful kingmaker and is being wooed as a running mate by everyone from Johnson and Michael Gove to Hunt.

Andrea Leadsom

Leadsom has revived her reputation somewhat during her tenure as Commons leader, especially her rounds in the ring with the Speaker, John Bercow. However, few believe she would ever be first choice again among Eurosceptics and a number of her former campaign team have said they will discourage her from running.

Wild card: Michael Gove

The fortunes of the environment secretary remain hard to predict and opinion is split in the party. His detractors believe he is deeply unpopular with the country and has ruined his reputation for good when he stood against Johnson at the last leadership race. However, most MPs were delighted by his performance in the no-confidence vote where he tore into Corbyn. “That united the party for the first – and only – time in months,” one MP said. “It made us realise what we could have.”


Jessica Elgot and Peter Walker

The GuardianTramp

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