- Darren Staples / REUTERS
LONDON – Theresa May’s snap election spectacularly back-fired and members of her Conservative Party are asking for her to resign as party leader after they lost so many seats.
May is refusing. She is convinced that in these turbulent times she must try and form a minority government to stay in power, with the help of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
A Tory leadership contest seems unlikely even if May resigned as Prime Minister or is forced out of government by opponents like Jeremy Corbyn. That’s because less than a year ago she was installed as Tory leader and prime minister after a failed party leadership contest, which followed David Cameron’s resignation over the Brexit vote. The field for possible replacements in the Tory Party looks thin.
However, already there are reports that Tories such as Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson are sounding out a possible leadership bid.
As the largest minority in the House of Commons, any new Tory Party leader could find themselves the next Prime Minister if they can form a coalition or minority government. May herself is currently trying to form a minority government.
So who are the favourites to replace May as Tory leader right now? Here are the top 5, according to bookmaker Paddy Power. The betting odds and total returns – the initial bet, plus the winnings – are accurate as of June 9, 3 p.m. BST:
5. Philip Hammond
£10 bet gives a total return: £170
Chancellor Hammond is in the running but not the most likely to succeed May if she stood down.
A government taking Britain into Brexit need someone with a command of numbers to make sure the economy is being managed well through a period of great uncertainty. Considering Hammond was nicknamed “Spreadsheet Phil” by colleagues it is more likely he’ll stay in his Treasury than take control of the party.
But you never know, the party could ask him to step for stability. He managed to increase his vote share by 1.2% to 31,436 votes, while the rest of the party bled seats.
T=3. Amber Rudd
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£10 bet gives a return: £70
May was home secretary for six years before she became Prime Minister after David Cameron stepped down in June last year. Rudd is the current home secretary and is naturally a favourite to succeed her. Rudd was also widely seen to have done a good job when she took May’s place in a televised election debate.
However, Rudd only retained her seat in this general election with a margin of just 346 votes – not exactly a ringing endorsement in what should have been a safe seat. Rudd is also seen as May’s right-hand woman and this could damage her chances given May’s standing in the party at the moment.
T=3. Ruth Davidson
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£10 bet gives a return: £70
The leader of the Scottish Conservatives showed her firepower for the Tories in this general election. She helped her party claim 13 seats in Scotland – a previously unthinkable feat in a country long dominated by the SNP and Labour.
To seal her popularity, she managed to do this while Tories lost marginal seats and previously Conservative-held seats across the country. A relative Westminster outsider, Davidson could be seen as a clean break by the party.
2. David Davis
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£10 bet gives a return: £45
Davis’s position as Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has given him a huge amount of power in May’s government.
Britain has triggered Article 50, which therefore means the UK will have to leave the EU by May 29, 2019. Brexit talks have not started yet but Davis will be a key negotiator.
This puts him in an attractive position to take over as Tory Pary leader, if May does step down, as he could easily continue with the current Brexit process, rather than upsetting the apple cart with a new plan. Commentators have remarked over the last few months that he has been handling the process quite well already.
1. Boris Johnson
£10 bet gives a return: £30
Former London mayor and, now, foreign secretary Boris Johnson already tried to take over the Conservative party in July last year, but he dropped out of the contest mid-way.
He stepped down after his former Brexiteer ally Michael Gove joined the leadership race and stabbed him in the back, saying: “I have come, reluctantly, to the conclusion that Boris cannot provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead.”
However, after the general election, there were reports that he is sounding out a renewed leadership bid and is looking to rally against the other leadership favourite, David Davis.