Conservatives fear they could be denied chance to decide next leader (2024)

Grassroots Tories fear they could be denied the chance to decide on the party's next leader again - as Kemi Badenoch is the early favourite at the bookies in the battle for the Tory crown.

The Conservative Party membership is meant to have the final say after the choice has been whittled down to two by MPs.

However after Liz Truss quit in October 2022 – just weeks after being voted in – runner-up Rishi Sunak took over without a ballot of the members.

Since then some senior figures have suggested that the party membership should play less of a role in picking the leader.

After the Truss debacle, former Conservative leader William Hague, who introduced the current rules in 1998, wrote: 'The objectives we had in mind when we adopted them have not been fulfilled, they are indeed now discredited [and] work should begin immediately on reforming them.'

Former business and trade secretary Kemi Badenoch has long been considered the favourite to win

After Liz Truss quit in October 2022 – just weeks after being voted in – runner-up Rishi Sunak took over without a ballot of the members

One Tory minister recently suggested to the Daily Telegraph: 'Maybe members provide the runners and riders and then the MPs would decide.'

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Another questioned whether letting party members decide on Mr Sunak's successor was a 'good idea'.

Last night, Claire Bullivant of the Conservative Democratic Organisation told the Mail: 'I suspect they will want to cut out the membership. We will not allow that. Members must have their say.'

She said it was wrong for Conservative MPs to blame party members for choosing Ms Truss over Mr Sunak.

She added: 'The MPs kicked out Boris. Then, out of a field of nearly 400, they gave us the choice between Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak. Then MPs, in breach of the constitution and again with nearly 400 alternatives, unanimously selected Rishi Sunak with no membership approval.

'The man proved the most disastrous leader in the party's history. Yet still, they let him carry on.'

Former Conservative leader William Hague, who introduced the current rules in 1998, said: 'they are indeed now discredited [and] work should begin immediately on reforming them'

Senior Tory figures - including a record number of Cabinet ministers - lost their seats in an election bloodbath

A senior source in the party suggested there would be no immediate change to the system, saying: 'Members would I'm sure want there to be a two-stage process.'

However, when the 1922 Committee of backbench MPs meets next week, it will look again at how Tory leaders can be toppled.

Under current rules, a vote is triggered when at least 15 per cent of Tory MPs write to the 1922 chairman saying they have lost confidence in their leader.

This now means only 18 MPs would have to put in letters for the threshold to be met.

Senior figures say they want the contest to be wrapped up in time for the party's annual conference on September 29 – meaning nominations for a successor will have to open within weeks.

In his final speech outside No 10 yesterday morning, Mr Sunak said: 'Following this result, I will step down as party leader. Not immediately, but once the formal arrangements for selecting my successor are in place'

A source told the Mail: 'I think it's feasible to do it over the summer. There is time to get somebody in place by conference. We will want to get a new leader in place who can appoint a Shadow Cabinet.'

In his final speech outside No 10 yesterday morning, Mr Sunak said: 'Following this result, I will step down as party leader. Not immediately, but once the formal arrangements for selecting my successor are in place.'

The first stage will be for the 1922 Committee of backbench MPs to meet in the coming days.

However it needs to hold elections itself – such as on finding a new chairman after Sir Graham Brady stood down from Parliament. The committee will then decide on the rules and timetable for the first stage of the contest, in which contenders are usually whittled down by their fellow MPs to reach a final pair.

Under current rules, Tory members around the country are then balloted to decide between the two candidates.

Former business and trade secretary Ms Badenoch has long been considered the favourite to win.

Here are the key contenders to watch, with odds provided by Ladbrokes:

Kemi Badenoch (2/1)

Outgoing Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch is seen as a frontrunner among right-leaning factions and has left the door open to a tilt at the top job by saying 'we will talk about leadership things after an election'.

Ms Badenoch was born in Wimbledon and grew up in Nigeria and the US, returning to the UK at the age of 16. She has a master of engineering as well as a bachelor of laws and has worked at private bank Coutts and The Spectator.

She first became an MP in 2017. Ms Badenoch backed Brexit, and as minister for women and equalities she has made a name for herself as an outspoken voice on gender issues, including by calling for a change to the Equality Act so that sex is defined only as someone's biological sex.

Ms Badenoch has rejected calls for Reform UK leader Nigel Farage to be welcomed into the Tory fold.

Dame Priti Patel (5/1)

Former home secretary Dame Priti Patel is a longstanding Eurosceptic who has said she was inspired to join the Conservative Party by Margaret Thatcher.

She became an MP in 2010 and served in cabinet positions under Theresa May and Boris Johnson, as international development secretary and home secretary respectively.

Dame Priti was a leading figure in the Vote Leave campaign, and as home secretary she launched a points-based immigration system, signed the agreement with Rwanda to send asylum seekers to the country and sealed returns deals with Albania and Serbia.

She resigned as home secretary after Liz Truss became Tory leader.

Suella Braverman (8/1)

Suella Braverman declared two days before election day that the fight for a Conservative electoral victory is over.

Writing in The Telegraph, she instead referred to a 'fight for the soul' of the party.

Ms Braverman, a barrister by trade, has a track record of controversial op-eds. She was appointed home secretary by Rishi Sunak, who sacked her from that post over an article accusing the Metropolitan Police of bias in policing protests.

Ms Braverman was previously attorney general for England and Wales under Boris Johnson and has also chaired the Eurosceptic European Research Group.

She was elected as an MP in 2015. She recently told The Times she would welcome Nigel Farage into the Conservative Party, saying: 'There's not much difference really between him and many of the policies that we stand for.'

James Cleverly (8/1)

James Cleverly, who served as Home Secretary, has yet to declare his intentions and told Sky News in the aftermath of his re-election as an MP: 'What might happen in the future I'll leave that for the near future.'

An article in The Times had suggested he would not go for the top job due to his wife's health but other reports indicate he could be persuaded to run.

Mr Cleverly is a centrist who previously served as foreign secretary and was first elected as the Conservative MP for Braintree in May 2015.

After an injury cut short his Army career, he got a business degree and joined the Territorial Army. Mr Cleverly worked in magazine and digital publishing before setting up his own business. He was a London Assembly member before he became an MP.

Robert Jenrick (8/1)

Former immigration minister Robert Jenrick last month denied he was firing the first shot in the race to replace Mr Sunak when he wrote an opinion piece dubbed by The Mail on Sunday as him 'effectively setting out his manifesto'.

Mr Jenrick used the article to say the Conservatives are the 'natural home for Reform voters' and that former prime minister Boris Johnson 'must always have a place' in the Tories, including in Parliament, should he wish to have one.

The MP for Newark resigned as a minister last December as he claimed the then draft legislation designed to revive the Rwanda deportation policy did 'not go far enough'.

Mr Jenrick last month claimed Mr Sunak's administration was 'turning a corner' in its efforts to reduce net migration.

He added in a nod to Reform: 'We have to build a coalition of voters and propose policies which will fix people's problems - be that on migration, public services reform, the cost of living, or housing.'

Jeremy Hunt (7/1)

Having previously run for leader in 2019 and 2022, Jeremy Hunt may be reluctant to have a third go.

But his lengthy experience in Cabinet and appeal to moderates could be attractive to Tories looking for a calming influence after the chaos of recent years.

After surviving a scare to secure his seat in the Commons, Mr Hunt said: 'Some Conservatives will wonder whether the scale of our crushing defeat was really justified.

'But when you lose the trust of the electorate, all that matters is having the courage and humility to ask yourself, why? So that you can earn it back again.'

After clinging on to his seat, Mr Hunt is not favoured among bookmakers to take over.

Tom Tugendhat (7/2)

Former security minister Tom Tugendhat, who held on in Tonbridge, repeatedly refused to rule out taking a tilt at the top job during the election campaign.

He previously unsuccessfully ran for the leadership in 2022, when he pitched himself as the candidate untarnished by the scandals that dogged Boris Johnson and his government.

He is seen as being on the centrist wing of the party, meaning he could struggle to convince a more right-leaning Tory membership.

Speaking after last night's result, Mr Tugendhat said he was 'very grateful' to be re-elected but called for his party to 'stop and rethink where we're going'.

Victoria Atkins (14/1)

Victoria Atkins, the outgoing health secretary, left the door open for a leadership bid in the run-up to the election.

Ms Atkins, who held her Louth and Horncastle seat with a reduced majority, has been discussed as a contender from the more moderate wing of the party.

She was reportedly talked up by former deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden as a 'star' capable of leading the Tories in a leaked recording from December.

During her time in office, Ms Atkins struggled in vain to stop strikes by junior doctors.

Her odds are 18/1 with Betfair Exchange and 14/1 with Ladbrokes.

Conservatives fear they could be denied chance to decide next leader (2024)

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