The contest to replace Theresa May as Britain’s next leader formally kicked-off yesterday, with candidates lining up to define themselves against the “bluff and bluster” of frontrunner Boris Johnson.
Eleven Conservative MPs are vying to succeed May, who quit as the party’s leader on Friday over her failure to take Britain out of the European Union on time. She remains premier until her replacement is chosen, likely in late July, and they will automatically enter Downing Street.
May, who took office after the referendum, was forced to quit after failing repeatedly to get her EU divorce deal through parliament and delaying Brexit twice in the process. Brussels said it will not renegotiate the terms, which cover Britain’s financial settlement, the rights of EU citizens and the Northern Irish border. But many of the leadership candidates insist they will try.
The race is dominated by Britain’s looming European Union (EU) exit on October 31, with leading Brexiteer Johnson among those talking tough on the need to renegotiate the divorce terms or leave with no deal.
The bombastic former London mayor has been keeping a low public profile but is campaigning hard behind the scenes, and his rivals tacitly acknowledged he is the one to beat. “A serious moment calls for a serious leader,” Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt declared at his campaign launch, a thinly veiled jibe at his jocular predecessor.