Former Foreign Minister Boris Johnson has secured the highest number of votes in the first round of ballot in a fight to replace Theresa May as Conservative Party leader and prime minister, BBC reported. May had officially stepped down as the leader of her Conservative Party on June 7, but will remain the prime minister until the party chooses her successor.
Johnson won 114 votes in Thursday’s secret ballot, with Jeremy Hunt in second place with 43 votes and Michael Gove in third place with 37 votes. Johnson said he was “delighted to win the first ballot, but we have a long way to go”, according to BBC.
Seven candidates made it to the next round of voting which will happen next week in a series of ballots. Dominic Raab was fourth with 27 votes, Sajid Javid was fifth with 23, Matt Hancock sixth with 20 and Rory Stewart was the last candidate to get through to the next round with 19.
“THANK YOU - to all my colleagues who voted for me. We can win this,” said International Development Secretary Rory Stewart, who most vehemently against leaving the European Union without a deal. “Realism, action, unity, trust. Thank you #RoryWalksOn.”
The health secretary, Matt Hancock, also thanked MPs. “Terrific to have more votes from colleagues than I could have hoped for #letsmoveforward.” Hancock tweeted.
All 313 lawmakers can vote and any candidate who does not garner the support of 16 colleagues drops out. If all of them clear that hurdle, the one with the lowest number of votes is out of the race. The two most popular MPs will be put to Tory party members in a final vote. May will then step down as prime minister and the new leader of the largest party in parliament will be appointed as Prime Minister by Queen Elizabeth II.
Johnson, 54, a former mayor of London has served as May’s foreign secretary until he resigned last summer over her Brexit strategy.
A new leader is likely to be announced in the week of July 22.
May resigned after having failed to get the MPs’ approval for a Brexit deal last month. While announcing her decision on May 24, the prime minister had said that she had done her best to make a success of Brexit but had failed to convince members of Parliament to back her deal.
May’s successor will have until the end of October to decide the future of the United Kingdom in the European Union. The UK’s exit from the trade bloc was due on March 29, but has been delayed twice because May was unable to get the terms of the exit approved in Parliament.
Brexit is now due on October 31 – and without a consensus, the country will have to choose to delay it again or leave the EU without an agreement at all.
May’s spokesperson had said that she would now focus on domestic issues and said “in relation to Brexit, the prime minister said it wouldn’t be for her to take this process forward”.
May took over as prime minister in 2016 after the resignation of David Cameron following the Brexit referendum. However, she faced repeated opposition from Parliament over finalising a Brexit deal about how, when or whether to leave the European bloc.
The UK and the European have differed over the terms of an Irish backstop, which is a “safety net” to preserve a border without customs and regulatory checks. British and European Union leaders had earlier committed to avoiding a “hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit. Pro-Brexit leaders in May’s Conservative Party insist that the backstop would make it impossible for Britain to leave the European Union.