This week, the Conservative leadership content enters the Parliamentary stage. The various contenders – at the time of writing there are eleven – will be whittled down to two. The remaining pair will then tour the country for membership hustings ahead of a members’ ballot. So, how exactly will it play out?
All candidates must receive at least eight MPs’ backing in order to enter the contest formally. Only the principal and seconder need be named – the remaining six MPs are able to stay anonymous. The deadline for this is 5pm on Monday. The threshold was raised from two MPs to eight in a bid to reduce the number of leadership hopefuls. At present, the candidates who could be in trouble include Andrea Leadsom, Sam Gymiah and Rory Stewart.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the candidates who have passed the first test will take part in a hustings organised by the 1922 committee of Conservative backbenchers. This will take place over two days and behind closed doors – with only MPs in the room. MPs will be able to ask questions – with leadership campaigns prepping their candidates for hostile questions.
The contest then moves on to the secret ballot phase. On Thursday, MPs will vote between 9-11am for which candidate they want to be leader. Around midday the result will be announced and any candidates with 16 votes (5pc of Parliamentary party) or fewer will be eliminated. Should every single candidate manage 16 votes, who ever has the fewest votes is knocked out.
The following week the voting intensifies with a second voting round scheduled for the afternoon of Tuesday 18 June. This time the remaining candidates will need over 32 votes (10pc of the Parliamentary party) to stay in. Anyone with support below that is eliminated. To give a sense of numbers, it’s worth noting that in the second ballot of the 2016 Tory leadership contest, there were only three candidates left and Theresa May won 199 votes, Andrea Leadsom 84 and Michael Gove 46.
With more candidates in the 2019 contest than 2016, it’s likely to take more than two rounds. Further secret ballots are pencilled in for Wednesday and Thursday of that week where the candidate with the fewest votes will be knocked out – to be repeated until there are only two candidates left. It follows that the final two of the Tory leadership contest should be known in a fortnight’s time.