Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt face off to be the next British Prime Minister
Either former Foreign Secretary and London Mayor Boris Johnson or current Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt will be the next Leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. They are both competing for the support of Conservative Party members who will choose the next holder of the post during a round of postal balloting that will take place over the course of early July.
The election follows Prime Minister Theresa May’s resignation announcement on May 24th 2019 after years of difficulties that culminated in her failing to get her Brexit deal through the House of Commons. In a final attempt to get it passed - by proposing a binding Parliamentary vote on a confirmatory referendum on the Brexit deal - May alienated many of the deal’s reluctant supporters and her cabinet and was forced to resign.
The UK is currently in the process of trying to leave the European Union after over 40 years of membership of the transnational political and economic bloc following a historic vote in 2016 which resulted in 51.9%-49.1% vote in favour of leaving against most expectations. The process has, however, been exceptionally difficult and has, ultimately, caused the downfall of two Prime Ministers so far: David Cameron who started it by calling the referendum and Theresa May who failed to deliver its result.
The next Prime Minister
The winner of the election will, in all likelihood, become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. However, if they cannot command the support of Parliament, precedent says, they cannot be Prime Minister. With the Tory majority hanging by a thread and several Conservatives expressing an inability to support a Boris Johnson led government it seems possible that the new leader would not be able to get the confidence of the House.
If they do become Prime Minister, they will be joining a small club of mostly men (with two women) who have held the job. There have been 55 Prime Ministers, 53 of whom have been male, which, interestingly, means 96.4% of all of the office’s occupiers have been men. For comparison, the British industry with the highest level of male dominance is construction with an 87% male workforce.
So, who are the candidates and what are they like? “People who have worked closely with him,” says BBC political editor Laura Kuenssburg about Boris Johnson, “both fans and detractors, say that he is simply not really interested in minutiae. Officials who worked with him tell me there were two kinds of Mr Johnson and they weren't always sure which one they were going to get, changing even on a daily basis. Sometimes he could be utterly persuasive and on top of policy. But on other occasions it was evident that he just hadn't bothered to absorb the information required and wouldn't focus, even complaining about the amount of material that was put in his ministerial red box.”
On Jeremy Hunt, Kuenssburg has written that, “Mr Hunt is a very different kind of politician. When he was in charge at the Department of Health he made cracking down on mistakes in hospitals one of his big priorities. And on the wall in his office on Whitehall hung a weekly list of mistakes being made in every hospital in England… But it is telling of a politician who will delve down into the details of a problem to get a grip on it… That doesn't mean for a second that Mr Hunt has not made political mistakes.”
The key faultline of the campaign has been on Brexit, with Mr Johnson criticising Mr Hunt for refusing to commit to leaving on the 31st of October, with or without a deal. Mr Hunt, meanwhile, has criticised Mr Johnson for shying away from public scrutiny.
Tory members will begin voting for their next leader, and our next Prime Minister, when the ballot papers are posted with the results announced by July 23rd. The new PM could face an immediate no confidence vote tabled by the opposition Labour Party, which would likely result either in them scraping a very narrow victory and being able to carry on with sorting out Brexit, or in a snap general election - if the latter occurs, then all bets are off!