Wednesday, November 29

Call for Conservative leadership contest to be cut short: May could win without vote



Andrea Leadsom The Conservative leadership contest should be cut short and one of the candidates given a coronation, a minister has said.

Anna Soubry, the business minister, said a period uncertainty would be bad for the party and country at a time of instability.

“It would be best if the candidates among themselves could just back one person and then we can get on with it,” she told LBC radio.

“This uncertainty — for this to drag on till September — is not great for our country.”

The Times newspaper cites an anonymous Conservative source as saying there will be “strong pressure” for MPs to start conceding if favourite Theresa May opens up an overwhelming lead in the race.

Ms May, the Home Secretary, backs Remain, and is now in poll position in the contest after Boris Johnson and George Osborne declined to stand.

She is expected to do well in the first round of voting amongst MPs, which is due on Tuesday. There will then be subsequent rounds of voting until only two candidates remain, at which point the result will be put to the membership.

However Ms May has publicly dismissed the suggestion of cutting short the contest, saying it was “important to have an open contest”.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph Andrea Leadsom, another candidate, said the new PM should be a Leave supporter – effectively ruling out Ms May.

She argued that it would be “very difficult” for someone who backed Remain to lead the Tory party – which only has a slim majority in Parliament four years out from a scheduled election.

The Conservative membership is highly Eurosceptic and even if Ms May has a huge lead among Tory MPs at the last hurdle it is possible they could back a eurosceptic candidate if one makes it to the final two.

Meanwhile former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has backed Ms Leadsom, arguing that she is “the right person to lead” Brexit negotiations.

“I believe that Andrea’s strong family background, business experience, compassion, commitment to social justice and dedication will make her a great prime minister for the UK,” he said.

The other candidates to replace David Cameron as party leader are Stephen Crabb, Michael Gove and Liam Fox.

The election was called after Mr Cameron stepped down, saying it was not right for him to lead Brexit negotiations after having strongly backed Remain.

If the contest runs its course it will be concluded by early September, before the party’s annual conference, which will be held in Birmingham.