Theresa May has fired the starting gun on who will replace her as leader of the Tory party and become the new Prime Minister.
This afternoon Mrs May sensationally announced she would quit if parliament approves her Brexit deal, paving the way for a new leader to take over in the summer.
The Conservative party desperately needs a uniting force to heal wounds within an increasingly fractured party and to take them forward into what are likely to be tricky trade negotiations with the EU this summer (if Mrs May’s deal passes that is).
A new leader will also have to cope with the pressure of trying to deliver a successful Brexit and see off a resurgent Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn.
The betting favourite to take over the mantle at the moment is ardent Brexit campaigner Michael Gove, closely followed by Boris Johnson.
The betting favourite to take over the mantle at the moment is ardent Brexiteer Michael Gove (pictured right), with Boris Johnson (pictured left) a close second
Mr Gove was one of the highest profile Brexit campaigners during the 2016 referendum – and previously ran for leader to replace David Cameron.
Mr Gove initially supported Johnson’s leadership bid in 2016 but at the last minute announced his own intention to run, causing both men to lose out to May.
‘Whatever charisma is, I don’t have it,’ he admitted in the race in which he came third.
After a year in the political wilderness, he was appointed environment minister in June 2017 and has stayed in the headlines with a series of eco-friendly policy announcements.
Equally active in his previous justice and education briefs, he is a minister who likes to see through radical new policies.
He has also been a surprise ally to Mrs May and back her Brexit strategy.
Mr Gove denied being part of the supposed coup at the weekend seeking to install him as Prime Minister, and as one of the Tory’s sharpest minds, might fancy his chances at a leadership push.
Following a series of resignations, the cerebral 51-year-old is now undeniably the leading eurosceptic in government and now the betting favourite.
Dominic Raab (pictured left) and foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt (pictured right) are also strong betting favourites
Following closely behind and a probably the most well-known politician with the general public apart from the Prime Minister is Boris Johnson or better known as ‘Bojo’.
Current betting favourites
1. Michael Gove
2. Boris Johnson
3. Jeremy Hunt
4. Dominic Raab
5. Sajid Javid
6. David Lidington
7. Andrea Leadsom
8. Amber Rudd
A former mayor of London, Mr Johnson was a key figure in the 2016 Brexit campaign but failed in his bid to become prime minister in the aftermath as ally Michael Gove withdrew his support at the last minute.
May appointed Johnson as foreign minister but he quickly drew attention for all the wrong reasons, including a series of diplomatic gaffes.
He became increasingly uncomfortable with the government’s Brexit strategy before resigning in July.
Charismatic and popular with grassroots Conservatives, the 54-year-old has also earned plenty of enemies within the party for his behaviour.
He separated from his second wife in September and has a new girlfriend. He has recently lost weight and trimmed back his trademark mop of blond hair.
Sajid Javid (pictured left) and Andrea Leadsom (pictured right) are also possible future leaders
Another strong betting favourite is the current foreign minister Jeremy Hunt.
He supported remaining in the EU but has been highly critical of what he calls the ‘arrogant’ approach taken by Brussels.
A former businessman who speaks fluent Japanese, the 52-year-old is a resilient politician, having headed up the National Health Service for six years during a funding crisis.
He replaced Johnson as Britain’s chief diplomat. Softly spoken and measured, Hunt is calm under fire and has gradually seen his power and influence in cabinet rise.
Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab is another name that has been mentioned and is another Brexiteer.
He has previously criticised the EU’s behaviour during the tense negotiations and has leadership ambitions.
Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, and ardent Remainer, and Chief Secretary to the treasury Liz Truss might also fancy a run at the leadership
Former investment banker Sajid Javid has long thought to have held leadership ambitions.
A former investment banker and the son of a Pakistani immigrant bus driver, the 49-year-old Javid is the face of a modern, multi-cultural and meritocratic Britain.
On the economically liberal wing of the Conservative Party, Javid voted for Britain to stay in the EU in 2016.
Since being appointed interior minister in April 2018, he has earned respect for his handling of a scandal over the treatment of the children of Caribbean immigrants, known as the Windrush generation.
However, he was recently criticised in liberal circles for stripping a teenage mother who ran away to join the Islamic State group of her British nationality.
Amber Rudd, 55, the work and pensions secretary, is an ardent Remainer inside the cabinet.
May made Rudd her successor as interior minister but she was forced to resign over the Windrush scandal.
Rudd also has a slim majority in her constituency of Hastings and Rye, so members might not want to take the risk just in case she loses her seat at the next General election.
The fact she is such a well-known Remainer may also work against a party committed to Brexit.
Andrea Leadsom, 55, came second to May in the 2016 contest to replace David Cameron.
She is the leader of the House of Commons – responsible for bringing government business before the chamber – and is a staunch Brexiteer.
Lizz Truss is the current Chief Secretary to the Treasury and has a background as an economist and working for think-tank Reform, before becoming an MP in 2010.
She is a known Brexiteer and passionate advocate for the free-market and has previously argued for abolishing taxes that would prevent Britain’s post-Brexit economic success.
Needless to say, she would be an unlikely candidate to take over the party.
Other possible runners and riders include international development minister Penny Mordaunt, former Brexit secretary David Davis, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox and finance minister Philip Hammond.