Theresa May will tomorrow clear the way for Britain to have a new prime minister by the summer.
Allies said that – barring a last-minute change of heart – she will announce plans tomorrow morning to step aside as Conservative Party leader next month.
Mrs May will begin the day with a meeting with the Tories’ backbench shop steward Sir Graham Brady to discuss the exact timetable for her departure. She is then expected to address the nation from Downing Street to explain why she is leaving ‘the job I love’ before she has realised her ambition of leading Britain out of the European Union.
Mrs May is expected to try to delay the start of the Tory leadership race until the week beginning June 10, to allow her to host Donald Trump’s state visit without the indignity of her MPs voting on her successor at the same time.
But she will stay on as Prime Minister while the Tory leadership contest takes place, allowing a smooth transition to a new leader before the summer recess.
Allies said she was due to discuss the final details of her departure with her husband Philip last night, before publicly making making her intentions clear tomorrow.
Prime Minster Theresa May and her husband Philip cast their vote at a polling station during the European elections in her Maidenhead constituency on Thursday. Allies said that – barring a last-minute change of heart – she will announce plans this morning to step aside as Conservative Party leader next month
Boris Johnson leaves his London home on the day of the European Elections. The former foreign secretary, 54, who quit last July, is the favourite to be
This morning’s dramatic move, which plunges the future of Brexit into further doubt, comes as:
- An exclusive Mail poll showed that Boris Johnson has raced into a big early lead in the battle to succeed Mrs May, and that Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party was on course for a landslide victory in yesterday’s European Parliament elections;
- Mr Farage warned MPs that his fledgling party was ready to fight ‘a general election that would cost them all their jobs’ if they failed to deliver on the 2016 EU referendum result;
- Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who rejected Mrs May’s compromise offer on Brexit, told supporters to ‘get ready for a general election’;
- Former defence secretary Gavin Williamson and rising Tory star Johnny Mercer both announced they would be backing Mr Johnson’s campaign for the Tory crown;
- Mrs May spent the afternoon campaigning in her Maidenhead constituency for the European elections she never wanted to take place;
- Downing Street dismissed reports that the political turbulence could lead to the cancellation of Mr Trump’s visit.
Mrs May’s decision to announce her plans to step aside came after senior Cabinet ministers warned her they were on the brink of withdrawing their support over her decision to open the door to a second Brexit referendum in a last-ditch bid to get her deal approved by MPs.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told Mrs May to abandon plans to put her Withdrawal Agreement Bill to a vote by MPs next month.
Jeremy Hunt arrives for a Cabinet meeting in Downing Street, on Tuesday. He is one of the favourites to be Conservative leader
Mr Hunt, one of more than a dozen Tory MPs hoping to succeed her, said it was not fair to ask loyal MPs to vote for a toxic compromise that had no chance of succeeding. Home Secretary Sajid Javid, another potential leadership candidate, warned her he could not back the legislation unless she dropped the option of a second referendum.
Their interventions followed the resignation of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom, who quit on Wednesday night in protest at the scale of the concessions to Labour.
Sir Graham will arrive for today’s meeting armed with the results of a secret ballot of senior Tories which is thought to authorise him to call an immediate vote of no confidence in her leadership if she refuses to go. Mrs May told MPs on Wednesday that her ‘new deal’ Brexit – which was designed to win over Labour MPs – would be published today and voted on in the week beginning June 3.
But the move was dropped after Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay, who would have to oversee the legislation, said he could not support it in its current form.
One of Mrs May’s closest Cabinet allies said he expected her to name a date for her departure today, but added: ‘No-one knows her mind for certain. She will talk to Philip (her husband) tonight before making a final decision.
‘It’s a very personal decision – in many ways, it’s a very lonely decision.
‘But I think she will be taking a message to Sir Graham that she is ready to go.’
Dominic Raab campaigning in Peterborough ahead of the European elections. Mr Raab has been critical of Theresa May over Brexit and is one of the favourites for the leadership
The Mail revealed yesterday that Mrs May had accepted her time was up and was ready to announce plans for a ‘dignified’ departure.
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said if Mrs May refused to heed the message from her MPs and Cabinet it was up to her husband to tell her that her time was up.
He told Talk Radio: ‘The person closest to her is clearly her husband, and I think somebody has to say look, nobody likes this… Politics is a nasty, sometimes brutal, ghastly business.
‘But the reality is that she has no confidence any longer, not just in her party but in the Cabinet as well. So the best thing for her and the best thing for everybody else is to break away and say it’s time to find a new leader.’
Allies of Mrs May last night dismissed suggestions that she had been forced out by the line of ministers beating a path to her door.
One said: ‘It is funny – and slightly pathetic – to see Sajid and Jeremy suddenly saying the deal is unacceptable after sitting through the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday that approved it. Leadsom stole a march on them – they are scrabbling to catch up.’
Tories braced for a summer leadership campaign: who are the frontrunners to replace Theresa May?
A huge field of candidates is expected to run to replace Theresa May.
While as many as 25 could run they will swiftly be whittled down into a workable number as MPs show their allegiances and plot to get their chosen man or woman into Downing Street.
Here we look at the main runners and riders, with their odds with Ladbrokes and how they voted in the 2016 referendum:
Boris Johnson: The long-running thorn in May’s side who has recently had a ‘prime ministerial’ makeover
- Former foreign secretary and mayor of London
- Voted leave and has become an increasingly hardline Brexiteer
- As likely to make headlines over his private life
- Has recently lost a lot of weight and smartened up his appearance
- Leadership odds 6/4
The former foreign secretary, 54, who quit last July and has been tacitly campaigning for the leadership ever since. He finally went public last week to confirm he would run.
Never far from the limelight the father-of-four recently split from his wife Marina and is in a relationship with former Conservative staffer Carrie Symonds, 20 years his junior.
As an increasingly hawkish Brexiteer who says we should not be afraid of leaving without a deal he is hugely popular with the party faithful.
At the start of the year he underwent what might be deemed a ‘prime ministerial’ makeover, losing weight and taming his unruly mop of blonde hair.
Popular with the rank-and-file membership he has less fans in the parliamentary party and may face a concerted campaign to block his succession. Received the surprise backing of Johnny Mercer last night.
Dominic Raab: Brexiteer who quit rather than back Mrs May’s deal
Dominic Raab has become a cheerleader for a hard Brexit since stepping down as Brexit secretary in November
- Shortlived Brexit secretary last year, replacing David Davis in the hot seat
- But walked in November over terms agreed by PM
- Voted for Brexit in 2016
- Leadership odds 4/1
Mr Raab, 45, is another Vote Leave member who became Brexit secretary after David Davis quit alongside Mr Johnson last July over the Chequers plan.
But he lasted just a matter of months before he too jumped ship, saying he could not accept the terms of the deal done by the Prime Minister.
Like Mr Johnson and Mr Davis he has become an increasingly hardline Brexiteer, sharing a platform with the DUP’s Arlene Foster and suggesting we should not be afraid of a no-deal Brexit.
The Esher and Walton MP’s decision to quit in November, boosted his popularity with party members but he lacks the wider popular appeal of Mr Johnson.
And like Mr Johnson he might benefit from having quit the Cabinet at an earlier stage and dissociating himself with the dying days of the May administration.
His odds have shortened as he is seen as possibly a more palatable alternative Brexiteer to Boris by MPs seeking to block Mr Johnson’s run.
He recently posed for a glossy photoshoot with wife Erika at their Surrey home, seen as a sign he will run.
Andrea Leadsom: May’s former rival who finally decided she could take no more
Ms Leadsom (pictured today) quit the cabinet yesterday. She is a Brexiteer who frequently clashed with Speaker John Bercow
- The Commons’ Leader challenged May in 2016
- Voted for Brexit
- Hosted Brexiteer ‘pizza party’ plot last year
- Increasingly outspoken Brexiteer
- Leadership odds 16/1
The former Commons’ Leader piled pressure on the Prime Minister by announcing her own resignation from the Cabinet last night.
In a parting blast, the Commons Leader said she could not stomach the latest version of Mrs May’s Brexit deal, with its offer of a second referendum.
It was the final act by an MP whose departure had seemingly been on the cards for months.
Mrs Leadsom, a mother of three, stood against Mrs May for the party leadership in 2016 before conceding defeat before it was put to a vote of MPs.
As collective responsibility largely broke down among ministers she became an increasingly vocal and clear Brexiteer voice in the Cabinet along line similar lines to Mr Johnson and Mr Raab.
She was the host of a Brexiteer ‘pizza party’ in Parliament that included Michael Gove and Liz Truss as the vying wings of the Cabinet plotted to shape the Brexit deal they wanted.
In her role as Commons’ Leader she frequently clashes with Speaker John Bercow over issues including bullying in Parliament.
It is something that will do her no harm among the Tory backbenches where he is widely loathed.
Jeremy Hunt: Remainer turned Brexiteer unity candidate who wants to heal the party
Jeremy Hunt, a born-again Brexiteer after supporting Remain, toured Africa last month with wife Lucia
- The Foreign Secretary voted Remain
- But has become an increasingly vocal Brexiteer
- Former health secretary backs May’s deal
- Has approached ministers about running as a unity candidate
- Leadership odds 10/1
The Foreign Secretary who has undergone a Damascene conversion to the Brexit cause and is seen as a safe if uninspiring pair of hands.
The 52-year-old South West Surrey MP has reportedly been selling himself to colleagues as a unity candidate who can bring together the fractious Tory factions into something approaching a cohesive party.
A long-serving health secretary, the father-of three replaced Mr Johnson as the UK’s top diplomat and has won some plaudits over issues like the imprisonment of British mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in Iran.
But critics point to tub-thumpingly comparing the EU to the USSR at the party conference last year – which was very badly received in Brussels – and a gaffe in which he referred to his Chinese wife as ‘Japanese’ as a reception in China.
Last month he went on a tour of Africa in which his Chinese wife Lucia made a major appearance, after he gaffed by forgetting her nationality.
Last week he called for a ‘decisive’ hike in defence spending to see off the rising threat from Russia and China – in a speech seen as a clear signal of his leadership ambitions.
Speaking at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet Mansion House in the City of London, he said the UK’s hard power must be strengthened, with billions more spent on new capabilities to tackle drones and cyber attacks.
Michael Gove: The boomerang cabinet minister with a Machiavellian reputation
Michael Gove has made a remarkable political comeback after being sacked by Theresa May in 2016
- Leading Vote Leave figure in 2016 who now backs PM’s Brexit deal
- Former journalist, 51, who stood for leadership in 2016
- Was sacked as education minister by Theresa May
- Later returned as Environment Minister
- Leadship odds 12/1
A Brexiteer with a Machiavellian reputation after the 2016 leadership campaign in which he first supported Boris Johnson for the leadership and then stood against him, to their mutual disadvantage.
The former education secretary – sacked by Mrs May – was rehabilitated to become a right-on environment secretary – complete with reusable coffee cups and a strong line on food standards after Brexit.
Despite being a former lead figure in the Vote Leave campaign alongside Mr Johnson the former journalist and MP for Surrey Heath has swung behind Mrs May’s Brexit deal – which might count against him.
But while he noisily supports the deal – he views the alternatives as worse – the father-of-two – married to Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine – is quieter when it comes to supporting the Prime Minister and practically mute when it comes to her future.
Seen as one of the Cabinet’s strongest political thinkers and having stood once it is unthinkable that he would not stand again.
But like many others he has yet to publicly declare his candidacy.
If he did it would again pitch him pitched against Mr Johnson in a battle for Brexiteer votes.
Penny Mordaunt: The highly regarded Brexiteer promoted to take on defence
Ms Mordaunt is an outsider for the leadership but is highly thought of in Brexiteer groups
- The MP for Portsmouth North is a Royal Navy reservist
- Highly regarded in Brexiteer circles
- She has been consistently tipped to quit over Brexit but remains in the Cabinet
- Once appeared in a swimsuit in a reality TV show
- Leadership odds 20/1
The new Defence Secretary – the first woman ever to hold the post – is highly regarded in Brexiteer circles.
The Royal Navy reservist, 46, carved out a niche at International Development with some eye-catching suggests about changing how the UK spends disperses aid cash.
She has become an increasingly serious politician after initially being seen as lighthearted when she appeared in a swimsuit in ITV reality TV show Splash!
She was promoted earlier this month to replace Gavin Williamson when he was sacked for leaking details from a confidential meeting about Huawei.
Over the preceding few months she was at the heart of persistent rumours that she would be the next Brexit-supporting minister out the door over Brexit.
She has yet to announce she is running but last month she backed a thinktank report saying the party needed to attract new voters.
She said the party needed to ‘act swiftly’ to win over the younger generations who were turning away from the centre-Right in ‘unprecedented’ numbers.
Yesterday, after other Cabinet Brexiteers including Andrea Leadsom were notable by their absence during Prime Minister’s Questions, she remained at her post. It remains to be seen whether this loyalty will count for or against her.
Sajid Javid: Remainer star who has run into trouble over knife crime and refugees
Sajid Javid has seen his stock take a hit over the knife crime crisis and migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats
- The most senior cabinet contender
- Voted Remain but wants to see Brexit delivered
- Faced criticism as Home Secretary
- But has taken a hard line on Shamima Begum case
- Leadership odds 20/1
The Home Secretary, a Remainer who wants to see Brexit delivered, was the leading candidate from inside the Cabinet to replace Mrs May.
After replacing Amber Rudd last year he consciously put clear ground between himself and the Prime Minister on issues like caps on skilled migrants after Brexit.
But his credentials have taken a hit recently. He finds himself facing ongoing criticism of his handling of the knife crime crisis affecting UK cities, which sparked a Cabinet row over funding for police.
He also lost face over his handling of the influx of migrants crossing the English Channel in January, being seen to move slowly in realising the scale of the problem.
But more recently the 49-year-old Bromsgove MP has made a serious of hardline decision designed to go down well with Tory voters.
Most notably they have included moving to deprive London teenager turned Jihadi bride Shamima Begum, 19, of her British citizenship, after she was discovered among former Islamic State members in a Syrian refugee camp.
Matt Hancock: Waffle-loving health secretary who wants Tories to choose a younger leader
Mr Hancock took stroopwafels in for Cabinet the day after he was pulled up for eating them on television
- The youngest front-runner at 40
- A Remainer who now backs Theresa May’s Brexit deal
- He wants the party to look to the future and attract younger voters
- Leadership odds 25/1
The Health Secretary is, like his predecessor Jeremy Hunt, seen as something of a unity candidate.
The 40-year-old father of three is seen as a safe pair of hands despite a few teething problems in his latest Cabinet role.
Last year he was accused of breaking ethics rules after he praised a private health firm app in a newspaper article sponsored by its maker.
But he has since make some hard-hitting interventions in ares like the impact of social media on health.
Last month he joined Ms Mordaunt in backing the Generation Why? report showing that the Tories needed to become more relevant to younger voters.
He called on the party to change its ‘tone’ towards modern Britain or face Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister, in a speech widely seen as setting out his leadership credentials.
This week he showed his human side by unashamedly chomping calorific stroopwafels before a TV broadcast, saying he people should enjoy things in moderation.
Rory Stewart: Remainer rising star and friend of royals who is not short of confidence
The father of two is married to Shoshana, whom he first met when they worked together in Iraq and she was already married
- Penrith MP, 46, is a former tutor to the Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex
- Old Etonian ex-soldier worked for Foreign Office in Iraq and set up a charity for the Prince of Wale sin Afghanistan
- Voted for Remain and still backs a soft Brexit
- Leadership odds 25/1
The former prisons minister who once vowed to quit if they did not improve within a year declared his candidacy almost as soon as he was promoted to the Cabinet.
He stepped up to International Development Secretary earlier this month to replace Ms Mordaunt and days later declared he will run for the Tory leadership.
The Theresa May loyalist praised the PM for her ‘courageous effort’ to pass her Brexit deal but admitted he would throw his hat in the ring when she steps down.
Urging his party not to ‘try to outdo Nigel Farage’, the development secretary said the Tories should ‘stretch all the way from Ken Clarke to Jacob Rees-Mogg’.
The Old Etonian former tutor to the Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex previously worked for the Foreign Office in Iraq and set up a charity for the Prince of Wales in Afghanistan.
He has also written several books about walking.
The father of two is married to Shoshana, whom he first met when they worked together in Iraq and she was already married.
Seen as highly intelligent his staunch Remainer and soft Brexit credentials look likely to count against him in a race set to be dominated by the Brexiteer wing of the party.
Esther McVey: Former TV presenter and minister who quit Government over Brexit
The former television journalist, is engaged to fellow Tory backbench Brexiteer Philip Davies, 47
- The 51-year-old was Work and Pensions Secretary until quitting in November
- She was a presenter on GMTV before entering politics
- Is engaged to fellow Tory MP Philip Davies
- This week launched a ‘blue collar Conservatism’ project
- Leadership odds 50/1
The former Work and Pensions Secretary declared her leadership bid last month and has set out a stall as a right-wing blue-collar candidate from a working class Liverpudlian background.
The former television journalist, is engaged to fellow Tory backbench Brexiteer Philip Davies, 47, having previously had a romance with ex-minister Ed Vaizey. She has no children.
This week she set out her leadership pitch by calling for the party to use £7billion of foreign aid cash on buckling British police forces and schools.
Launching a ‘blue collar conservatism’ campaign the Brexiteer MP, 51, said her party had ‘lost the trust’ of working people by failing to leave the EU already and must pursue ‘radical conservative agendas’ to win it back’.
She said that keeping cash in the UK that is currently sent abroad would allow an increase of £4billion in spending on schools and £3billion for police, which are both demanding more money.
Speaking in Westminster she reiterated her call for the next party leader to be ‘someone who believes in Brexit’ – a dig at Mrs May, who supported the Remain campaign in 2016.
So what will happen if Theresa goes? May would limp on as ‘zombie Prime Minister’ while Tories choose new leader
Theresa May appears to have potentially just hours left as Conservative leader as her authority and Government crumbles around her amid a mass mutiny.
After the Prime Minister was rocked by the departure of Commons’ Leader Andrea Leadsom on Wednesday night she pulled out of a plan to hold a vote on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in the first week of June.
In little more than 24 hours the besieged leader is due to hold a showdown with backbench kingmaker Sir Graham Brady in which she is expected to announce her resignation.
The mutiny on the green benches has been growing like a volcano over recent weeks but the Prime Minister has so far resisted all efforts to pry her immediately from the leadership.
However after postponing the WAB vote to see off an immediate rebellion by her Cabinet, she appears to be almost out of options.
That would pave the way for a summer leadership battle between a wide field of ambitious MPs currently led by Boris Johnson – with the victor having to cobble together Brexit before the October 31 deadline.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TOMORROW?
The Prime Minister will hold the latest – and possibly the last – in a series of meeting with Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee, whose membership is made up of all backbench Tory MPs.
If she has not already resigned, she is expected to be presented with a simple choice by the Altrincham and Sale West MP – resign or be removed.
Mrs May has clung on thus far but even she seems to finally have become politically hamstrung.
The executive of the 1922 Committee held a vote last night on whether to alter party rules to allow a no-confidence vote to be held in her leadership immediately.
Mrs May, pictured leaving Parliament today, is believed to have only days left as leader of the Conservatives
HOW CAN THEY REMOVE HER?
Wednesday night’s vote was a bizarre form of blackmail aimed squarely at the Prime Minister besieged in Number 10.
She faced a party no-confidence vote in December, winning against the odds by 83 votes. Under current party rules designed to maintain stability she cannot face another such vote until December this year.
But such is the scale of the mutiny that MPs including influential 1922 lieutenants like Nigel Evans have pushed for the rules to be relaxed. Otherwise May could remain at the helm of a zombie government for months.
The ballot papers have not been counted but instead placed in an envelope. If Theresa May has not resigned by tomorrow – or does not say she is resigning at the meeting with Sir Graham, it will be opened.
The implicit threat to Mrs May is: fall on your sword or we shall wield it for you.
The 1922 executive has been resisting calls to alter the rules for fear of setting a destabilising precedent but the wave of anger seems likely to mean it is a credible threat.
IS THERE ANY OTHER WAY TO REMOVE HER?
Even at this late stage there is no other easy way for the mutineers to make her walk the plank at a time not of her own choosing.
But they have some options:
- The Cabinet can walk out en masse: A large-scale resignation by the Prime minister’s senior ministers – or the threat of one – would leave her facing being unable to run the Government. While she could in theory attempt to replace them and carry on, if other Tories refuse to step up, she would be left with little choice but to resign.
- She can voluntarily resign: This is the ‘men in grey suits’ option. If the Prime Minister runs out of options or is told enough times by enough influential figures in the Tory party that she cannot continue she may choose to quit voluntarily. But she has so far been impervious to those clarion calls coming at her from all sides.
HOW WOULD A NO CONFIDENCE VOTE WORK?
Calling votes of no confidence is the responsibility of Sir Graham. He Brady is obliged to call a vote if 15 per cent of Tory MPs write to him calling for one – currently 48 MPs.
The process is secret and only Sir Graham knows how many letters he has received.
Before December’s vote he revealed that he did not even tell his own wife how many letters he had received.
The amount of time it takes to hit the magic number can be slightly complicated by the fact that MPs are able to withdraw their letters after they send them in, meaning the umber can go down as well as up.
But that seems unlikely in the current climate within the party.
Once triggered, the ballot can be organised very quickly and is a simple yes or no question of whether she should remain leader. The vote and the result announcement can be held on the same day.
IF SHE GOES, WHEN WILL SHE GO?
Pressure is mounting on Theresa May to step down immediately. Her attempt to woo MPs with the WAB has instead poured petrol on the simmering fire burning among her own MPs.
There is also the small matter of the European Elections today, in which the Conservatives are expected to suffer a cataclysmic defeat, mainly at the hands of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.
The WAB appears to have been kicked into the long grass after the rebellion and in any case, a defeat would be the fourth time her deal with the EU has been rejected by MPs – and Brexit Secretary Steven Barclay has admitted the package would then be ‘dead’.
Which date she sets – if any – could spark yet another row if her opponents feel it is not swift enough.
If the situation was not fraught enough, the PM must also contend with the arrival of Donald Trump for a long-awaited and controversial three-day State Visit at the start of June. He has not been shy of voicing his disapproval for her Brexit deal, and is widely expected to throw some grenades into the debate.
He could be placed in the bizarre position of meeting Theresa May while she is Prime Minister but not leader of the Conservatives.
Up to now Theresa May and Number 10 have been insisting – publicly at least – that she wanted to get a Brexit deal done before stepping down.
That would set her up to leave perhaps in the autumn. But that now seems an almost impossible task as calls for her resignation become deafening.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO BREXIT?
Britain still has until October 31 to get Brexit sorted and leave under the current terms of the agreement with the EU.
But if Mrs May does step down her successor will face the same problem she does: MPs will not pass the current deal.
So they will be faced with a looming deadline and several choices to make:
- They can try to go back to Brussels to renegotiate – which the EU has so far flatly refused to do.
- They can try again to get the current deal or similar through Parliament – which appears almost impossible.
- They can swing the country behind a No Deal Brexit – which MPs would try to block but which is still the default if no plan is voted into law
- They can revoke Article 50 and stay in the EU – which would probably destroy the Conservative Party
- They can call a general election and hope that the current hung parliament is replaced with a majority that allows them to achieve one of the above outcomes.
HOW IS THE NEW LEADER CHOSEN?
If the leader is ousted, they typically remain as Prime Minister until a successor is appointed and ready to be confirmed by the Queen.
Any MP – apart from the ousted leader – is eligible to stand in the subsequent contest.
Conservative MPs hold a series of ballots to whittle the list of contenders down to two, with the lowest placed candidate dropping out in each round.
The final two candidates are then offered to the Tory membership at large for an election.
WHO IS THE NEW LEADER GOING TO BE?
The current frontrunners are Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab and Jeremy Hunt.
Mr Johnson is considered the front runner to take the top job, but historically such contests have thrown up surprises.
Other leading contenders include Sajid Javid, Andrea Leadsom, Michael Gove, Matt Hancock and Penny Mordaunt.
There is also the matter of a ‘stop Boris’ campaign among MPs to stop him taking over, which means it may be left to someone else to deal with Brexit.
HOW LONG WILL THE LEADERSHIP VOTE TAKE?
Party chiefs hope that the first stage can be completed within a few weeks. The run-off could then either be rushed through in July, or take place over the summer parliamentary recess.
But opinion is divided over how long the leadership battle could take.
Last year Wrekin MP Mark Pritchard suggested it could be done in just two weeks, suggesting that Mrs May’s replacement could be in place by July.
He suggested it would take ‘four days in the Commons and six days with the membership’ and ‘does not need to be an overly long process’.
Others believe it could take longer.
WHAT IS THE RUSH?
The Tories wants to have a new leader in place before the party conference at the end of September and the by-then looming October 31 Brexit deadline.
The Tory gathering in Manchester this autumn will be the natural time for a new leader to take the stage and try to unite the fractured party.
Assuming no way has been found to force a Withdrawal Agreement through Parliament by this point, they will need to spell out how they intend to approach the Brexit process.
Victory for a harder-line Brexiteer such as Mr Johnson could see the party vow to leave the EU in a matter of weeks, with or without a deal.
They will also need to consider whether such a policy can be pushed through the Commons with the current batch of MPs – or whether a bold move like a general election has become unavoidable.