Theresa May walks out of 10 Downing Street to announce her resignation on May 24.Leon Neal / Getty

Updated on June 20

Theresa May’s decision to stand down as the leader of Britain’s Conservative Party—and, consequently, as prime minister—has sparked a leadership battle months in the making. There were 10 candidates in the race on June 10, when the race formally began, who sought the support of 313 Conservative members of Parliament. That pool has since been narrowed to the final two candidates—Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt—who will now face each other in a runoff decided via postal ballot by the party’s estimated 160,000 dues-paying members.

One of them will carry the burden of steering Britain through its seemingly intractable impasse over how, or even if, the country should leave the European Union. He will have until October 31, the next Brexit deadline, to find a solution that has eluded the country since it voted in 2016 to leave the bloc. The next prime minister will undoubtedly face the same parliamentary deadlock and division as did May, who will stay on as prime minister until a winner is declared, possibly by late July.

This cheat sheet will be updated as the Tory leadership contest progresses. Here are the candidates:

BORIS JOHNSON

Darren Staples / Reuters

Who is he?

Britain’s gaffe-prone foreign secretary until his resignation last year in protest of May’s Brexit deal. Before that, he was the mayor of London. He also is favored to win the race. In the fifth round of voting, he secured 162 votes, the highest of any candidate.

Why does he want to run?

He’s ambitious. The 55-year-old, who is said to have aspired to be “world king” as a child, was expected to seek the position in 2016. (May eventually won that race.) But he bowed out when Michael Gove, one of his key allies and Britain’s environmental secretary, withdrew support so that he could launch his own—ultimately unsuccessful—leadership bid instead. Now Johnson fancies himself the party’s best hope to deliver Brexit by the end of October—with or without a deal with the EU. He called the Conservative Party’s crushing defeat in the European Parliament elections a “final warning” to deliver on Brexit or face being “fired” from running the country.

Who supports him?

Despite receiving 162 votes—more than half of Conservative MPs—not everyone is ready for Boris. Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve pledged to leave the party if Johnson becomes leader, citing, among other reasons, the former foreign secretary’s “embarrassing” comments comparing Muslim women who wear full-face veils to “letter boxes” and “bank robbers.”

How did he vote in the 2016 referendum?

Leave: He was one of the most prominent figureheads of the campaign. But he also faces allegations of misconduct over claims he made during the referendum that Britain sends £350 million ($470 million) to Brussels as a member of the EU each week (this figure has since been debunked).

What else do we know?

President Donald Trump considers Johnson, who was born in New York City, “a friend of mine.

JEREMY HUNT

Baz Ratner / reuters

Who is he?

Britain’s foreign secretary. Before that, he served as health secretary and culture secretary.

Why does he want to run?

Hunt is a “born-again Brexiteer.” But unlike his rivals in the race, the 52-year-old hasn’t gone as far as to advocate leaving the bloc without a deal. Such an outcome, he argued, would be “political suicide” that could spell the end of the Conservative Party. Still, he thinks the option should remain on the table.

Who supports him?

Those who support Hunt’s Brexit stance and his business background. Others have withdrawn their support over his “political suicide” comments. He received 77 votes in the fifth round of voting, putting him in a distant second behind Johnson.

How did he vote in the 2016 referendum?

Remain.

What else do we know?

He is fluent in Japanese.


Out of the Running:

KIT MALTHOUSE
Who is he?

The minister of state for housing.

Why did he want to run?

Because he is, in his words, a “new face with fresh new ideas.” In his bid to end the Brexit paralysis, the 52-year-old, who is a rising star of the party, said he would revive his eponymous Malthouse compromise—a plan struck by Conservatives on both sides of the Brexit divide to extend the transition period to give Britain more time to prepare for a “managed no-deal” exit. The plan proved unworkable to Brussels and unpopular with British MPs, though Malthouse insisted that “with some adjustments, my plan still holds.”

How did he vote in the 2016 Brexit referendum?

Leave.

What else do we know?

Before becoming an MP, Malthouse was a London deputy mayor under Johnson.

JAMES CLEVERLY
Who is he?

The Brexit minister. Before that, he was the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party.

Why did he want to run?

To deliver Brexit “with some form of a deal,” according to an open letter to his constituents. The 49-year-old added that while a no-deal exit is not his preferred choice, “I am ready to lead through what may be difficult and unchartered waters.” He has also called on the EU to “recognize the need for flexibility.”

How did he vote in the 2016 Brexit referendum?

Leave.

What else do we know?

In a game of “snog, marry, avoid,” the British version of the famous American game, during a 2015 radio interview, Cleverly famously said he would snog May.

SAM GYIMAH
Who is he?

The former universities minister who quit his post in November in protest of May’s handling of Brexit.

Why did he want to run?

To hold a second Brexit referendum. The 42-year-old argued that he would “broaden the race” by being the only candidate (so far) to advocate for a public vote, which he said should give Britons the option to leave the EU with May’s deal, with no deal, or to not leave the bloc at all. If Harper is the underdog, Gyimah is, by his own admission, the “underdog’s underdog.”

How did he vote in the 2016 Brexit referendum?

Remain.

What else do we know?

He is often mistaken for being a Labour MP.

MARK HARPER
Who is he?

The former chief whip under David Cameron’s government. Before that, he served as immigration minister.

Why did he want to run?

To bring “fresh thinking” to the Brexit process—specifically, by forging a closer relationship with the Irish government and involving the wider Conservative Party in whatever deal is struck with Brussels. Unlike his competitors, the 49-year-old isn’t in a rush to finish Brexit, telling the Daily Telegraph that he wouldn’t rule out a delay until 2020. Though he identifies as the “underdog” in this contest, he believes that being the only candidate (thus far) to have not served in May’s government could work to his advantage.

How did he vote in the 2016 Brexit referendum?

Remain.

What else do we know?

He looks the part, apparently. A Twitter user recently joked that Harper, who has little face recognition outside Westminster, resembles “a stock image of a Tory MP.”

ANDREA LEADSOM
Who is she?

The former leader of the House of Commons and the 36th cabinet minister to resign over May’s Brexit deal. Before that, she served as environmental secretary.

Why did she want to run?

So she can implement her three-point plan to deliver Brexit (no details yet on what that entails).

Leadsom withdrew from the Tory leadership contest in 2016 and paved the way for May’s victory. This time, she said, she would be the “decisive and compassionate” leader who can reunite Britain. Like many of her competitors, the 56-year-old thinks that leaving the EU without a deal should be kept on the table.

How did she vote in the 2016 Brexit referendum?

Leave: Leadsom was one of the most visible Brexit advocates during the referendum campaign.

What else do we know?

In 2016, after his own withdrawal, Johnson backed Leadsom in the leadership race.

ESTHER MCVEY
Who is she?

The former work-and-pensions secretary who also resigned over May’s Brexit deal.

Why did she want to run?

To deliver a no-deal Brexit—unlike virtually every other candidate. Beyond Brexit, the 51-year-old has called for a multibillion-pound cut to Britain’s international-aid budget in favor of focusing on domestic priorities such as policing and education.

Since dropping out of the race, she has backed Johnson to become prime minister.

How did she vote in the 2016 Brexit referendum?

Leave.

What else do we know?

Before she was an MP, she was a TV presenter.

MATT HANCOCK
Who is he?

Britain’s health secretary. Before that, he served as culture secretary.

Why did he want to run?

He says he’s a moderate, pro-business candidate who would rebuild the government’s relations with corporate Britain and avoid a no-deal departure from the EU. In a not-so-subtle dig at Johnson, Hancock told the Financial Times that “to the people who say fuck business, I say fuck fuck business.” Now, he’s backing Johnson.

Who supports him?

He received 20 votes in the first round of voting.

How did he vote in the 2016 Brexit referendum?

Remain.

What else do we know?

He has his own smartphone app. Oh, and he loves stroopwafels.

DOMINIC RAAB
Who is he?

The former Brexit secretary (and the second to resign from his post in protest of May’s Brexit deal).

Why did he want to run?

Raab considered himself the “optimism and change” candidate, who would fight for a “fairer” Britain. On Brexit, he pledged to go back to Brussels and renegotiate May’s Brexit deal (an option the EU has repeatedly rejected). Barring that, the 45-year-old said he would take Britain out of the EU without a deal at the end of October—an outcome few Conservative MPs would support, but one Raab said would be “very difficult” to stop.

Who supports him?

Raab dropped out of the contest after receiving 30 votes in the second round of voting. He is now backing Johnson.

How did he vote in the 2016 Brexit referendum?

Leave.

What else do we know?

His favorite lunch: a chicken-Caesar-and-bacon baguette, a superfruit pot, and a vitamin-volcano smoothie.

RORY STEWART
Who is he?

Britain’s international-development secretary.

Why did he want to run?

To unite the country around a compromise Brexit agreement. His solution: to set up a 500-member citizens’ assembly that would have the task of reaching a consensus. If elected, the 46-year-old army veteran, who previously served as a deputy governor in Iraq during the 2003 invasion, pledged to double Britain’s foreign spending to focus on climate change.

Who supports him?

Stewart emerged as an unexpected force in the leadership contest, receiving 37 votes in the second round of voting. That support fell to 27 in the third round of voting, forcing him to drop out of the race. His supporters included Winston Churchill’s grandson Nicholas Soames.

How did he vote in the 2016 Brexit referendum?

Remain.

What else do we know?

He can speak Dari, which he learned while spending three years trekking 6,000 miles across Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran.

SAJID JAVID
Who is he?

Britain’s home secretary. Before that, he served as local-government secretary, business secretary, and culture secretary.

Why did he want to run?

To “first and foremost” deliver Brexit—though Javid backed Remain in the 2016 vote. The home secretary, who made the contentious decision to strip citizenship from British nationals who went to join the Islamic State, also called for strengthening the country’s police force by hiring an additional 20,000 officers.

Who supports him?

He dropped out of the race after receiving 34 votes—the lowest score—in the fourth round of voting.

How did he vote in the 2016 Brexit referendum?

Remain.

What else do we know?

The former investment banker’s friends call him “The Saj.

MICHAEL GOVE
Who is he?

Britain’s environmental secretary. Before that, he served as justice secretary, chief whip, and education secretary.

Why did he want to run?

So he can, as he has put it, bring his fractured party, and the country, back together. Part of his pitch included delivering on the result of the 2016 referendum, in which approximately 52 percent of Britons voted to leave the EU, though the 51-year-old crucially hasn’t advocated leaving the bloc without a deal. He also pledged to grant free British citizenship to the 3 million EU nationals who need to apply for a new immigration status to continue living in the United Kingdom after Brexit.

Who supports him?

Dozens, including Alberto Costa, a leading champion of EU citizens’ rights. He received the least support—75 votes—in the fifth round of voting, forcing him to drop out of the contest.

How did he vote in the 2016 Brexit referendum?

Leave: He was one of the first politicians to publicly back Brexit. At the time, he called it “the most difficult decision of my political life.”

What else do we know?

It took the former journalist seven tries to pass his driving test, according to his partner and the Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine. She also revealed that he has a fondness for corduroy, a passion for opera, and an “entirely irrational dislike of houseplants.”

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