Britain’s next prime minister will govern a country of 66 million, but the pool of citizens deciding who that individual will be is decidedly smaller: 165,000.
The reason for that is simple: When Theresa May resigned from office in May, citing her failure to get her Brexit deal through Parliament, she did so as the leader of Britain’s Conservative Party. As a result, the contest to replace her is about choosing the next leader of the Conservatives—a decision that ultimately falls to the party’s members. This “selectorate” represents less than 1 percent of the broader U.K. electorate of 46 million. Their decision, however, will affect the entire population: As the leader of the ruling party, the winner will automatically succeed May as prime minister.
So who are these voters? On paper, they are the dues-paying members of the Conservative Party. A closer look reveals a group that is whiter, older, more male, and wealthier than the rest of the country. Yet perhaps the biggest way in which they differ from their compatriots is over the one issue that matters these days: Brexit. Tory members are committed to seeing Brexit delivered by the end of October, whether or not Britain has a deal with the European Union managing its withdrawal. And unlike the rest of the country, most of them are willing to see that happen at virtually any cost. The majority of the British public view a no-deal scenario—where the country would leave the bloc without any agreement on a litany of core issues such as tariffs, border management, pharmaceutical regulation, and the like—and the adverse impact it would have on the country’s economy as a bad outcome.