Contenders jockeying to replace British PM

London (AFP) –


The race to replace Theresa May as British prime minister opened Saturday with more contenders joining a crowded field vying for the top political job.

Here is a look at some of the top names.

- Boris Johnson -

A former mayor of London, "Boris" or "BoJo", said Friday he would get Britain out of the European Union "deal or no deal".

A key figure in the 2016 Brexit campaign, he failed in a bid for the top job in its aftermath as ally Michael Gove withdrew his support at the last minute.

May appointed Johnson as foreign minister but he quickly drew attention for 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, he has maintained his public profile by writing a weekly column in The Daily Telegraph.

- Jeremy Hunt -

The foreign minister supported remaining in the European Union in the 2016 referendum but has been highly critical of what he calls the "arrogant" approach since taken by Brussels.

A former businessman who speaks fluent Japanese, he is a resilient politician, having headed up the National Health Service for six years during a funding crisis.

The 52-year-old replaced Johnson as Britain's chief diplomat last year.

Defending his eurosceptic credentials in an interview trumpeting his candidacy, Hunt told The Sunday Times that "what matters is whether you believe in Brexit, not how you voted in 2016".

- Dominic Raab -

An ardent eurosceptic with a black belt in karate, the 45-year-old has quickly climbed the ministerial ladder after only joining the government in 2015 under former prime minister David Cameron.

He backed Brexit and was named justice minister in the new cabinet after the 2016 referendum.

Raab later served as Brexit secretary from July to November 2018, when he stepped down in protest at the Brexit deal struck with the EU by May.

Announcing his candidacy in The Mail on Sunday, Raab wrote that Britain should be ready to walk away from the EU without an agreement while still trying to negotiate a better deal that the one May signed.

Britain must "calmly demonstrate unflinching resolve to leave when the extension to negotiations end in October -- at the latest", Raab wrote.

- Michael Gove -

Brexit campaigner Gove initially supported Johnson's leadership bid in 2016. His last-minute decision to enter the race himself caused 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, the cerebral 51-year-old was among the most ardent eurosceptics left in May's government.

Gove will reportedly announce his candidacy in a BBC interview that will air on Sunday evening.

The Sunday Times said Grove will argue that he has "a better track record" and is more "capable" than the other leading contenders for May's post.

- Sajid Javid -

A former investment banker and the son of a Pakistani immigrant bus driver, the 49-year-old Javid is the face of a modern, multicultural 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.

- Andrea Leadsom -

Former leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom, who lost out to May in the 2016 contest to replace Cameron, stole a march on her rivals by quitting her cabinet position on Wednesday, hastening the prime minister's demise and staking out her pro-Brexit credentials.

She got down to the final two in the 2016 race, but pulled out before the decision was handed over to party members, with whom she was popular, after coming under fire for saying that being a mother would give her an advantage as prime minister over childless May.

- Matt Hancock -

The 40-year-old health secretary is one the party's rising stars, a moderate who is widely seen as competent at his job and skilful at handling the media.

He is one of several ministers who opposed Brexit during the 2016 referendum before switching sides and defending the withdrawal agreement May struck with the EU.