The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Who will replace British Prime Minister Theresa May? Meet the seven contenders still in the race.

British Prime Minister Theresa May announced May 24 that she will resign as leader of the Conservative Party on June 7. (Video: Reuters)
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And then there were seven.

Boris Johnson on Thursday topped the first round of voting in the leadership contest to replace Theresa May, while three of the 10 contestants hoping to get their hands on the keys to 10 Downing Street were eliminated from the race.

It is still early days in the contest to become the next British prime minister, but judging by the results Thursday, Johnson is way ahead of the others, picking up 114 of the 313 votes cast.

May resigned as leader of the Conservative Party on June 7, but will stay on as prime minister until her successor is found. The winner of the contest is expected to be announced at the end of July.

At the start of the week, 10 leadership hopefuls threw their names into the ring. On Thursday, three of them — Andrea Leadsom, Esther McVey and Mark Harper — were eliminated after they failed to get the required 17 votes needed to go forward.

Theresa May to resign after Brexit failures

The leadership contest takes part in two phases. In the first phase, Conservative Party lawmakers stage votes, winnowing down the number of candidates until there are only two left. The broader membership of the Conservative Party -- including those not in Parliament -- then votes on the final two.

What happens next with Brexit now the Theresa May is resigning?

It seems highly likely Johnson will be one of those two. But Johnson is a colorful character, and there could be surprises along the way — with television debates, hustings and more votes to come. Meet the seven candidates still in the race and, from bookmaker William Hill, their odds of coming out on top.

Boris Johnson (1-5)

The flamboyant former foreign secretary and a leading Brexiteer is a clear front-runner. Johnson is that rare politician who has cross-party appeal. He served two terms as mayor of London — an impressive feat in a city that typically votes Labour. But his popularity began to slump after the 2016 referendum, especially in pro-E.U. cities such as London, and he has received mixed reviews for his time as foreign secretary.

Worries he might not muster support from fellow lawmakers in the first phase of the leadership struggle have faded. Even though he is not the pinup he once was, his star power remains hard to match.

Jeremy Hunt (6-1)

Hunt became foreign secretary after Johnson resigned over May’s handling of Brexit negotiations. Hunt also served as health secretary, a position he held for nearly six years. In the 2016 referendum, he voted for Britain to remain but has since said he has had a change of heart, citing the European Union’s “arrogance” in the Brexit negotiations. Hunt’s campaign got a boost this week when he received the backing of both a Brexiteer, Penny Mordaunt, and a pro-European Union lawmaker, Amber Rudd.

Michael Gove (16-1)

Gove, a prominent Brexiteer and one of the Conservative Party’s more cerebral figures, played a key role in the 2016 Vote Leave campaign. He has been loyal to May since returning to the cabinet, but his reputation took a hit after he was accused of betraying Johnson in the 2016 leadership contest. Gove has said he opposes a second referendum on Brexit, as it would be “undemocratic,” but he did not resign as environment secretary this week in response to May’s new deal. His campaign took a hit after he admitted to taking cocaine on “several occasions.”

Rory Stewart (20-1)

Thoughtful, quirky and proof that Britain really loves its eccentric characters, Britain’s international development secretary is arguably the most unusual candidate in the race. Stewart began his campaign touring the country, filming close-ups of himself and inviting people around for a chat. In the last few weeks, he has become something of a social media star. He made his official campaign speech in a crimson-colored circus tent, and what’s even more radical, on Brexit he is making a passionate case for compromise.

Sajid Javid (25-1)

Javid is the first ethnic minority politician to serve as Britain’s home secretary. A longtime Euroskeptic, he reluctantly backed “remain” in the 2016 referendum. Writing in the Mail on Sunday, he said he voted to remain in the bloc with a “heavy heart and no enthusiasm.” His parents moved to Britain from Pakistan. When Javid took over as home secretary last year, he promised to “do right” by the “Windrush generation” — people brought legally from Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean to help rebuild Britain after World War II. They could have been “me, my mum or my dad,” he said.

Dominic Raab (50-1)

A member of Parliament since 2010, Raab was selected by May to be Brexit secretary in July. However, he resigned on Nov. 15 in opposition to the draft withdrawal agreement that May’s government was advocating.

A fiercely anti-E.U. voice in Parliament, Raab hopes to appeal to conservatives by slashing income tax to the lowest basic rate in modern history. His comment he is “probably not” a feminist sparked a backlash online.

Matthew Hancock (100-1)

Britain’s health secretary has pitched himself as a fresh-face candidate who does not have the Brexit baggage some of the other contenders bring. At 40, Hancock is the youngest contestant in the race. At his leadership launch this week, he argued that the Conservative Party needed to appeal to the center ground. “If we just become the Brexit Party then we are finished,” he said, referring to Nigel Farage’s new party. He said Britain does not need a “leaver” or a “remainer” but a “leader for the future.”