Contenders jockeying to replace British PM

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An arrangement of UK daily newspapers photographed as an illustration in London on Saturday shows front page headlines reporting on the resignation speech of Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May. Beleaguered British Prime Minister Theresa May announced on Friday that she will resign on June 7 following a Conservative Party mutiny over her remaining in power. All the UK papers carried the story on their front pages with headlines like the Guardian's "Broken by Brexit", the Daily Mail's "A Crying Shame" and the Times' "It all ends in tears". — AFP

LONDON — 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 likely to be in contention.

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.

An endorsement from influential pro-Brexit backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg has boosted his chances, but the 54-year-old has also earned plenty of enemies within the party for his behavior.

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. Softly spoken and measured, he is calm under fire and has gradually seen his power and influence in cabinet rise.

Dominic Raab

An ardent euroskeptic 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.

Just before his departure, he was widely mocked for saying that he "hadn't quite understood" how reliant UK trade in goods is on the Dover-Calais crossing between Britain and France.

Michael Gove

Brexit campaigner Gove initially supported Johnson's leadership bid in 2016 but at the last minute announced his own intention to run, causing 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, Gove developed a reputation for seeing through radical new policies.

The cerebral 51-year-old was among the most ardent euroskeptics left in May's government.

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 criticized in liberal circles for stripping a teenage mother who ran away to join the Daesh (the so-called IS) 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 skillful 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.

As health minister, he was busy making preparations for the possibility of Britain crashing out of the bloc without an agreement, stocking up on medicine and planning emergency supply routes from Europe. — AFP


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