It's on: Race to be Tory leader

Mr Stephen Crabb was first off the mark in declaring for the Tory top post. Winston Churchill and the Union Jack feature on postcards as Britain comes to grips with its Brexit vote, with the ruling Tories set to elect a new leader and the opposition
Winston Churchill and the Union Jack feature on postcards as Britain comes to grips with its Brexit vote, with the ruling Tories set to elect a new leader and the opposition Labour chief facing a revolt.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Mr Stephen Crabb was first off the mark in declaring for the Tory top post. Winston Churchill and the Union Jack feature on postcards as Britain comes to grips with its Brexit vote, with the ruling Tories set to elect a new leader and the opposition
Mr Stephen Crabb was first off the mark in declaring for the Tory top post.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Winner will also be British PM; Labour chief faces MP mutiny

LONDON • The race to become the next prime minister of Britain got under way yesterday as potential contenders in the Conservative Party were asked to formally throw their hats into the ring to succeed Mr David Cameron, while opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn faced the prospect of becoming another high-profile casualty of the Brexit referendum in the face of a revolt by party MPs.

Mr Cameron, who announced that he was stepping down as Prime Minister after the campaign he led for Britain to remain in the European Union suffered a shock defeat last week, yesterday fired a broadside at Mr Corbyn, who also campaigned for a "Remain" vote.

"For heaven's sake man, go!" said Mr Cameron in Parliament, piling the pressure on Mr Corbyn by asserting that it was not in the national interest for the Labour Party chief to remain in his post.

Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb was the sole person to set out his aim to become the new leader of the Tories as of press time, after the nomination contest was thrown open. Names will be accepted up to noon today. The candidates will be whittled down to two by lawmakers before being offered to party members in a national vote, with the new leader expected to be announced on Sept 9.

 

Former London mayor Boris Johnson, the chief campaigner for the "Leave" camp, is expected to run, along with Home Secretary Theresa May and former defence secretary Liam Fox. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Education Secretary Nicky Morgan are also considering.

Energy Secretary Amber Rudd and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne have ruled themselves out of the contest.

Mr Johnson tops the opinion polls as the favourite to replace Mr Cameron, along with Ms May.

In announcing his bid, Mr Crabb stressed his working-class background in contrast to the privileged upbringing of Mr Cameron and Mr Johnson, and said it was time for the party and the nation to unite before starting Brexit negotiations.

He rejected suggestions of a second referendum and cautioned against holding an early general election in the coming months.

Mr Crabb said that while controlling immigration was a "red line" for Britain, it was also "essential we seek to achieve as close an economic relationship with the EU as we have today".

He added that he would convene an advisory board incorporating the leaders of Scotland and Wales along with the mayor of London and Cabinet ministers to oversee the Brexit negotiations.

Meanwhile, in the troubled Labour camp, a defiant Mr Corbyn has vowed to carry on after party Members of Parliament backed a motion of no confidence against him by 172 votes to 40 on Tuesday. Media reports suggest his former business spokesman Angela Eagle could be preparing to launch a bid to take over the party.

Mr Corbyn was yesterday expected to rally trade unions and the Labour members who helped him win last year's leadership vote by a landslide, and a fierce battle is looming over who owns the soul of the party - parliamentarians or members.

"I was democratically elected leader of our party for a new kind of politics by 60 per cent of Labour members and supporters, and I will not betray them by resigning," the 67-year-old self-declared pacifist said in a statement.

The Labour turmoil comes amid speculation that Mr Cameron's successor as Conservative leader and prime minister may be tempted to call an early election later this year.

Labour, which has lurched to the left under Mr Corbyn's leadership, is viewed by some as unelectable in a general election under his charge.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2016, with the headline 'It's on: Race to be Tory leader'. Print Edition | Subscribe