With British PM Theresa May under pressure, who could be new Conservative leader?

(Left to right) Mr Michael Fallon, Ms Amber Rudd, Mr Boris Johnson, Mr Philip Hammond and Mr David Davis listen as Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during the Conservative Party general election manifesto in Halifax on May 18, 2017.
(Left to right) Mr Michael Fallon, Ms Amber Rudd, Mr Boris Johnson, Mr Philip Hammond and Mr David Davis listen as Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during the Conservative Party general election manifesto in Halifax on May 18, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - A shocking British election result that has thrown the Conservative Party into turmoil leaves Mrs Theresa May's position looking precarious.

If history is any indication, the Tories will waste little time in seeking a new leader. So who can lay claim to the Tory crown?

Brexit talks are due to start in 10 days time, with the possibility of at least one new face on the other side of the negotiating table.

The BBC has reported Mrs May plans to try and stay in office. But here are some potential contenders, if she does step aside:

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Mr Boris Johnson, 52: The Comeback Kid

Gaffe-prone Boris - he is one of the few politicians known by his first name - remains a popular figure and in the past he has made no secret of his ambition to be prime minister one day.

In the aftermath of the 2016 Brexit referendum, he looked a shoe-in until he got ambushed and outplayed in palace intrigue. He owes his place in the Cabinet to Mrs May needing to burnish her Brexit credentials with the star of the Leave campaign.

As foreign secretary he has made diplomatic errors but his common touch and spontaneity are beyond dispute, and in stark contrast to Mrs May's stiffness and rehearsed lines.

Could it be second time lucky for the former mayor of London?

 

Mr David Davis, 68: Mr. Brexit

Popular among grassroots Tory members, the Brexit Secretary is also well-liked by lawmakers in Parliament and has friends in rival parties.

He has twice stood for the leadership in the past, most recently in 2005 when he made the final two, losing out to a fresh-faced David Cameron who made Mr Davis's traditional right-wing campaign look like the past.

Mrs May revived his political career when she plucked him unexpectedly from the backbenches last summer.

Ms Amber Rudd, 53: The Lady in Waiting

Ms Rudd made her mark in the campaign as an able performer, most notably when she stood in for the prime minister in a live televised debate, just days after the death of her father.

Even so, the home secretary barely squeaked by to hold on to her seat in Hastings, southeast England, by a mere 346 seats.

Ms Rudd has enjoyed a high profile in the Home Office given the challenge of reducing immigration and spate of recent terror attacks.

An ardent Remainer in last year's Brexit campaign, as home secretary she has taken a hard-line stance on immigration that caused ructions in her own party.

Her rise has been meteoric - she entered Parliament just seven years ago and now holds one of the four so-called great offices of state.

Can she make it all the way to the top?

Mr Michael Fallon, 65: Dark Horse

He's a veteran defence secretary who first served in government under Mrs Margaret Thatcher. Ousted from Parliament in 1992, Mr Fallon returned to the safe seat of Sevenoaks in 1997 and is regarded by Tory strategists as one of the steadiest media performers in the Cabinet.

He has regularly been deployed as the party's attack dog, with both Mrs May and Mr Cameron sending him out to defend the Tories at times of difficulty - and to savage Mr Jeremy Corbyn's record on national security.

When the shocking exit poll flagging a hung Parliament was released, it was Mr Fallon who was on live television, responding calmly and staying poised.

Mr Philip Hammond, 61: Safe Pair of Hands

Known as "Spreadsheet Phil", the chancellor of the exchequer has played down his political ambitions, saying his only focus was running the country's finances.

Mr Hammond is seen as a moderating voice to the Brexit hardliners in Mrs May's government. That is likely to play well with Remainers, but less well with the party faithful.

He may not have enough of a base within Tory ranks for a leadership bid to really gain traction. But after much speculation before the election that Mrs May was set to sack him, could he now aspire to the top job?

 

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