Meet the 5 men who could replace Theresa May as British prime minister

British PM Theresa May (above) has said she will quit to get her Brexit deal passed.
British PM Theresa May (above) has said she will quit to get her Brexit deal passed.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (WASHINGTON POST) - British Prime Minister Theresa May dropped a bombshell on Wednesday (March 27) when she said she will quit before the next phase of Brexit negotiations, bowing to pressure from Conservatives in her party who wanted her to resign - people like the former foreign secretary Boris Johnson.

"I am prepared to leave this job earlier than I intended in order to do what is right for our country and our party," May told backbench Conservative lawmakers.

"I have heard very clearly the mood of the parliamentary party. I know there is a desire for a new approach - and new leadership - in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations, and I won't stand in the way of that."

The announcement came after a particularly harrowing week for the British leader, in which she struggled to shore up support for her twice-defeated Brexit deal; expressed regret that Brexit Day was pushed back until at least April 12; and delivered a spectacularly ill-judged speech blaming fellow lawmakers for the Brexit impasse.

But it still came as a surprise to some that May - known for her doggedness - finally threw in the towel.

Or did she?

Her statement was a classic May fudge where there was much that wasn't said. When, exactly, would she be leaving? What will happen if her unloved Brexit deal doesn't pass through Parliament?

But the race to replace her - at whatever date she hands over the keys to 10 Downing Street - is nonetheless on.

Here are the favorites to replace May, according to the bookmaker William Hill.

Michael Gove (5/2)


Britain's Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Michael Gove leaves from 10 Downing Street on March 26, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

Britain's education secretary is one of the bookies' favourites to replace May. A prominent Brexiteer and one of the Conservative Party's more cerebral figures, Gove played a key role in the "Vote Leave" campaign in 2016. He has been loyal to May since returning to the Cabinet, but his reputation took a big hit after he was accused of betraying Boris Johnson in the 2016 leadership contest.

Boris Johnson (5/1)


Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, arrives at the Houses of Parliament in London, March 27, 2019. PHOTO: PA WIRE/DPA

Britain's flamboyant former foreign secretary and a leading Brexiteer is a clear front-runner. Johnson is a rare politician who has cross-party appeal. He served two terms as the mayor of London - an impressive feat in a city that normally votes Labour.

 

He is also a divisive figure whose time as foreign secretary has received mixed reviews. His biggest challenge could be mustering support from fellow lawmakers, which is needed in the first phase of the leadership race.

When he announced he was backing Brexit, he lost a lot of support in London, which is overwhelmingly pro-EU. But even though he isn't the pinup he once was, his star power is still hard to match.

Jeremy Hunt (7/1)


British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Jeremy Hunt arrives for a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in central London on March 26, 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Jeremy Hunt became foreign secretary after Boris Johnson resigned over May's handling of Brexit negotiations. Previously, Hunt served as health secretary, a position he held for nearly six years. He voted to remain in the 2016 referendum but since said he's had a change of heart, citing the EU's "arrogance" in the Brexit negotiations.

David Lidington (7/1)


Britain's Minister for the Cabinet Office David Lidington walks on Downing Street in London, Britain March 21, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

David Lidington is May's de facto deputy and seen as a safe pair of hands. An affable politician, his name has been bandied about as a potential "caretaker" prime minister. He recently told reporters: "One thing that working closely with the prime minister does is cure you completely of any lingering shred of ambition to want to do that task."

Sajid Javid (9/1)


British Home Secretary Sajid Javid arrives for a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in central London, March 26, 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Sajid Javid is the first ethnic minority politician to serve as Britain's Home Secretary. A longtime Eurosceptic, 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 were born in India and moved to Pakistan before coming to Britain. 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.

The other favourites?

Dominic Raab (12/1), Jacob Rees Mogg (20/1), Andrea Leadsom (20/1) and Amber Rudd (20/1).