LONDON – Boris Johnson and David Davis have emerged as the leading contenders to be the next Conservative Party leader as Prime Minister Theresa May’s position looks more precarious by the day.
May is under huge pressure to turn her fortunes around after her plan to increase her parliamentary majority in this month’s election spectacularly backfired. The Tories lost 13 seats, resulting in a hung parliament.
The prime minister has also faced severe criticism over her handling of last week’s Grenfell Tower fire, in which she decided not to meet residents affected by the tragedy, unlike the Queen and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Brexit Secretary Davis – who begins negotiations with the EU on Monday morning – is seen by Tories within the parliamentary party as the “unity candidate” to succeed May and lead the country, the Telegraph reported.
Davis has said that he is aiming to get “a deal like no other in history,” from the EU.
Foreign Secretary Johnson is also being discussed as a possible person to replace May, but Davis appears to be in a stronger position to make a leadership bid if the opportunity were to arise.
The Daily Telegraph added that sources close to Johnson said that Davis would be a “serious contender” for the leadership if May were to resign.
On Sunday, Johnson was forced to deny that he had started planning his challenge for the leadership after he was seen meeting with Sir Michael Fallon, a key cabinet ally of May, on Saturday night at a pub in Kent.
Johnson was spotted having a pint and a lengthy discussion with Fallon, the defence secretary, at the Bricklayer’s Arms in Chipstead.
Davis previously challenged for the Tory leadership in 2001 and 2005, coming 4th and 2nd respectively. Last year Johnson was expected to run for leader but stepped out of the race after ally Michael Gove decided not to back the foreign secretary.
Gove – who May appointed Environment Secretary in a cabinet reshuffle last week – came out in support for the embattled prime minister on Monday morning. He told Sky that May is “absolutely the right person for the job,” adding: “she has all my support. She should stay for all of this parliament.”
However, not all Tory MPs share Gove’s enthusiasm for May to continue in her role. Some have warned that May has “10 days to save her premiership,” according to the Sunday Times.
It is expected that May would be forced to step down if she failed to win the vote of the Queen’s speech after the State Opening of Parliament on Wednesday.