House of Commons Library

Leadership Elections: Conservative Party

Published Monday, July 11, 2016

This House of Commons Library briefing paper sets out the current rules for election of a Conservative Party leader, and the background to their introduction.

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2016 contest

On 24 June 2016, the day after the UK’s referendum on its continued membership of the European Union, David Cameron announced his resignation. He stated that in his view, the aim should be to have a new Prime Minister in place by the start of the Conservative Party conference in October. The next leader of the Conservative Party will be announced on 9 September 2016.

The 1922 Committee met on 27 June 2016 recommended that the election should be completed by 2 September 2016.  The following day the Conservative Party Board met and instead proposed the leadership election should be completed by 9 September 2016 to allow for the “full participation of members”.  This timetable was agreed by the Board of the full 1922 Committee on 29 June. Nominations opened immediately and closed on Thursday 30 June at midday.

The system of electing the Leader of the Conservative Party consists of two stages:

  • Conservative Members of Parliament select a choice of two candidates to present to the membership of the whole Party;
  • Party members vote, on a "one member one vote" basis, for their preferred candidate from a shortlist of two.

The result of the first ballot of Conservative Members of Parliament was announced on Tuesday 5 July at 19:00.

Theresa May - 165 votes

Andrea Leadsome -  66 votes

Michael Gove - 48 votes

Stephen Crabb - 34 votes

Liam Fox - 16 votes

Liam Fox was therefore eliminated. Later in the evening Stephen Crabb also confirmed he would drop out. It meant that the third of the three candidates in the ballot in the next round would be elimanted, with the top two due to go forward to the vote by the Conservative Party membership.

The second ballot result was announced around 16:30 on Thursday 7 July.

Theresa May - 199 votes

Andrea Leadsom - 84 votes

Michael Gove - 46 votes.

On Monday 11 July Andrea Leadsome announced she was withdrawing her candicacy and was supporting Theresa May. David Cameron later announced that he would resign as Prime Minister on Wednesday 13 July following his last Prime Minister's Questions. Theresa May was confirmed as Prime Minister later that evening.

Leadership election rules

A leadership contest can be triggered in two ways; if 15% of Conservative MPs write to the Chairman of the 1922 Committee saying they no longer have confidence in the leader of the Conservative Party, or if he or she resigns.

The current rules for electing the leader of the Conservative Party were introduced in 1998.

This House of Commons Library briefing paper sets out the current rules, and the background to their introduction. It sets out details of the previous elections held under the current rules.  It also includes brief details of the pre-1998 rules. 

The appendices to the note include details of Conservative Party leaders since 1900, election results from 1965-1997, the election rules as set out in the Conservative Party Constitution, and Chairs of the 1922 Committee since 1923.



Commons Briefing papers SN01366

Authors: Neil Johnston; Lucinda Maer

Topic: Political parties

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