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Rivals Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, are fighting to become the next Prime Minister - but who do the public think the party's 160,000 members will vote for? Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is still a hugely popular figure among Tory grassroots and the general public.Boris quit as Foreign Secretary in July 2018, just hours after Theresa May lost Brexit Secretary David Davis over her Chequers plan to keep close ties to Brussels.
In March this year May declared she would step down before the “next phase” of Brexit negotiations – although this would be contingent on the success in the House of Commons of her Brexit withdrawal agreement, which to date has failed to pass a parliamentary vote three times – and last week she told the 1922 Committee that she would set out a timetable for her departure after the second reading of her Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB).
Former Foreign Secretary and Brexit enthusiast Boris Johnson is currently the frontrunner to take over the leadership of the Conservative party, due to begin on 10 June.
Despite expressions of dismay from centre-leaning and Remain-supporting Conservatives, Johnson enjoys high levels of support from the party’s membership; as well as MPs including Jacob Rees-Mogg, chair of the hard right Conservative faction the European Research Group, and disgraced former defence secretary Gavin Williamson.
May has been under pressure to resign over her handling of Brexit, with multiple Cabinet ministers making it clear this week that they could not support the terms of the WAB – in particular clauses allowing MPs to vote on the prospect of a second referendum and a temporary customs union.
On Wednesday, 22 May, in the aftermath of the Prime Minister’s announcement of the WAB reading, several ministers attempted to secure meetings with May to demand she withdraw the bill – a coded demand for May’s resignation, as she had closely tied her premiership with the WAB – while Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom resigned in protest.