Michael Gove’s stand for the leadership was a real shock, and not just because it seemed he was backing Johnson for the leadership of the party. He had recently denied that he had any interest in becoming Prime Minister and has said the same for the last several years. He said to one magazine in 2012: “I'm constitutionally incapable of it. There's a special extra quality you need that is indefinable, and I know I don't have it. There's an equanimity, an impermeability and a courage that you need. There are some things in life you know it's better not to try.”
However, he came out on the 30th June declaring his bid for the leadership stating he wished to provide “unity and change”, and expressing his want for “an open and positive debate about the path the country will now take”.
Another well-known MP who has put their name forward is Theresa May. She kept fairly quiet during the referendum campaigning, possibly so as to be in the best position to appeal to both pro-EU and anti-EU Conservative MPs in the leadership contest. In spite of expectations by some that an election would be held by the Conservative party’s new leader, either late this year or early next year, Theresa May has already ruled out holding a general election in the near future. She said on the 30th June:
"I want to use this opportunity to make several things clear. First, Brexit means Brexit… the public gave their verdict. There must be no attempts to remain inside the EU, no attempts to re-join it through the backdoor, and no second referendum… Second, there should be no general election until 2020.”
2020 is when the next election was due to be held anyway – due to the Fixed-term Parliaments Act of 2011. Her announcement is arguably surprising because after one of the most seismic events in British politics post-World War two, as well as the resignation of the current Prime Minister, it makes sense to many to have a general election at this time.
Furthermore, it is thought that Gordon Brown, when he replaced Tony Blair as Prime Minister when he resigned in 2007, made a mistake in not holding an election at that time to solidify his leadership of the country (since nobody had actually voted for him to be our next Prime Minister – he hadn’t been approved by the people).
However, Theresa May appears to be standing on the basis that she can provide stability to the nation at a time of great uncertainty, and she argues that an election would not be a stabilising influence.
Another Conservative MP who has put herself forward for the leadership contest is Andrea Leadsom. Like Michael Gove and Boris Johnson, she was a major player in the Vote Leave campaign during the referendum. Unlike Gove and Johnson, she was not so well known before the referendum campaign. But at the moment it looks like she is second in the race, according to the bookies; quite a bit behind Theresa May and just slightly ahead of Michael Gove.
Image: Brian Green [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons