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Afp

The six running to become Britain's PM

By AFP
media The six contenders left in the race for leader of the Conservative party are (top L-R) Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Michael Gove, former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab (bottom L-R) Britain's International Development Secretary Rory Stewart, Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Britain's Home Secretary Sajid Javid The field of contenders vying to become Britain's next prime minister narrowed to six today when Health Secretary Matt Hancock withdrew from the contest. AFP/File

The six contenders left in the race to replace Theresa May as Britain's prime minister are scrambling for votes in Tuesday's second ballot of the 313 Conservative MPs.

Any candidate with fewer than 33 votes on Tuesday drops out, otherwise the one with the lowest tally is eliminated.

The campaign is being fought over their Brexit positions.

Here are the last six standing:

- Boris Johnson -

First round votes: 114

The former foreign secretary, 54, says he would get Britain out of the EU "deal or no deal" when the October 31 deadline set by EU leaders comes around.

But he has also said a no-deal Brexit would be "a last resort, not something that anybody desires".

He has threatened to withhold the country's Brexit bill if the EU does not offer improved withdrawal terms, and to scrap a controversial provision for the Irish border contained in the current divorce deal -- both of which would be unacceptable to Brussels.

A figurehead in the 2016 campaign to leave the EU, he was May's foreign secretary until he resigned over her Brexit strategy last year.

Charismatic and popular with grassroots Conservatives, he swept the first round and won the backing of eliminated candidates Matt Hancock and Esther McVey.

- Jeremy Hunt -

First round votes: 43

The current foreign secretary supported remaining in the EU but has switched since then.

The former businessman is a resilient politician, having headed the National Health Service for six years during a funding crisis.

The 52-year-old says he will push hard for a new deal with Brussels, but is prepared to leave without a deal if no new offer is forthcoming.

Thursday's vote left him in pole position to join Johnson in the final two, when grassroots Conservative members pick their party's new leader.

- Michael Gove -

First round votes: 37

The cerebral 51-year-old is among the most ardent eurosceptics left in May's government but is seen as a possible unifying figure between the two wings of the party.

Considered the second favourite, his campaign got off to a rocky start when he admitted using cocaine two decades ago.

Gove has signalled he could be open to delaying Brexit again rather than leave without a deal on October 31.

If he makes the final two, a Johnson versus Gove clash could be mouthwatering. Gove backed Johnson in the 2016 leadership contest, but then politically knifed him to run himself.

- Dominic Raab -

First round votes: 27

An ardent eurosceptic with a black belt in karate, the 45-year-old former Brexit minister resigned in protest at May's negotiating strategy with Brussels in November.

He says Britain should be ready to walk away from the EU without an agreement while still trying to negotiate a better deal than the one May signed.

Raab sparked controversy by saying he would be willing to suspend parliament to force through a no-deal departure if necessary.

- Sajid Javid -

First round votes: 23

A former investment banker and the son of a Pakistani immigrant bus driver, Javid, 49, wants to be the face of a modern, multi-cultural and meritocratic Britain.

An economic liberal, Javid voted for Britain to stay in the EU in 2016 but has since become an advocate of Brexit.

He wants to leave on October 31, preferably with a deal but would prefer no deal over no Brexit.

He has the notable endorsement of Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson.

Javid said Monday he was "extremely confident" of reaching the 33-vote threshold.

- Rory Stewart -

First round votes: 19

The international development secretary, 46, is a former Foreign Office official who served in the coalition administration in Iraq following the US-led invasion in 2003. He says a no-deal would be "damaging".

Initially a rank outsider, his social media-driven campaign has garnered momentum as the most opposed to a no-deal Brexit.

However, the people he needs to win over are not non-Conservatives on Twitter but the 50 MPs who voted Thursday for candidates who have dropped out.

He says he now has 33 backers "if they do what they say".

 
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