The fallout from last Thursday’s Brexit vote in the UK continues. Five candidates to replace PM David Cameron as leader of the governing Conservative party have announced their candidacy. These will be reduced to the leading two by a vote of the parliamentary party.The Tories have 330 seats in Parliament so it would seem with five candidates splitting the vote a candidate would likely have to get over 100 votes to finish in the top 2. The two finalists will then face off before a vote of the party membership. The candidates include Theresa May, 59 the home secretary, Michael Gove,48 the former Education secretary,Stephen Crabb, 43 work and pensions secretary; Andrea Leadsom 53, a former banker with expertise in the financial markets and their dealings with the Bank of England, and a Thatcherite Energy Minister; and Liam Fox 54, a social conservative and a medical doctor and member of the House of Commons since 1992. The big surprise is the absence of Boris Johnson from the list. Much to the shock of his many supporters and journalists Johnson announced that after canvassing his supporters, fellow MPs and other party sages he decided he would not win . Michael Gove’s decision to desert him and take one of his chief organizers with him and run himself despite his earlier suggestion that he was likely not to run and support Johnson came as a big surprise- some would say betrayal- and effectively shut Johnson out from his long goal of becoming British Prime Minister. Johnson would seem to have depended on winning support from the same MPs who Gove will be drawing upon, the pro leave Brexiteers. Having to share them with Gove and Fox meant his base would be substantially diminished. Most of the remain MPs were probably too hard of a sell for even such a charmer as Johnson.He would assuming a three way split among the pro Brexit faction have to win the support of close to 70 plus of these MPs. He must have discovered that his high profile leadership of the leave Brexit side had cost him the leadership support of many Remain MPs who may well be bitter about the resignation of David Cameron and put more of the blame on Boris than on the other Brexit candidates.
It was a very surprising outcome for the most charismatic and intellectually ambitious – with the possible exception of Michael Gove- of the Tory leadership hopefuls.
On the Labour side of the house turbulence also reigns. Jeremy Corbyn is effectively under siege as the left wing populist leader of the Labour party. Despite the fact that Corbyn won the leadership decisively a mere nine months ago defeating three other more conservative MPs the majority of his MPs -172 to 40 with 13 abstentions and 4 spoiled ballots-have voted non confidence in his leadership. They had hoped by doing so Corbyn would be forced to resign.However under the new rules that govern the Labour party only a vote of the entire party can determine who is the legitimate leader. An MP who contests the leadership can trigger an overall vote from the membership but only by marshalling 50 plus one MPs to support him or her. So far despite much manoeuvering from the anti Corbyn majority and pressure being applied by party leaders like former leader Ed Miliband for Corbyn to fall on his sword no one has stepped forward so far with the requisite number to trigger the leadership campaign. If they were to do this, as seems likely in the coming days, they will have to face a renewed membership that has taken place under Corbyn that strongly supports him and passionately approves of his critique of austerity and neo-con politics. More than 250000 people have signed a petition backing Corbyn. It is not clear that he can be defeated in such a new race.
Time will tell. One way or the other Brexit has shattered the state of the party system in Britain and the effects will reverberate for some years to come.