Fame and infamy: Who are the Tory leadership contenders and what are their records?


CommonSpace takes a look at the challengers for the future leadership of the Tory party and the UK and explores the controversies in their careers

THE RACE to be the next leader of the Conservative party and, failing a snap election, the UK, is on.

Five challengers have put themselves forward in the political chaos following the UK’s vote to leave the EU on 23 June.

CommonSpace looks at the contenders and the controversies that have marked their political careers.

Theresa May

Fame: Theresa May is the Tory establishment candidate and has the most varied political career of any candidate running in the leadership race.

She has served, among other roles, as Tory party chair, shadow minister for the DWP, minister for women and equalities, and as home secretary from 2012-16.

She is billing herself in the contest as a serious minded and competent politician un-interested in the trappings and games of Westminster.

Infamy: As home secretary, May has been in charge of pushing through the UK Government’s controversial Prevent anti-terrorism strategy, which critics accuse of encouraging people in positions of authority such as teachers and lecturers to spy on their students and monitor subversive views.

May has also called for the Conservatives to take a tougher stance on immigration, despite having been a quiet advocate of a remain vote in the EU referendum. Outside the EU, she would now have greater power to curb immigration.

Michael Gove

Fame: Michael Gove is the leading brexit candidate in the leadership election, having been second in command of the official Leave campaign.

He has ample frontline political experience, having battled teachers unions as education secretary, and acted as government chief whip and justice secretary. His record is respected among Conservative colleagues

Infamy: Gove’s time as education minister so him implement wide ranging reforms.

The most far reaching were changes to the curriculum which saw Gove attempt to roll back decades of progressive education reform and re-introduce a syllabus that emphasis British culture and narrative history.

Gove is also fresh from a bout of manoeuvring which has seen him supplant Boris Johnson, former London Mayor and leader of the Leave campaign, in what will be held up by opponents as an act of deceitful back-stabbing.

Gove had long insisted he had no ambitions for leadership, but announced his candidacy at the last minute, scuppering his Leave colleagues chances.

Liam Fox

Fame: Liam Fox is the most longstanding and consistent advocated of brexit among the candidates. He is a leading figure of the right of the party, from a working class Scottish background, whose accession up the Tory ranks has been hampered by scandal.

Infamy: Fox could be badly hampered in the contest by his record.

During the parliamentary expenses scandal of 2009, Fox emerged as the Tory shadow cabinet member with the largest amount over-claimed in expenses.

He was forced to resign from his top ministerial post as defence secretary in 2011 due to his granting friend and lobbyist Adam Werritty special access to the ministry of defense and inviting him on official foreign trips.

Stephen Crabb

Fame: Stephen Crabb, the pro-remain former Welsh secretary now in charge of the DWP, will likely promote his image as a working class Welshman who is not part of the Westminster ‘in crowd’.

Infamy: Crabb has come in for criticism for his socially conservative Christian views, particularly on homosexuality.

He voted against marriage equality in 2013 and he has employed interns sponsored by the religious fundamentalist group Care, which advocates an ultra-conservative approach to social policy and has promoted events which claim that LGBT+ people are “sexually broken”.

Crabb will rapidly distance himself from this background.

Andrea Leadsom

Fame: Andrea Leadsom is the least well known and, in political terms, least experienced of the contenders, having only become and MP in 2010, and never holding a top-tier ministerial post.

The pro-brexit junior minister for energy and climate will make much play out of her 25 years of ‘real world’ work experience outside politics. How impressed the public are likely to be with her former employment in the city of London as opposed to her Tory colleagues is another question

Infamy: Leadsom has been involved in various accountancy schemes over the years, including investment in trusts to reduce the amount she owes in inheritance tax. She has also accepted donations from offshore interests that by-pass political funding regulations.

Nothing she has done is illegal, but this record could identify her as part of a self-serving political establishment the public are increasingly resentful of.

Pictures courtesy of Chatham HouseUKTI, Department of Energy and Climate Change. Cheshire East CouncilNCVO LondonPolicy Exchange

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