Theresa May’s lifelong dream was to become Prime Minister and her ‘rock’ Philip has been by her side through the ecstasy and the agony.
But her divisive EU divorce deal would lead to her downfall – now the fourth Tory leader brought down by Europe – almost three years after taking office and declaring it was her ‘duty’ to deliver Brexit.
The self-confessed ‘bl**dy difficult woman’ grabbed power after David Cameron’s resignation in 2016 and the 62-year-old enjoyed rocketing approval ratings as she triggered Article 50 in March 2017.
But a calculated gamble to call a snap election three months later was a disastrous mistake that left her with a hung parliament and a deal from the EU around her neck that MPs couldn’t stomach.
She also lost Brexiteers Boris Johnson and David Davis from her cabinet after she watered down her EU divorce after a Chequers summit a year ago, with her closest friend in politics Damian Green saying this was the moment she lost control of leaving the bloc.
After begging the EU to extend Article 50 twice her grip on power was lost and with Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party expected to decimate the Tories at European elections she promised would never happen her ministers and MPs refused to back her Withdrawal Agreement Bill and pulled the plug.
Ministers complained that she was too private and would often not speak as they gave their views on major issues, including on Brexit, keeping her own opinions for her closest advisers and Mr May.
Today she announced her resignation, tears coming as she left ‘the job she loved’, but she will remain Prime Minister until the Tories choose a replacement, with Boris Johnson the favourite to replace her in No 10.
This is the happy moment that Theresa May was elected Tory leader in July 2016 but the next three years were tumultuous and difficult for her
Mrs May breaks down today as she announces that she is leaving the job ‘she loved’ after being swept in to power in 2016
Theresa May and her husband Philip arrive at Downing Street on the day her dream of being PM died with her Brexit deal
Prime Minster Theresa May and her husband Philip cast their vote at a polling station during the European elections in her Maidenhead constituency on Thursday
Theresa May dreamed of being PM, photographed standing next to her husband Philip in 1980 after marrying
Theresa May and Philip May on their wedding day in 1980 with her family including her vicar father on the right and his mother and father on the left
Theresa May, pictured with her smiling husband Philip, chose to wear a blue two-piece suit when first elected in 1997, as Mrs Thatcher did when she entered Downing Street in 1979. The couple moved into Downing Street in July 2016 but will now be leaving
Theresa May to quit: What happens next?
How does a leadership election work?
The election to find Theresa May’s replacement is held in two stages with up to 20 Tory MPs expected to try to stand.
To join the battle, any candidate requires two other MPs to sign forms agreeing to be their proposer and a seconder.
The race will start on June 7 and is expected last around six weeks with the new leader in place by the end of July.
Mrs May is expected to remain as Prime Minister until a successor is appointed and ready to be confirmed by the Queen.
How are candidates eliminated?
Conservative MPs will hold a series of head-to-head ballots to whittle the list of contenders down to a final two, with the lowest placed candidate dropping out in each round.
Who votes on the final two?
There will then be a series of hustings involving the two final candidates – probably in all regions of the UK – and a TV debate could also be held.
It is then the Tory members across the country step in.
They will then have around a fortnight to vote via postal ballot – which Mrs May avoided after rival Andrea Leadsom dropped out of the race. The last time a postal vote was held was in 2005, when David Cameron grabbed the leadership.
One of her few close friends in politics, Damian Green, her former de facto deputy, spoke of his overwhelming sadness that she had to quit
He said: ‘Suddenly and unexpectedly becoming Prime Minister after the seismic shock of the Brexit referendum meant she was dealt an extremely difficult hand to play.
‘The truth is, having an election a year later, which cut the Conservative Party’s majority, then at that point it is impossible.’
Mr Green added she could not recover from the resignation of former Brexit secretary David Davis in July last year.
Mrs May was swept into Downing Street in July 2016 on a wave of enthusiasm and triggered Article 50 on March 29 2017 promising to take Britain out of the EU in two years.
Mrs May, 62, marked her arrival with an impassioned promise on the steps of Number 10 to tackle the ‘burning injustices’ which hold back the poor, ethnic minorities, women and the working classes in modern British society.
But a gamble snap election in June 2017 cost her any majority and her entire premiership was dominated by tortuous negotiations in Brussels and vicious infighting within her own party over the terms on which the UK would leave.
This always put her long term future as Prime Minister in doubt and today her own MPs ended Mrs May’s political career in a ruthless Brexiteers who finally forced her out as she tried to fourth vote on her ailing Brexit deal with Brussels.
After her 2017 election disaster Mrs May was left to rely on the DUP for support to get her Brexit deal and other legislation through Parliament but as her support drained away the votes in the Commons dried up.
After her 2017 election disaster Mrs May was left to rely on the DUP for support to get her Brexit deal and other legislation through Parliament.
Her reputation as a ‘reluctant Remainer’ meant she was constantly dogged by criticism from Brexit-backing voters and anti-EU Tory MPs who wanted a leader who actively campaigned to Leave.
And rebels in her own party circled as her negotiations with the EU floundered.
The pressure became worse when she went from saying ‘no deal was better than a bad deal’ to warning her deal was ‘not perfect’ but was the only one on the table.
Critics in her party also said she failed to properly consider taking Britain out with No Deal because the EU refused to budge.
Theresa May and Philip May left Downing Street grim-faced yesterday as her time as Prime Minister came to an end after failing to take Britain out of the EU
Key Brexiteers were glaringly absent from PMQs amid claims ‘secret meetings’ started taking place to oust Mrs May after her Brexit bill floundered
The PM’s negotiations with the EU hit an impasse over the Irish backstop, which Brexiteers and the DUP refused to accept
Mrs May and Donald Trump together at Chequers last summer hours after the US President said she had fluffed talks with Brussels and should sue them
Home Secretary Theresa May speaks at the Police Federation annual conference in Bournemouth as Home Secretary
Mrs May was Home Secretary under David Cameron, the longest serving in history, taking over from Mr Cameron after he lost the EU referendum
The PM was engaged in a day-by-day battle to force her agenda through and maintain the fragile unity of her Government.
Timeline: The rise and fall of Theresa May
Theresa May (pictured aged 13) won a scholarship to the local grammar school and by then knew she wanted to move into politics
1956: Born to father, vicar Hubert Brasier, and mother wife Zaidee in Eastbourne, Sussex
1974: Attended St Hugh’s College Oxford, to study Geography, where she meets her future husband Philip
1977-95: Worked at the Bank of England and then from 1985 at the Association for Payment Clearing Services
1986 – 1994: Tory Councillor in London borough of Merton
1997: Elected to Parliament as MP for Maidenhead at 1997 election in which Tories lost more than half their seats
1998: Promoted to first front-bench post as Shadow Spokesman for Schools, Disabled People and Women.
1999: Joins shadow Cabinet, as Shadow Education & Employment Secretary
2002: Becomes Chair of the Conservative Party – the first woman to hold the post. While wearing what would become trademark leopard-print heels, she told Conference the Tories were seen as ‘the nasty party’ by many
2002 – 2010: Shadow Cabinet posts including Education, Transport, and Work and Pensions
2010: Appointed Home Secretary in coalition government
2014: Becomes longest-serving Home Secretary for 50 years
2016: Becomes leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister unopposed after multiple rivals dropped out of the race
2017: Calls snap June election to improve majority and Brexit negotiating position. Loses Tory majority
January 15, 2019: Her deal is put before MPs, who threw it out by 230 votes – the worst defeat for a Government in modern history.
March 12: The second meaningful vote on her deal took place, defeated by 149 votes.
March 29,: A third vote on her deal – on the day Britain was meant to leave the EU – but she loses by 56 votes.
May 23: The Government pulls its Brexit bill – killing off the PM’s deal
May 24: Theresa May announces she will quit as Tory leader
June 7: The Tory leadership campaign will begin
She lost more than 30 ministers – most of them quitting over her Brexit plans – saw her keynote policy defeated by a record-breaking 230 votes and suffered the indignity of having her Government found in contempt of Parliament.
It all looked so different when Leave-backing leadership rival Andrea Leadsom dropped out of the contest to succeed David Cameron, clearing the way for the former Remainer to take office without a vote of Tory members.
Hailed by the press as a ‘new Iron Lady’, the vicar’s daughter hardened by six years as home secretary immediately showed her ruthless streak, sacking both Michael Gove and chancellor George Osborne, with whom she had clashed in Cabinet.
In her first speech to Conservative conference, she shocked many by setting out ‘red lines’ for withdrawal which put Britain on track for the hardest possible Brexit.
She dismissed her critics as people who saw themselves as ‘citizens of the world’ but were in fact ‘citizens of nowhere’.
Determined to show she was taking the UK into a new global role, she rushed to be the first world leader to meet Donald Trump at the White House after his inauguration in January 2017.
But footage of her holding hands with the US president exposed her to ridicule back home and raised questions about her closeness to a man whose unpredictability was already causing concern in capitals around the world.
Mrs May’s awkward demeanour and endlessly repeated ‘strong and stable’ mantra saw her dubbed the Maybot during the 2017 election campaign.
The fateful decision to call an early election, in the hope of securing the comfortable majority she needed to implement her Brexit plans, was taken on an Easter walking holiday in Snowdonia with husband Philip.
A poorly received manifesto and hastily withdrawn social care policy, coupled with a robotic campaigning style and the surprise outbreak of Corbynmania, saw her squander a 20-point lead in the polls and lose 13 MPs.
The result saw the Tory majority wiped out while a visibly distraught Mrs May had to turn to the DUP to prop her up in Parliament, with £1 billion in extra Government funds going to Northern Ireland.
That year’s conference in Manchester ended in humiliation, as she was handed a P45 by a comedian on stage, lost her voice to a persistent cough and ended her speech with letters falling off the backdrop behind her.
In December, she seemed to salvage the Brexit deal, finalising a Withdrawal Agreement with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker after a pre-dawn flight to Brussels.
But that agreement contained the seeds of future troubles, introducing the controversial ‘backstop’ customs arrangements for Northern Ireland which were to be fiercely opposed by the DUP and hardline Tory Brexiteers in the European Research Group.
Her attempt to unify her Cabinet behind her deal at Chequers in July 2018 led foreign secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit secretary David Davis to walk out of the Government.
They were followed in November by Mr Davis’s successor Dominic Raab and other Leave-backing ministers, who quit in protest at the final deal agreed with leaders of the other 27 EU states in Brussels.
Meanwhile, Mr Trump’s summer visit to the UK only deepened her woes, as he said her Government was in ‘turmoil’ and that Mr Johnson ‘has what it takes’ to be PM, only to blithely shrug his comments off as she gritted her teeth alongside him at a sun-drenched Chequers press conference.
David Cameron walked away from his job and left on July 13 2016, shown here with wife Samantha and children Nancy, 12, Elwen, 10, and Florence, 5, as he left for Buckingham Palace to resign
Theresa May gives a speech in Downing Street on the day she became Prime Minister on the same day as Cameron left where she promised to deliver Brexit – three years on she has failed
By December last year (pictured) it became clear that Brexit talks had faltered and soon she will leave Downing Street for the last time in the coming weeks after she was ousted by her own MPs
Theresa May delivers her disastrous keynote speech at the Conservative Party Conference where she couldn’t stop coughing and the set fell down on October 4, 2017
It then got worse when a comedian was able to get close to her and hand her a P45 claiming it was ‘from Boris Johnson’
Perhaps her most fatal mistake was calling a snap election that lost her MPs rather than gained them (pictured having chips and a coffee on May 2, 2017)
Philip May was by her side in Downing Street on June 9 2017 after the election failure, forcing her to say sorry to the MPs that lost their jobs because of her miscalculation
Theresa May sits with Queen Elizabeth II at the formal opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting on April 19, 2018
Just nine days before Brexit was due to happen, on March 20, she used a TV address to beg MPs to back her deal, but it was a number of appeals that backfired and alienated people she needed
And today, as the tears flowed, Mrs May heads back into Downing Street having announced she will quit on June 7 after President Trump’s visit
By the winter, Mrs May was in open warfare with the DUP and many of her own backbenchers, who said her deal would leave the UK in a state of ‘vassalage’.
She survived no-confidence motions from her own MPs and Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, but was forced to postpone the key ‘meaningful vote’ ratifying her Brexit deal when it became clear she was heading for defeat.
When the deal was finally put to a vote in January this year, it was crushed by the largest majority in modern parliamentary history.
And it fared little better when it returned in March, defeated by 149 votes with scores of Tories rebelling, and more unhappiness in the ranks as another extension was sought,
A third vote on the original Brexit date of March 29 was prefaced by a promise from Mrs May to quit if the deal passed, but even that was not enough to secure victory and the Government was again defeated by 58 votes.
There was Tory mutiny as it became clear the UK would have to go through EU elections on May 23 and calls for Mrs May to immediately set out her departure timetable.
Chairman of the 1922 backbenchers’ committee, Sir Graham Brady, threw the beleaguered leader a lifeline by allowing her extra time to strike a deal with Labour and hold another vote before setting out a schedule.
However, putting her future into the hands of Jeremy Corbyn failed too and Labour talks collapsed on May 17.
With a fourth vote pencilled in for the first week in June, Mrs May made a last-ditch plea for compromise on Tuesday, but her plan was pronounced dead on arrival.
Mrs May was left to face down hostile MPs in the Commons on Wednesday as a flurry of no-confidence letters were publicly handed over to Sir Graham.
With MPs from all sides rejecting her fourth attempt at reaching agreement before it even reached a vote, the ship of her Brexit compromise deal appeared holed beneath the waterline and about to take down Mrs May too.
A leadership election will now follow with Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab and Sajid Javid among the favourites to take over as Tory leader.
The ousting of Mrs May likely ends an extraordinary political career that began on a local council in South London and led her to Downing Street.
Mrs May has always drawn strength from her long and settled 38-year marriage to husband Philip, with whom she lives in Sonning, Berkshire, and her Christian faith.
Philip has been her comforter and biggest supporter at the height of the political turmoil his wife has faced, often watching PMQs from the Commons gallery where she could see him.
He would help make her beans on toast in the Downing Street kitchen and pour her a large whisky after a particularly hard day in recent months.
In November she spoke about her marriage, her faith and how she coped with Tory plotters sniping at her for two years and the threat of being deposed.
Asked if she lost any sleep, she laughed and said: ‘It depends how strong the whisky is, or how much Philip has poured for me!’
She added: ‘When you are PM you wake up each morning and never quite know how the day is going to pan out.’
Theresa May looked like she had tears in her eyes as she was driven away from Parliament after facing a brutal session of Brexit questions in the Commons chamber
Conservative MP and leadership hopeful Boris Johnson positioned himself to take over and her ally Andrea Leadsom then delivered the fatal blow to her premiership by resigning on the eve of the European elections
A jubilant Nigel Farage outside a polling station in Kent with his Brexit Party apparently racing towards victory as Tory voters deserted the party because of the PM’s handling of the crisis
May’s Big Moments
1. Becomes Prime Minister on July 13 2016, two days after winning the Conservative leadership election unopposed when final rival Andrea Leadsom dropped out of the race
2. Her four-year stint at the Home Office made her, in 2014, the longest serving Home Secretary in 50 years
3. Elected to Parliament for the first time as MP for the safe Tory seat of Maidenhead, in 1997
1. Lost control of her party as Brexiteers angry at the deal she negotiated with Brussels for the UK’s departure from the EU forced her out
2. Lost her Parliamentary majority in the snap June 2017 general election she called to increase her majority and improve her Brexit negotiating position
3. Windrush scandal: the ‘hostile environment’ policy towards illegal immigrants while Home Secretary was criticised as contributing to the scandal which saw dozens of legal West Indian immigrants incorrectly deported
It was largely through her father’s work that Theresa May decided, aged 12, that she wanted to be a politician.
Around the Oxfordshire countryside the Rev Hubert Brasier was a popular figure in the community.
He and his wife Zaidee would talk about current local affairs over meals with their only child.
‘You didn’t think about yourself — the emphasis was on others,’ Mrs May has said. Becoming a politician was, a friend said, ‘a calling, a vocation, not seen as work’.
She remains a regular churchgoer, and is photographed leaving Mass every Sunday with Philip.
At 13, she won a scholarship to the local grammar school, Holton Park Girls, in Wheatley.
Mrs May sailed through school and at 18 she was off to St Hugh’s College, Oxford, to read geography.
No one spotted any star potential in the fairly quiet blonde girl, but she was a good speaker at the Union and an active member of another student debating group, the Edmund Burke Society, which in her last year she chaired, presiding over proceedings with a meat tenderiser as a gavel.
In fact it was her boyfriend and future husband — two years her junior — who attracted attention as a potential rising political star.
Philip May was the toast of the debating chamber, a friend of Benazir Bhutto, the future Prime Minister of Pakistan who was to be assassinated in 2007.
It was Benazir who introduced Philip to Theresa at a Conservative association disco — he the centre of much attention, she the barely-noticed ex-grammar schoolgirl and vicar’s daughter.
Theresa and Philip married in 1980, soon after he graduated, though before coming down he persuaded her to return for one last Edmund Burke society debate.
She spoke against the motion ‘That sex is good but success is better’ but they say they cannot recall who won.
Mrs May was close to his parents and in 1981 Rev Braiser was killed when his Morris Marina collided with a Range Rover on the A40 near Oxford A few months later Mrs May’s mother Zaidee, who suffered from multiple sclerosis, also died (pictured together
Then Shadow Education Secretary Theresa May landing in the lap of Richard Allan, Lib Dem MP for Sheffield Hallam, as they tussle for a seat during a game of musical chairs in 2001
Prime Minister Theresa May danceing as she arrives on stage to make her keynote speech at the Conservative Party annual conference, dancing on to stage poking fun at herself
Theresa May has served as British Prime Minister for almost three years, but will step down after losing a no confidence vote. In the last century only a few Prime Ministers have served shorter terms: Sir Alec Douglas-Home for three days shy of a year in 1963/4, and Sir Anthony Eden whose one year, 279 day-long premiership was brought down by Suez
A year after they married her father Hubert Brasier died in a car crash and Theresa’s mother, already in a wheelchair with multiple sclerosis, died a year later.
But the tragedies brought Mr and Mrs May closer together.
The fact that Mr and Mrs May, who met at Oxford University, have no children is a matter of sadness.
‘You see friends who now have grown-up children, but you accept the hand that life deals you,” she told The Mail On Sunday in 2016.
Friends see this as part of the reason she immersed herself so very deeply in her work and would trawl through her ministerial red boxes often until 2am even on Christmas Eve.
Being without children is something she has in common with Germany’s Angela Merkel, whom she admires for ‘getting things done’ and who, like her, is also the daughter of a clergyman.
At the time of her father’s death in 1981 Mrs May was working as an analyst for the Bank of England.
But already she was taking a first step in politics, later becoming a councillor in Merton, South-West London, with responsibility for local schools.
She had a family link to the Wimbledon area — her paternal grandfather Tom Brasier, a World War I regular soldier decorated as a Sergeant Major with the Royal Green Jackets, was born there.
As Philip made his way in the City, Theresa’s political ambitions took her to two losing seats, and then she landed the plum constituency of Maidenhead, not far from where she spent her childhood.
Mrs May entered Parliament at the time of the New Labour landslide of 1997, and two years later became the first of the new intake to be appointed to the shadow cabinet, as education spokesman and then Shadow Education Secretary under William Hague.
She became the longest serving Home Secretary in modern history before becoming Prime Minister.
But following her snap election error in June 2017 she struggled to keep control of her party.
This was made worse in the October when her Tory Conference speech floundered when she had a coughing fit, the set started falling down and a prankster ran up to hand her a P45.
As Brexit negotiations continued she was hit by resignations by key ministers including Boris Johnson, who many said was actively vying for her job.
Even after pulling another vote on her deal a defiant Theresa May threw down the gauntlet to MPs and questioned whether they were really serious about delivering Brexit.
But her warnings to fell on deaf ears and now her party is now looking for a new leader as a result.
Tories braced for a summer leadership campaign: who are the frontrunners to replace Theresa May?
A huge field of candidates is expected to run to replace Theresa May.
While as many as 25 could run they will swiftly be whittled down into a workable number as MPs show their allegiances and plot to get their chosen man or woman into Downing Street.
Here we look at the main runners and riders, with their odds with Ladbrokes and how they voted in the 2016 referendum:
Boris Johnson: The long-running thorn in May’s side who has recently had a ‘prime ministerial’ makeover
Boris Johnson has undergone a prime ministerial makeover as Theresa May’s days appeared increasingly numbered
- Former foreign secretary and mayor of London
- Voted leave and has become an increasingly hardline Brexiteer
- As likely to make headlines over his private life
- Has recently lost a lot of weight and smartened up his appearance
- Leadership odds 6/4
The former foreign secretary, 54, who quit last July and has been tacitly campaigning for the leadership ever since. He finally went public last week to confirm he would run.
Never far from the limelight the father-of-four recently split from his wife Marina and is in a relationship with former Conservative staffer Carrie Symonds, 20 years his junior.
As an increasingly hawkish Brexiteer who says we should not be afraid of leaving without a deal he is hugely popular with the party faithful.
At the start of the year he underwent what might be deemed a ‘prime ministerial’ makeover, losing weight and taming his unruly mop of blonde hair.
Popular with the rank-and-file membership he has less fans in the parliamentary party and may face a concerted campaign to block his succession. Received the surprise backing of Johnny Mercer last night.
Dominic Raab: Brexiteer who quit rather than back Mrs May’s deal
Dominic Raab has become a cheerleader for a hard Brexit since stepping down as Brexit secretary in November
- Shortlived Brexit secretary last year, replacing David Davis in the hot seat
- But walked in November over terms agreed by PM
- Voted for Brexit in 2016
- Leadership odds 4/1
Mr Raab, 45, is another Vote Leave member who became Brexit secretary after David Davis quit alongside Mr Johnson last July over the Chequers plan.
But he lasted just a matter of months before he too jumped ship, saying he could not accept the terms of the deal done by the Prime Minister.
Like Mr Johnson and Mr Davis he has become an increasingly hardline Brexiteer, sharing a platform with the DUP’s Arlene Foster and suggesting we should not be afraid of a no-deal Brexit.
The Esher and Walton MP’s decision to quit in November, boosted his popularity with party members but he lacks the wider popular appeal of Mr Johnson.
And like Mr Johnson he might benefit from having quit the Cabinet at an earlier stage and dissociating himself with the dying days of the May administration.
His odds have shortened as he is seen as possibly a more palatable alternative Brexiteer to Boris by MPs seeking to block Mr Johnson’s run.
He recently posed for a glossy photoshoot with wife Erika at their Surrey home, seen as a sign he will run.
Andrea Leadsom: May’s former rival who finally decided she could take no more
Ms Leadsom (pictured today) quit the cabinet yesterday. She is a Brexiteer who frequently clashed with Speaker John Bercow
- The Commons’ Leader challenged May in 2016
- Voted for Brexit
- Hosted Brexiteer ‘pizza party’ plot last year
- Increasingly outspoken Brexiteer
- Leadership odds 16/1
The former Commons’ Leader piled pressure on the Prime Minister by announcing her own resignation from the Cabinet last night.
In a parting blast, the Commons Leader said she could not stomach the latest version of Mrs May’s Brexit deal, with its offer of a second referendum.
It was the final act by an MP whose departure had seemingly been on the cards for months.
Mrs Leadsom, a mother of three, stood against Mrs May for the party leadership in 2016 before conceding defeat before it was put to a vote of MPs.
As collective responsibility largely broke down among ministers she became an increasingly vocal and clear Brexiteer voice in the Cabinet along line similar lines to Mr Johnson and Mr Raab.
She was the host of a Brexiteer ‘pizza party’ in Parliament that included Michael Gove and Liz Truss as the vying wings of the Cabinet plotted to shape the Brexit deal they wanted.
In her role as Commons’ Leader she frequently clashes with Speaker John Bercow over issues including bullying in Parliament.
It is something that will do her no harm among the Tory backbenches where he is widely loathed.
Jeremy Hunt: Remainer turned Brexiteer unity candidate who wants to heal the party
Jeremy Hunt, a born-again Brexiteer after supporting Remain, toured Africa last month with wife Lucia
- The Foreign Secretary voted Remain
- But has become an increasingly vocal Brexiteer
- Former health secretary backs May’s deal
- Has approached ministers about running as a unity candidate
- Leadership odds 10/1
The Foreign Secretary who has undergone a Damascene conversion to the Brexit cause and is seen as a safe if uninspiring pair of hands.
The 52-year-old South West Surrey MP has reportedly been selling himself to colleagues as a unity candidate who can bring together the fractious Tory factions into something approaching a cohesive party.
A long-serving health secretary, the father-of three replaced Mr Johnson as the UK’s top diplomat and has won some plaudits over issues like the imprisonment of British mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in Iran.
But critics point to tub-thumpingly comparing the EU to the USSR at the party conference last year – which was very badly received in Brussels – and a gaffe in which he referred to his Chinese wife as ‘Japanese’ as a reception in China.
Last month he went on a tour of Africa in which his Chinese wife Lucia made a major appearance, after he gaffed by forgetting her nationality.
Last week he called for a ‘decisive’ hike in defence spending to see off the rising threat from Russia and China – in a speech seen as a clear signal of his leadership ambitions.
Speaking at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet Mansion House in the City of London, he said the UK’s hard power must be strengthened, with billions more spent on new capabilities to tackle drones and cyber attacks.
Michael Gove: The boomerang cabinet minister with a Machiavellian reputation
Michael Gove has made a remarkable political comeback after being sacked by Theresa May in 2016
- Leading Vote Leave figure in 2016 who now backs PM’s Brexit deal
- Former journalist, 51, who stood for leadership in 2016
- Was sacked as education minister by Theresa May
- Later returned as Environment Minister
- Leadship odds 12/1
A Brexiteer with a Machiavellian reputation after the 2016 leadership campaign in which he first supported Boris Johnson for the leadership and then stood against him, to their mutual disadvantage.
The former education secretary – sacked by Mrs May – was rehabilitated to become a right-on environment secretary – complete with reusable coffee cups and a strong line on food standards after Brexit.
Despite being a former lead figure in the Vote Leave campaign alongside Mr Johnson the former journalist and MP for Surrey Heath has swung behind Mrs May’s Brexit deal – which might count against him.
But while he noisily supports the deal – he views the alternatives as worse – the father-of-two – married to Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine – is quieter when it comes to supporting the Prime Minister and practically mute when it comes to her future.
Seen as one of the Cabinet’s strongest political thinkers and having stood once it is unthinkable that he would not stand again.
But like many others he has yet to publicly declare his candidacy.
If he did it would again pitch him pitched against Mr Johnson in a battle for Brexiteer votes.
Penny Mordaunt: The highly regarded Brexiteer promoted to take on defence
Ms Mordaunt is an outsider for the leadership but is highly thought of in Brexiteer groups
- The MP for Portsmouth North is a Royal Navy reservist
- Highly regarded in Brexiteer circles
- She has been consistently tipped to quit over Brexit but remains in the Cabinet
- Once appeared in a swimsuit in a reality TV show
- Leadership odds 20/1
The new Defence Secretary – the first woman ever to hold the post – is highly regarded in Brexiteer circles.
The Royal Navy reservist, 46, carved out a niche at International Development with some eye-catching suggests about changing how the UK spends disperses aid cash.
She has become an increasingly serious politician after initially being seen as lighthearted when she appeared in a swimsuit in ITV reality TV show Splash!
She was promoted earlier this month to replace Gavin Williamson when he was sacked for leaking details from a confidential meeting about Huawei.
Over the preceding few months she was at the heart of persistent rumours that she would be the next Brexit-supporting minister out the door over Brexit.
She has yet to announce she is running but last month she backed a thinktank report saying the party needed to attract new voters.
She said the party needed to ‘act swiftly’ to win over the younger generations who were turning away from the centre-Right in ‘unprecedented’ numbers.
Yesterday, after other Cabinet Brexiteers including Andrea Leadsom were notable by their absence during Prime Minister’s Questions, she remained at her post. It remains to be seen whether this loyalty will count for or against her.
Sajid Javid: Remainer star who has run into trouble over knife crime and refugees
Sajid Javid has seen his stock take a hit over the knife crime crisis and migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats
- The most senior cabinet contender
- Voted Remain but wants to see Brexit delivered
- Faced criticism as Home Secretary
- But has taken a hard line on Shamima Begum case
- Leadership odds 12/1
The Home Secretary, a Remainer who wants to see Brexit delivered, was the leading candidate from inside the Cabinet to replace Mrs May.
After replacing Amber Rudd last year he consciously put clear ground between himself and the Prime Minister on issues like caps on skilled migrants after Brexit.
But his credentials have taken a hit recently. He finds himself facing ongoing criticism of his handling of the knife crime crisis affecting UK cities, which sparked a Cabinet row over funding for police.
He also lost face over his handling of the influx of migrants crossing the English Channel in January, being seen to move slowly in realising the scale of the problem.
But more recently the 49-year-old Bromsgove MP has made a serious of hardline decision designed to go down well with Tory voters.
Most notably they have included moving to deprive London teenager turned Jihadi bride Shamima Begum, 19, of her British citizenship, after she was discovered among former Islamic State members in a Syrian refugee camp.
Matt Hancock: Waffle-loving health secretary who wants Tories to choose a younger leader
Mr Hancock took stroopwafels in for Cabinet the day after he was pulled up for eating them on television
- The youngest front-runner at 40
- A Remainer who now backs Theresa May’s Brexit deal
- He wants the party to look to the future and attract younger voters
- Leadership odds 25/1
The Health Secretary is, like his predecessor Jeremy Hunt, seen as something of a unity candidate.
The 40-year-old father of three is seen as a safe pair of hands despite a few teething problems in his latest Cabinet role.
Last year he was accused of breaking ethics rules after he praised a private health firm app in a newspaper article sponsored by its maker.
But he has since make some hard-hitting interventions in ares like the impact of social media on health.
Last month he joined Ms Mordaunt in backing the Generation Why? report showing that the Tories needed to become more relevant to younger voters.
He called on the party to change its ‘tone’ towards modern Britain or face Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister, in a speech widely seen as setting out his leadership credentials.
This week he showed his human side by unashamedly chomping calorific stroopwafels before a TV broadcast, saying he people should enjoy things in moderation.
Rory Stewart: Remainer rising star and friend of royals who is not short of confidence
The father of two is married to Shoshana, whom he first met when they worked together in Iraq and she was already married
- Penrith MP, 46, is a former tutor to the Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex
- Old Etonian ex-soldier worked for Foreign Office in Iraq and set up a charity for the Prince of Wale sin Afghanistan
- Voted for Remain and still backs a soft Brexit
- Leadership odds 25/1
The former prisons minister who once vowed to quit if they did not improve within a year declared his candidacy almost as soon as he was promoted to the Cabinet.
He stepped up to International Development Secretary earlier this month to replace Ms Mordaunt and days later declared he will run for the Tory leadership.
The Theresa May loyalist praised the PM for her ‘courageous effort’ to pass her Brexit deal but admitted he would throw his hat in the ring when she steps down.
Urging his party not to ‘try to outdo Nigel Farage’, the development secretary said the Tories should ‘stretch all the way from Ken Clarke to Jacob Rees-Mogg’.
The Old Etonian former tutor to the Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex previously worked for the Foreign Office in Iraq and set up a charity for the Prince of Wales in Afghanistan.
He has also written several books about walking.
The father of two is married to Shoshana, whom he first met when they worked together in Iraq and she was already married.
Seen as highly intelligent his staunch Remainer and soft Brexit credentials look likely to count against him in a race set to be dominated by the Brexiteer wing of the party.
Esther McVey: Former TV presenter and minister who quit Government over Brexit
The former television journalist, is engaged to fellow Tory backbench Brexiteer Philip Davies, 47
- The 51-year-old was Work and Pensions Secretary until quitting in November
- She was a presenter on GMTV before entering politics
- Is engaged to fellow Tory MP Philip Davies
- This week launched a ‘blue collar Conservatism’ project
- Leadership odds 50/1
The former Work and Pensions Secretary declared her leadership bid last month and has set out a stall as a right-wing blue-collar candidate from a working class Liverpudlian background.
The former television journalist, is engaged to fellow Tory backbench Brexiteer Philip Davies, 47, having previously had a romance with ex-minister Ed Vaizey. She has no children.
This week she set out her leadership pitch by calling for the party to use £7billion of foreign aid cash on buckling British police forces and schools.
Launching a ‘blue collar conservatism’ campaign the Brexiteer MP, 51, said her party had ‘lost the trust’ of working people by failing to leave the EU already and must pursue ‘radical conservative agendas’ to win it back’.
She said that keeping cash in the UK that is currently sent abroad would allow an increase of £4billion in spending on schools and £3billion for police, which are both demanding more money.
And she declined to rule out doing a post-election deal with Nigel Farage – but said that if the Tories got the UK out it would mean that his Brexit Party would have no reason to exist.
Speaking in Westminster she reiterated her call for the next party leader to be ‘someone who believes in Brexit’ – a dig at Mrs May, who supported the Remain campaign in 2016.