Is this the most bizarre leadership campaign ever? Tory hopeful Rory Stewart admits smoking OPIUM

Is this the most bizarre leadership campaign ever? Tory hopeful Rory Stewart admits he smoked OPIUM in Iran as his #RoryWalks tour of Britain and video selfies with the public see him propelled to fifth favourite with members in the race to replace May

  • The International Development Secretary took the narcotic at a wedding in Iran 
  • It was illegal in the hardline Islamic nation at the time it occurred 15 years ago
  • He told Sky News: ‘Somebody passed this pipe around the room and I smoked it’

Tory leadership hopeful Rory Stewart apologised today after admitting once smoking the Class A drug opium as the race to replace Theresa May took a bizarre turn.

The International Development Secretary said he was wrong to accept a pipe that was being passed around at a wedding he attended in Iran while travelling 15 years ago. 

He admitted smoking the narcotic – from which heroin is made – during an interview with the Daily Telegraph, saying it ‘had no effect’ on him ‘because I was walking 25-30 miles a day’.

He told the paper: ‘I was invited into the house, the opium pipe was passed around at a wedding. I thought – this is going be a very strange afternoon to walk – but it may be that the family was so poor they put very little opium in the pipe.’ 

It came after the 46-year-old continued his high-profile campaign in the early running in the race to replace Theresa May. 

Mr Stewart, the MP for Penrith and the Borders in Cumbria, has conducted a social media-heavy campaign during his #RoryWalks tour of various parts of the UK, including east London, Warrington and Wigan, to talk to normal people. 

His tour prompted meme where people joked that they were scared to leave their homes in case he appeared.

Mr Stewart meeting locals in Wigan during his #RoryWalks tour of the United Kingdom

What will the Tory leadership candidates do to deliver Brexit as Farage calls the shots?  

Boris Johnson: Brexiteer who backs a deal but will leave without a deal if required. Writing in the Daily Telegraph today the ex-foreign secretary said: ‘No one sensible would aim exclusively for a no-deal outcome. No one responsible would take no-deal off the table.’  

Dominic Raab: Brexiteer who wants the current deal with Brussels renegotiated but believes the UK should leave on October 31 ‘at the latest’ with or without a deal, saying: ‘I believe that I have the plan to ensure we can leave the EU by the end of October’.

Andrea Leadsom: Brexiteer who told the Guardian we must be ‘prepared to leave without a deal’ but has a ‘three-point plan for Brexit, for how we get out of the European Union’. 

Rory Stewart: Remainer who says he could not work for a PM who backed a No Deal Brexit. Described it as ‘damaging, unnecessary’ and  ‘a huge mistake’.

Michael Gove: Brexiteer who favours a deal. He told the BBC at the weekend that ‘we would be able to get through it’ but added: ‘It’s ultimately better for all of us if we secure a deal with the EU and leave in an orderly way’.

Matt Hancock: Remainer who backs a deal. He told Sky News that leaving the European Union without an agreement is ‘not an active policy choice that is available to the next prime minister’, in jibe at Boris Johnson.

Jeremy Hunt: Remainer turned Brexiteer whose views on No Deal have varied. Last year he said it would be ‘a mistake we would regret for generations’ before later insisting the UK would ‘would survive and prosper’ if it left unilaterally. Now he says it would be ‘political suicide’ for the Tories.

Esther McVey: Ruled out a futher Brexit extension. Todya she said:  ‘People saying we need a Brexit policy to bring people together are misreading the situation. We need to deliver on the referendum result with a clean break and then we bring people together by how we govern the country outside the EU.’ 

Sajid Javid: Remainer Home Secretary who accepts that Brexit has to happen. He said today: ‘First and foremost, we must deliver Brexit.’ 

Kit Malthouse: Housing minister who says the Tories need to turn to a ‘new generation’ of politicians. The 52-year-old tried to organise a deal between Conservative Brexit factions – which was modestly named the ‘Malthouse Compromise’. 

James Cleverly: Brexit minister who insists while a no-deal Brexit is ‘not his preferred choice’, he is ‘ready to lead the country’ through whatever happens. 

The former diplomat, who worked for the Foreign Office in Iraq and Afghanistan, has used his language skills,  posting videos of him speaking in languages including Dari, an Afghan dialect of Farsi.

He has also taken a host of ‘selfies’ – but admitted he faked holding the camera.  

Appearing on comedian Matt Forde’s Political Party podcast last night he said his new high profile was ‘strange’, adding: ‘I’m doing roughly what I think I’ve been doing for the past nine years and nobody paid any attention at all.’

His drugs admission came after another rival, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, told the Sunday Times at the weekend that he a ‘had cannabis lassi’ while ‘backpacking through India’ as a youth.

Opium comes from several species of poppy, with the main growth areas in Afghanistan and the Golden Triangle in south East Asia. 

Speaking to Sky News today Mr Stewart said he ‘went on in Iran to see the damage that opium was doing to communities’.

He said: ‘I’ve seen it as a prisons minister – it is something that was very wrong.

‘I made a stupid mistake. I was at a wedding in a large community meeting. 

‘Somebody passed this pipe around the room and I smoked it.

‘I shouldn’t have done it, I was wrong.’ 

One of his stops was in Kew Gardens and told his followers he was there for an hour ‘if anyone wants to talk’.

Some viewers joked that they would have loved to but asked him to pay the £18-plus entrance fee.

The DfiD minister was there to promote his department’s work with cocoa farmers around the world – around an hour after extolling the benefits of drinking camel’s milk on Good Morning Britain.

On an extraordinary day of campaigning he also denied claims from Tory rivals he was a ‘suicide bomber’ working to help Michael Gove beat Boris Johnson, saying he is a ‘serious candidate’ and was upset by the metaphor because he served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The former prisons minister who once vowed to quit if they did not improve within a year declared his candidacy to replace Theresa May 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 has said the Tories should ‘stretch all the way from Ken Clarke to Jacob Rees-Mogg’.

He also lashed out at Mr Johnson, saying he would not serve under a No Deal-supporting PM. 

Barking in Barking: Mr Stewart wanted to escape the Westminster bubble to see what people on the street were concerned about

Barking in Barking: Mr Stewart wanted to escape the Westminster bubble to see what people on the street were concerned about

He posed for a selfie with 'Alistair', who followed him to barking after missing him at Borough Market in central London

He posed for a selfie with ‘Alistair’, who followed him to barking after missing him at Borough Market in central London

He appeared to be at ease chatting to regular people - in contrast to the often stilted efforts by Theresa May

He appeared to be at ease chatting to regular people – in contrast to the often stilted efforts by Theresa May

It's less strong than opium: Rory stops for coffee with locals in Warrington, Cheshire, yesterday

It’s less strong than opium: Rory stops for coffee with locals in Warrington, Cheshire, yesterday

Mr Stewart told Sky News he was wrong to accept a pipe that was being passed around at a wedding he attended in Iran 15 years ago

Mr Stewart told Sky News he was wrong to accept a pipe that was being passed around at a wedding he attended in Iran 15 years ago

One of his first stops on the walking tour was Lewisham in south east London at the start of the week

One of his first stops on the walking tour was Lewisham in south east London at the start of the week

On a visit to the north west he also visited Wigan, the seat of Labour's Lisa Nandy who is pro-Leave

On a visit to the north west he also visited Wigan, the seat of Labour’s Lisa Nandy who is pro-Leave

He met a local Tory council candidate and activists in Warrington, Cheshire, yesterday

He met a local Tory council candidate and activists in Warrington, Cheshire, yesterday

He also went to Barking in east London to meet locals and talk to them about the issues they face

He also went to Barking in east London to meet locals and talk to them about the issues they face

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. 

He ranked fifth among members in a poll of Conservative members by the Con Home website. 

But on 6.14 per cent this was well behind favorite Boris Johnson who the choice of a third (33 per cent) of the membership. 

So who will replace Theresa? Bookies’ favourite Boris is ODDS-ON to take May’s crown amid signs a DOZEN former ministers and backbenchers could enter the race to be PM

Boris Johnson is favourite to replace Theresa May’s after her decision to resign on June 7 fired the official starting gun on the race to succeed her. 

The long-term favourite has roared into a commanding lead to win the vote to take over as Tory leader and become the Prime Minister who will be faced with delivering Brexit. 

But the field in the contest due to take place in June and July is likely to be wide, with more than a dozen ministers, former ministers and backbenchers believed to be ready to run. 

Eleven MPs have now  said they will run: Mr Johnson, Dominic Raab, Rory Stewart, Jeremy Hunt, Andrea Leadsom, Michael Gove, Matt Hancock, Esther McVey, Sajid Javid, Kit Malthouse, and James Cleverly.

Sajid Javid is also believed to be considering a run, alongside outsiders including hardline Brexiteer Steve Baker and even Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee.

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 split from his wife Marina and is in a relationship with former Conservative staffer Carrie Symonds

Boris Johnson split from his wife Marina and is in a relationship with former Conservative staffer Carrie Symonds

  • 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 fewer fans in the parliamentary party and may face a concerted campaign to block his succession. 

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.

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 5/1

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.

Supports leaving with a deal and while he says a No deal Brexit would come with ‘problems’ he believes the country could get through it. 

Seen as one of the Cabinet’s strongest political thinkers and having stood once it is unthinkable that he would not stand again.

He will again be pitched against Mr Johnson in a battle for Brexiteer votes. 

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

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 12/1 

The former Commons’ Leader piled pressure on the Prime Minister by announcing her own resignation from the Cabinet on Wednesday. 

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.

In a brutal resignation letter she said: ‘I no longer believe that our approach will deliver on the referendum result.’ 

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 clashed 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

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 12/1 

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.

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

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 16/1

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’.

He also lashed out at Mr Johnson at the weekend, saying he would not serve under a No Deal-supporting PM. 

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. 

Matt Hancock: Waffle-loving health secretary who wants Tories to choose a younger leader 

Then culture secretary Mr Hancock with his wife Martha at the 2018 NME Awards

Then culture secretary Mr Hancock with his wife Martha at the 2018 NME Awards

  • 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 20/1

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 made some hard-hitting interventions in areas 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. 

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 25/1 

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. 

On Wednesday, 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, pictured with his wife Laura, has seen his stock take a hit over the knife crime crisis and migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats

Sajid Javid, pictured with his wife Laura, 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 33/1

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. 

Steve Baker: Brexiteer ‘Spartan’ and self-styled ‘hardman’ who refused to budge over Brexit

Brexit 'hardman' Steve Baker has previously threatened to leave the Tories over Brexit

Brexit ‘hardman’ Steve Baker has previously threatened to leave the Tories over Brexit

  • Former Brexit minister who resigned last year
  • A member of the European Research Group which has has opposed Theresa May’s deal in every vote
  • Threatened to quit the Tories over Brexit earlier this year
  • Leadership odds 33/1 

The High Wycombe MP, 47, is a Brexit purist who has never backed Theresa May’s deal.

In March he even threatened to quit the party over the issue, saying: ‘We’ve been put in this place by people whose addiction to power without responsibility has led them to put the choice of No Brexit or this deal.

‘I may yet resign the whip than be part of this.’

The married former RAF engineer officer described himself as a ‘hardman’ in a TV interview this year, only to be shown shortly afterwards in a documentary crying in his office.

Today he told the BBC: ‘There is no point shying away from it, people have been asking me to stand. I have had a degree of support from across the country that I could never have foreseen.

‘I have also had some MPs asking me to stand but I need to face up to the challenge of taking a decision on whether I should do it.’

Sir Graham Brady: Backbench kingmaker with an eye on the throne?

The chairman of the influential 1922 Committee of backbench MPs has played a key but neutral role in the downfall of Theresa May

The chairman of the influential 1922 Committee of backbench MPs has played a key but neutral role in the downfall of Theresa May

  • Quit today as chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench MPs
  • He went into Downing Street today to tell Mrs May time was up
  • But his name was oddly missing from a later statement on leadership  
  • Leadership odds  50/1

As chairman of the influential 1922 Committee of backbench MPs he has played a key but neutral role in the downfall of Theresa May.

But he quit that post after nine years today ahead o a possible run for the top job. 

Despite being a Brexiteer he has been an independent arbiter, overseeing the no-confidence vote Mrs May survived in December and reportedly opposing attempts to change the rules to dethrone her early.

The married father of two has held several meetings with the PM in recent weeks as the mutiny against her grew and this morning saw her in Downing Street where he told her that her time was up.

But his name was conspicuously absent from a later Conservative Party statement about how the leadership election would happen. 

He told the Press Association: ‘I have been approached by a number of colleagues across the party both inside and outside Parliament asking me to put myself forward as a candidate.

‘Therefore I have taken the decision to stand down from the position of chairman of the 1922 Committee in order to ensure a fair and transparent election process.

‘I am considering the approaches I have received and will make a further statement in due course.’

His Brexiteer credentials and honourable display as Mrs May was brought down will count in his favour but he lacks frontbench experience, having a sole three-year stint as a shadow Europe minister 15 years ago on his CV. 

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 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. 

Kit Malthouse: Self-proclaimed peacemaker who says it is time for a ‘new generation’ to take charge 

  • Known for his efforts to forge a compromise between Tory Brexit factions 
  • Entered the Commons in David Cameron’s 2015 election victory 
  • Served as deputy to Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London 
  • Leadership odds 100/1
Kit Malthouse, who was elected to the Commons in 2015, says it is time for a new generation of politicians to take charge of the Conservative Party

Kit Malthouse, who was elected to the Commons in 2015, says it is time for a new generation of politicians to take charge of the Conservative Party

Housing minister Kit Malthouse is best known for his abortive efforts to forge a joint position between Tory Remainers and Brexiteers – which would essentially have meant leaving the EU more slowly but with looser trade ties.

It was modestly labelled as the ‘Malthouse Compromise’.

Now the 52-year-old, who was elected to the Commons in 2015, says it is time for a new generation of politicians to take charge of the Conservative Party. 

Previously the Liverpool-born father-of-three served as a deputy to Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London. 

He says his core offer in the contest is a new social contract, ‘a good job, a secure home and a brilliant school. Job, house, school – the foundations of a secure and happy life’.

However, even though Tory leadership contests often throw up surprises, it is unclear whether he will have the support needed to edge out the big beasts. 

James Cleverly: Strong media performer who once said he wanted to snog Theresa May 

James Cleverly has been seen as a rising star since entering the Commons as part of David Cameron's surprise win in 2015, as MP for Braintree

James Cleverly has been seen as a rising star since entering the Commons as part of David Cameron’s surprise win in 2015, as MP for Braintree

James Cleverly has been seen as a rising star since entering the Commons as part of David Cameron’s surprise win in 2015, as MP for Braintree.

Prior to that the 49-year-old was leader of the Conservative group in the London Assembly – although he had a life before politics, serving briefly in the army before injury ended his career, and then working in the publishing industry.

Mr Cleverly was moved up the ranks to Tory Deputy Chairman  at the beginning of last year, before getting on the ministerial ladder as the No2 at the Brexit department when Chris Heaton-Harris resigned this spring.

He is known as a good communicator on TV and radio, and is not afraid to be combative on social media.  

He is trying to make a virtue of his lack of Cabinet experience, sand says he would be proud to be the first BAME Prime Minister. 

Mr Cleverly once said he wanted to ‘snog’ Theresa May as he played a light-hearted game on BBC Radio 5 Live – a desire the PM later complained he had not followed through on. 

However, despite being loyal before her resignation was announced, Mr Cleverly has now shown a ruthless streak by swiping that Mrs May was ‘not a good fit’ for the role of PM. 

 

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