Tags: EU | Britain | Exit | Boris Johnson | Theresa May | Shift | UK Conservatives

With Cameron Out, 'Boris vs Tessie' Spells Big Shift On Europe for UK Conservatives

With Cameron Out, 'Boris vs Tessie' Spells Big Shift On Europe for UK Conservatives

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Friday, 24 June 2016 08:46 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Hours after the whole world was riveted Thursday to the United Kingdom's vote to leave the European Union, Prime Minister David Cameron provided the next stunning moment in the ongoing British political drama by announcing his resignation.

The surprise resignation of Cameron — who had called the referendum and led the campaign to "remain" in the EU — now sets the stage for a succession battle between two of the most flamboyant members of the ruling Conservative Party: Boris Johnson, former mayor of London and the face of the winning "Leave" forces in the EU fight, and Theresa May, Home Secretary and long touted to be the UK's second woman prime minister after Margaret Thatcher.

With Cameron setting October for his scheduled departure from the prime minister's residence at Number Ten Downing Street, the method of choosing his successor as Conservative Party leader is unclear at this time.

What is clear is that whether it is "Boris"— as the onetime "Spectator" editor is universally known — or "Tessie" — who in '02 became the first woman to serve as Conservative Party chairman — the election of either will signal an historic shift.

Conservatives will have moved closer to the "Euroskeptic" position symbolized by the dramatic vote to leave the EU and away from the pro-European stand embodied by Cameron.

Both Johnson and May are considered, like Cameron, "establishment" conservatives and have long been associated with the outgoing prime minister. But on the pivotal issue of remaining in the EU, both clearly distanced themselves from Prime Minister Cameron.

Earlier this year, Johnson, who has known Cameron since they were at Eton and Oxford, surprised observers on all sides by joining the "Leave" team. With his flamboyant words and tousled white hair inviting frequent comparisons to Donald Trump, Johnson soon became the public face of the campaign to "Brexit" the EU.

"Boris was smart," an American conservative visiting in the UK at the time of the vote told Newsmax, "He kept the 'Leave' campaign  from becoming a wholly-owned subsidiary of [controversial United Kingdom Independence Party boss] Nigel Farage and, in the process, kept the 'Euroskeptic' grass roots in the Conservative fold—for now, anyway."

Theresa May, the longest-serving (seven years) Home Secretary in a century, was, as one BBC correspondent put it, "a soft 'remain.' She didn't really put herself out there during the campaign." 

Instead, she focused on law and order and immigration, the issues that are the zenith of her portfolio as Home Secretary. She has, according to Fortune Magazine, "consistently failed to meet the Conservatives' election pledges to cut net inflows [of immigrants] to below 100,000 a year." 

But this has not dented May's popularity among colleagues in the House of Commons or grass-roots Conservative activists. 

The 1922 Committee, which is the governing panel of the Conservatives in Commons, will soon set the rules to choose a new party leader who will automatically become prime minister. The committee could simply permit the Members to elect a leader, as they did with Conservative leaders from Edward Heath in 1965 to John Major in 1990.

Or it could require Members to vote, with each ballot eliminating the lowest vote-getter in the race until there are only two candidates. They would then compete in a U.S.-style primary among dues-paying Conservatives throughout the UK. It was under this system that Cameron won the leadership at age 39 in 2005.

Conspicuous by his absence in the post-Cameron speculation is Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne. Long considered the prime minister's closest political friend and heir apparent, Osborne's identification with the "Remain" forces and with Cameron himself will reportedly keep him out of the race, Conservative Party sources told Newsmax. 

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

© 2019 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

   
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Hours after the whole world was riveted Thursday to the United Kingdom's vote to leave the European Union, Prime Minister David Cameron provided the next stunning moment in the ongoing British political drama by announcing his resignation.
EU, Britain, Exit, Boris Johnson, Theresa May, Shift, UK Conservatives
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2016-46-24
Friday, 24 June 2016 08:46 AM
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