Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at The University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.
At the June 13 first round of voting, three of the ten Conservative leadership candidates were eliminated as they had less than the 17 votes required – Mark Harper, Andrea Leadsom and Esther McVey. The next day Matt Hancock also withdrew. Combined these four candidates had 50 first round votes.
At the June 18 second round, Boris Johnson won votes from 126 of the 313 Conservative MPs (up 12 from round one), Jeremy Hunt 46 (up three), Michael Gove 41 (up four), Rory Stewart 37 (up 18), Sajid Javid 33 (up ten) and Dominic Raab 30 (up three). As he finished last, hard Brexiteer Raab was eliminated, with Javid just scraping through the 33-vote threshold required to continue.
In subsequent rounds, there was no threshold, and the bottom candidate was eliminated. At the June 19 third round, Johnson won 143 votes (up 17 since round two), Hunt 54 (up eight), Gove 51 (up ten), Javid 38 (up five), and Stewart was eliminated with 27 votes (down ten). While there is speculation that Johnson people tactically voted for Stewart to eliminate Raab in the previous round, commentator Stephen Bush says it is more likely that Stewart’s drop reflected his poor performance in a BBC debate on June 18. Stewart was the candidate most opposed to both a no-deal Brexit and Johnson.
At the June 20 morning fourth round, Johnson won 157 votes (up 14 since round three), Gove 61 (up ten), Hunt 59 (up five) and Javid was eliminated with 34 votes (down four). Two ballot papers were spoilt. Johnson achieved a majority of MPs (157 of 313) with three other candidates still in.
At the June 20 afternoon final round, Johnson won 160 votes (up three), Hunt 77 (up 18) and Gove was eliminated with 75 votes (up 14). From the first round to final round, Johnson increased his total by 46 votes to reach 51% of Conservative MPs, Hunt increased by 34 votes to reach 25%, and Gove by 38 votes to reach 24%. Johnson or someone like him was likely to be one of the final two after 157 Conservative MPs voted in favour of a no-deal Brexit on March 27.
Johnson and Hunt, the current Foreign Secretary, will now proceed to a postal ballot of Conservative members that is expected to conclude by mid-July. Johnson is the heavy favourite to win this vote, and become Britain’s next PM. In a recent YouGov poll of Conservative members, 77% thought Johnson would be a good party leader, and just 19% thought he would be poor. For Hunt, these figures were 56% good, 37% poor. Gove and Stewart were perceived as worse than Hunt by Conservative members.
Bush says Conservative MPs voted for Johnson after their party lost over 1,300 councillors at local government elections in early May, and then finished fifth with just 9% of the national vote at EU elections in late May. Bush suggests that the 27 Stewart voters imply that many Conservative MPs are very unhappy with Johnson, and with the prospect of a no-deal Brexit. A new election may be required soon if those Conservative MPs join Labour in voting no-confidence in their government if Johnson pursues a no-deal Brexit.
I wrote for The Conversation about the education divide explaining the Coalition’s upset victory in Australia, and also about Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 US presidential election. Johnson is likely to appeal to the same types of voters that benefited the Coalition and Trump.