Interior minister Theresa May is the clear frontrunner, pitching herself as a sober operator capable of unifying a party fractured by last month’s referendum and leading Britain out of the EU.
May has said she does not plan to invoke Article 50, the formal procedure for leaving the EU, until the end of the year at the earliest despite pressure from European leaders for a quicker divorce.
May campaigned for Britain to stay in the EU but now says that “Brexit means Brexit” and has ruled out an early election or a second referendum — both seen as possible ways of rowing back from the result.
One of her leading rivals, Andrea Leadsom, who campaigned for Britain to leave, has said she wants exit negotiations to be “as short as possible” in order to avoid “prolonged uncertainty”.
The ruling party’s 330 MPs will vote for one of five candidates, with the least popular being eliminated ahead of similar votes to reduce the shortlist to two.
The party’s 150,000 members will then decide the winner, with the result to be declared on September 9.