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Tory Leadership Race: May vs. Leadsom

James Forsyth comments on the latest news from the Tory leadership race, namely the elimination of Michael Gove:

May will enter the membership ballot as the firm favourite. She has the support of the vast majority of MPs and her experience—six years as Home Secretary and 17 years on the front bench—contrasts sharply with Leadsom, who has only been a Minister for two years.

Leadsom’s main selling point, however, is that she supported Brexit while May did not. She will argue that the policy should be implemented by someone who believes in it and argued for it.

As Forsyth says, the choice is between a much more experienced minister and a Brexiteer. May has stated her intention to follow through with withdrawing from the EU. Because she was not a very active campaigner for her side in the referendum, that may be enough to satisfy Conservatives that want Britain out. Leadsom has just a couple years in minor posts behind her and has been an MP for all of six years, so it would be quite an extraordinary leap for her to become prime minister this year. I suppose that could happen, but even with Boris Johnson’s support for her it seems awfully unlikely. Selecting May gives the Tories a better chance to unify after the referendum, and it would probably be more reassuring for most people in the U.K. to have the more experienced candidate win.

Since she is likely to be the next prime minister, it’s worth noting that May’s foreign policy record is poor. Like Cameron, she backed the Iraq war. She also supported Cameron’s Libyan intervention, and she voted for bombing Syria in 2013. Even so, she does not appear to be quite the fanatical ideologue on foreign policy that Gove still is, and so we can at least be grateful that he won’t be in charge of the next government.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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