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How does a Conservative Party leadership contest work?

A Conservative Party leadership contest is set to begin on June 10. Credit: PA

The race to find Theresa May’s successor as leader of the Conservative Party has begun. While she holds the fort at 10 Downing Street, continuing in her role as Prime Minister, her party will begin a two-stage process that could take as little as six weeks, starting on June 10.

Firstly, there’s the parliamentary stage.

Those Conservative MPs who want the top job will put their names forward to the chair of the 1922 committee Sir Graham Brady, who oversees the contest. In 2016, each leadership candidate needed two MPs to nominate them (a proposer and seconder) in order to get on the ballot paper.

MPs then vote in order to whittle the names down to two candidates.

Each MP is issued a ballot paper and votes in secret. The first round usually takes place on the first Tuesday after the close of nominations.

In each round, the candidate with the fewest votes is knocked out. Votes have historically taken place on alternate Tuesdays and Thursday until only two MPs remain. It’s a pretty quick and brutal process, and should be completed within two weeks.

That’s stage one. In stage two, the power then transfers to the Tory membership.

Each paid-up member of the Conservative Party receives a postal ballot, and they will vote for one of the two MPs put forward by the parliamentary party.

The length of both stages is dictated by the 1922 Executive Committee (18 backbench Tory MPs) and the Conservative Party Board.

In 2016, the second stage was scheduled to last two months, but Andrea Leadsom stood down from the contest before it could get that far. This could be shortened to a month this time around in order to get the new leader in place before the summer recess on July 24th.

During the second stage, the two candidates will take part in a series of hustings around the country. Again, exactly how many of these events take place will be decided by the aforementioned party bodies.

Once the members vote and the winner is declared, Theresa May will go to Buckingham Palace to tender her resignation to her Majesty the Queen, and the new Tory leader will be invited to take up the role as Prime Minister with immediate effect.