HOME Secretary Theresa May is the clear favourite to succeed David Cameron as Prime Minister, following a dramatic morning in which Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt and Nicky Morgan ruled themselves out.
But Michael Gove, who performed a U-turn and announced his candidature just three hours before the noon deadline, may give her a run for her money.
Stephen Crabb, Liam Fox and Andrea Leadsom make up the rest of the field.
Here’s what we know about each of their campaigns...
MICHAEL GOVE had always said he didn’t want to be Prime Minister. He does now.
He called today for “a bold break with the past” but stopped short of revealing his plans to heal the wounds inflicted by the referendum.
He told reporters: “I want there to be an open and positive debate about the path the country will now take. Whatever the verdict of that debate I will respect it. In the next few days I will lay out my plan for the United Kingdom which I hope can provide unity and change.”
The first hint of Mr Gove’s candidacy was provided by his wife, journalist Sarah Vine, who in an email she sent accidentally to a member of the public, urged her husband to play hardball with Boris Johnson before making any promises of support. Kate Proctor on The case for Michael Gove succeeding David Cameron
THERESA MAY has been more specific, ruling out a snap election, a second referendum or an emergency budget and insisting: “Brexit means Brexit.”
She also said she would not kick off the two-year process of negotiating withdrawal until the UK’s strategy is agreed - probably not before the end of this year. And she said she would create a new Government department, headed by a Cabinet-level minister who had campaigned for Leave, to oversee the UK’s departure from the EU.
Renowned for an ice-cold persona, she did her best today to warm up the party’s grass roots voters who triggered the Leave vote.
“If you are from an ordinary working class family, life is just much harder than many people in politics realise,” she said.
“Frankly, not everybody in Westminster understands what it’s like to live like this and some need to be told that it isn’t a game. It’s a serious business that has real consequences for people’s lives.”
STEPHEN CRABB is Work and Pensions Secretary, and hugely popular in the Conservative parliamentary party, coming from the sort of “ordinary” background that chimes with voters.
The former Welsh Secretary says the party should be led by someone “who understands the enormity of the situation we’re in and who has got a clear plan to deliver on the expectations of the 17 million people who voted to come out last week” including keeping the United Kingdom together. Sketch: Stephen Crabb on unity, opportunity and rugby
ANDREA LEADSOM, the Energy Minister, is a former banker and fund manager who campaigned on the Brexit side.
She announced she was in the running by tweeting: “Let’s make the most of the Brexit opportunities” but has yet to specify the nature of those opportunities or how she will pursue them.
LIAM FOX, who unsuccessfully sought the top job in 2005, was the first to throw his hat in the ring this time. An outspoken supporter of Brexit, he would hope win over the right of the party.
The former defence secretary resigned from the front benches in 2011 after allowing his friend and best man Adam Werritty to take on an unofficial and undeclared role as his adviser.