After a long-running leadership campaign that effectively began when former Prime Minister Theresa May lost her majority at the 2017 General Election, Thursday sees the moment of truth for Conservative Party hopefuls as the result of the first ballot of MPs is announced.
Ten hopefuls have lined up for this contest, though some are more hopeful than others, and as the result declaration draws nearer, political punters are increasingly confident about Boris Johnson’s chances of finally becoming the leader of the party.
Johnson has been the favourite for some time, thanks largely to his popularity among Conservative Party members, but his odds have shrunk dramatically over the last two weeks, since the party’s disastrous European Election campaign showing. Having been available at 7/4 at one stage, Boris-backers will be lucky to find odds much higher than 4/7 if they want to support him now, and as the money continues to flow for the former Foreign Secretary, those odds are likely to tighten.
The final result of the first ballot will be announced at 13:00 BST on Thursday, though this is only the first stage of the contest. Any candidate who fails to secure the minimum of 17 votes from fellow MPs will be eliminated at this stage, with the remaining hopefuls continuing to further ballots next week, which will whittle the field down to two options, with Tory members having the final say.
For Johnson, getting his name on the ballot represents an improvement on the last contest, in 2016, when he was famously ambushed by his former Leave campaigning colleague Michael Gove. This time round, though, there appears to be no stopping Johnson, who has been remarkably reticent in his few public appearances to date. Gove is also running this time round and will have hopes of at least making it to next week, though he can be backed at anywhere between 14/1 and 22/1.
The main challenger to Johnson, Jeremy Hunt (7/1) will also be hopeful of making it to Round Two, along with Andrea Leadsom (11/1) and the leading moderate Rory Stewart (16/1). For those further down the list, including Ester McVey (100/1), whose public appearances appear to have only harmed her campaign and Chief Whip Mark Harper (200/1) who seems to have left his challenge too late, Thursday seems likely to be the end of the road.