Prime Minister Theresa May resigns on Friday June 7.
At least, that’s when she steps down as leader of the Conservative Party.
But she’s not leaving Number 10 yet. In fact, she could continue to be Prime Minister until the week commencing July 22.
There’s a simple explanation. Traditionally, the UK must always have a Prime Minister.
That means Theresa May has to carry on in the role until someone else is ready to replace her. And that won’t happen until the Conservatives have finished electing a new leader.
It means Mrs May will continue as acting Conservative leader – and as Prime Minister – until the leadership contest is over and the winner is announced. At the moment, that’s due to take place in the week commencing June 22. But the contest could end more quickly if candidates drop out.
For example, if it becomes very obvious who is going to win, the other candidates could decide simply to give up. When the new leader is announced, Mrs May will go to Buckingham Palace and officially tell the Queen she is stepping down as Prime Minister.
The new Tory leader will then go to Buckingham Palace – and the Queen will officially ask them to form a Government. Things are a little more complicated than usual, because the Conservatives don’t actually have a majority of MPs in the House of Commons. They are in power because the DUP, a Northern Ireland party with 10 MPs, has agreed to support them.
But as long as the deal with the DUP continues, the Conservatives can continue to govern the country and their leader can be Prime Minister.
There doesn’t need to be another general election until 2022, five years after the last one. Tory leadership contests are overseen by the 1922 Committee, which is a committee of Conservative backbench MPs.
Here is the full timetable for the leadership contest:
– Friday June 7 – Theresa May steps down as leader of the party, opening the call for nominations from 5pm. Mrs May will continue as acting leader until a new one is chosen by the membership.
– Monday June 10 – Nominations will be received by the 1922 Committee between 10am and 5pm.
Candidates from the 313 Conservative MPs will require a proposer, a seconder and six other MPs to support their candidacy to continue to the first ballot.
– Tuesday June 11 – First round of hustings begins for candidates who reached the threshold with all Conservative MPs in attendance.
– Thursday June 13 – First ballot. Any candidate receiving 16 votes or fewer will be eliminated. The results are announced at 1pm.
– Sunday June 16 – Journalist Krishnan Guru-Murphy will host a leadership debate among the remaining candidates on Channel 4.
– Monday June 17 – Second round of hustings in front of Conservative MPs with the remaining candidates.
– Tuesday June 18 – Second ballot. Any candidate receiving 32 votes or fewer will be eliminated. The results are announced at 1pm.
At 8pm, Emily Maitlis will host a Conservative leadership debate entitled Our Next Prime Minister on BBC One.
– Wednesday June 19 – Third ballot, where the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. The results are announced at 6pm.
– Thursday June 20 – The fourth and fifth ballots which will continue until two candidates remain. The 1922 Committee says it has provision for further ballots, but this is unlikely. The results are announced at 1pm and 6pm respectively.
– Saturday June 22 – With two candidates, Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) will begin the membership hustings process for party members.
The party will aim for the hustings to take place in all 12 regions of the UK.
– Week commencing July 22 – A new leader will be announced following the ballot of about 160,000 Conservative members.