The President of the Conservative Party’s National Convention says he “expects” Andrea Leadsom to beat Theresa May and become the next Prime Minister.
Steve Bell, who chairs the group that represents the party’s local voluntary associations, said MPs will get a “wake-up call” when they discover the extent of support Mrs Leadsom has among ordinary party members.
Theresa May received the backing of an overwhelming number of MPs in Thursday’s ballot and, given her long experience as Home Secretary, is seen as the establishment favourite for the top job.
Mrs Leadsom, however, is regarded as holding views that are more in tune with ordinary Conservatives on issues such as fox hunting and gay marriage. Unlike Mrs May, she also campaigned for Britain to leave the EU, a position supported by the majority of Conservative voters.
Brexit campaign group Leave.EU published a poll of 5,000 Tory members last week, finding that 56 per cent back Mrs Leadsom compared to 44 per cent for Mrs May, putting them at odds with the Parliamentary party.
The Telegraph quotes Mr Bell as saying: “It is a wake-up call for MPs to start listening to their members and their supporters.”
“All I would ask is that MPs do listen to their supporters and members. There are Brexiters who are supporting Theresa May, and there are Remainers that support Andrea Leadsom.
“This is not a Brexit/Remain competition. I do believe that this is fresh start, that politics in Westminster needs a change, Jeremy Corbyn tried to do that and they are kicking against it.
“From the mood in the people in the country, they want change, they want away from the Westminster village style of politics.”
The party will organise nine regional hustings between the two candidates between now and 9 September, when the result will be announced. Postal ballots will be sent out in the coming weeks to all people who have been party members for at least three months.