Who chooses the PM?
Liz Truss was elected prime minister by a handful of the population – Conservative party members. Her successor was almost chosen this way as well. But nobody knows exactly who these people are – or how secure the process is. So we’ve asked the Conservative Party to tell us.
Our application for Judicial Review
On 10 October 2022, Tortoise submitted an application for Judicial Review of the Conservative party’s refusal to disclose information about the way it chooses its leader – and Britain’s prime minister. During the leadership contest that took place this summer, the party refused to disclose any information about its voters’ demographics, or answer any questions about steps it was taking to ensure the election’s security.
“Whether you approve or not of the party membership choosing the prime minister, the public can properly expect to know the profile of the people who elect the head of the UK government and what steps are taken to ensure the election is competently and safely run,” said Tortoise co-founder and editor James Harding.
While the party asserts that its recent leadership election was an entirely private matter and that the PM was chosen by the Sovereign, we say that by electing a new prime minister the party is exercising a public function. Therefore, we believe it should comply with journalists’ right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Given the radical change in direction that Liz Truss, the current PM, has brought to government, and the short timeframe of the contest to replace her, it’s even more important the British public know who put her in power, and that the process was secure.
“The leadership process does call for a rethink… Maybe there should be different rules for electing a prime minister…”Archie Norman, former Conservative party chief executive
“It would be better… for the members of parliament to have the full say on who the leader is. I think that applies to all the political parties actually.”William Hague, former Conservative party leader
“A handful of people in this country were given the opportunity to choose the next prime minister. And I don’t think that we should go through that again.”Camilla Cavendish, former Director of Policy for David Cameron
a voicemail from the editor
How to rig the race for Number 10
The way the Conservative party elects its leaders means the next contest will be vulnerable to manipulation.
Time for a rethink
The Conservative Party needs to change the way it elects its leaders, writes Archie Norman, its former chief executive.
Power to the people
Voters overwhelmingly reject the way the Conservative Party is choosing its next leader and the UK’s next prime minister, according to a new poll.
A voicemail from the editor
The ministry of silly elections
We believe the British people should have the right to know who’s choosing their next prime minister. To find out, we’re looking to take the Conservative Party to court.
Who decides the next PM?
We have sent a letter to the Conservative Party to inform them that we are seeking a Judicial Review of their conduct of the election. This is because we believe it is undemocratic and unlawful.
No way to choose
The Conservatives have been reduced to saying the Sovereign chooses the PM. This is not honest and not serious. Here are the steps we’re taking to launch a judicial review to find out more about their leadership race.
Our correspondence with Conservative Party Headquarters
Legal documents to support the case for transparency
Magyar Helsinki Bizottsag v. Hungary
Kennedy (Appellant) v. The Charity Commission (Respondent)
Tory membership: a timeline
- Before 1965 – leaders of the Conservative Party emerges after discussion among party MPs
- Summer 1965 – Alec Douglas-Home introduces a new process allowing future leaders to be elected by Conservative MP’s. The first leader elected under these rules was Edward Heath
- 1 May 1997 – the Conservatives, led by John Major, are swept from power by Tony Blair’s Labour
- February 1998 – a new constitution for the party is set out by then-leader William Hague in response to the loss, giving party members the final vote in the process of electing a leader
- 13 September 2001 – Conservative members vote in a leadership election for the first time, opting for Iain Duncan Smith
- 6 November 2003 – Michael Howard is elected unopposed by the parliamentary party, without a vote from the membership
- May 2005 – Howard announces his resignation after general election defeat. He attempts to change the leadership rules to give the final choice of leader back to MPs, but fails.
- 6 December 2005 – David Cameron is elected Conservative leader by the party membership
- 11 July 2016 – Theresa May wins the race to succeed Cameron as Tory leader and PM unopposed after her opponent Andrea Leadsom drops out
- 24 May 2019 – May announces she will resign as leader of the party
- 23 July 2019 – Boris Johnson wins the leadership election with 66 per cent of the vote.
- 7 July 2022 – Johnson announces his resignation as Conservative
- Party leader
- 20 July 2022 – The field of leadership contenders is narrowed down to the final two – Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak
- 2 September 2022 – Membership ballots close
- 5 September 2022 – The winner of the membership ballot is announced
Former Conservative Party Chairman Norman Tebbit in the Daily Telegraph on why leaving the election of the next prime minister to the Tory membership is undemocratic.
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