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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.

Supporting documents:

“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

Read on

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.

editors letter

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

Case of Magyar Helsinki Bizottsag v. HungaryDownload

Kennedy (Appellant) v. The Charity Commission (Respondent)

Kennedy v The Charity CommissionDownload

Tory membership: a timeline

Further reading

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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