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Meet the MPs gunning to be UK’s first black prime minister

June 07, 2019 at 10:30 am | Opinions & Features

Ismail Akwei

Ismail Akwei | Contributor

June 07, 2019 at 10:30 am | Opinions & Features

As British Prime Minister Theresa May is preparing to officially leave her hot seat as leader of the United Kingdom’s Conservative Party on Friday, there is the need for her replacement and June 10 is the official start of the contest.

Among the candidates who have expressed interest in the Tory leadership are experienced Tory MPs and ministers including Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt, Dominic Raab, Sajid Javid and Matt Hancock who have already gained the required backing of eight colleagues.

However, none of the contenders is black except Sam Gyimah, MP for East Surrey and James Cleverly, MP for Braintree in Essex. The latter who was born to a British father and a mother from Sierra Leone withdrew from the race on Tuesday citing lack of support due to his inexperience in parliament since joining in 2015.

Official portrait of James Cleverly crop 2.jpg
James Cleverly

49-year-old Cleverly is a former Vice Chair of the Conservative Party and in April, he resigned and became a minister at the Department for Exiting the European Union. Before joining politics he worked in magazine and web publishing. He was also a member of the Territorial Army since 1991 and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in early 2015 before he was elected.

Sam Gyimah

Sam Gyimah, who is currently the only black man in the running for prime minister could make history if he wins the tight race that will go through a series of ballots before a winner is declared.

41-year-old Gyimah was born in Buckinghamshire in England in the UK to Ghanaian parents. When he was six, he moved to Ghana with his mother and siblings. He lived in Ghana for the next ten years before moving to the UK for his A-Levels and College.

He rose to fame in 2010 when he was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for East Surrey following his appointment to the Conservative Party A-List. In 2018, he was appointed Universities and Science Minister in charge of the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Prior to his appointment, Gyimah was the prisons minister, and before that, he served in parliament as a government whip and parliamentary private secretary to the former Prime Minister, David Cameron, from 2012 to 2013.

He became the 10th member of government to resign over Theresa May’s Brexit deal late last year. The backbencher dismissed the withdrawal agreement as a “deal in name only” and is backing a second referendum saying he would vote to remain in the EU if there was another poll.

Meanwhile, Gyimah has failed to secure the required eight backing from his colleagues and as at Friday, he garnered only three. If he is able to secure the eight backers, he would contest in the first ballot on Thursday, 13 June and needs to win at least 17 votes in the first round and 33 votes in the second to proceed further.

Between 18 and 20 June, campaigning around the UK and successive ballots would be held to eliminate candidates with the least votes until it’s left with two. There would also be a postal ballot of 124,000 Conservative Party members to be held on June 22.

A new leader would be announced by July 22 and if it’s Sam Gyimah, he would be the first black prime minister of the United Kingdom since 1801 when the parliaments of Britain and Ireland each passed an Act of Union, uniting the two kingdoms and creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

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