Senior Tory MPs to rule on plan to slash number of leadership contenders
Senior Tory MPs are to decide whether the number of candidates running to succeed Theresa May as party leader should be slashed.
Thirteen MPs have already declared they are running to be the new Conservative leader, with more expected to join the contest before nominations close on 10 June.
Members of the powerful executive of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers will meet on Tuesday to debate how the leadership race should be conducted.
That could lead to a new rule insisting that each candidate must have at least 10 MPs supporting them before they can take part.
Several of those who have already announced they are running do not have that level of support, meaning they would be instantly disqualified.
One member of the 1922 executive told PoliticsHome: "The rules are set for each contest so anything is possible."
In a speech on Monday, Communities Secretary James Brokenshire called on leadership candidates with little hope of winning to withdraw from the race.
He said: "We simply do not have the luxury of weeks of navel gazing or days and days of whittling candidates down to the final two and talking to ourselves.
"So I say gently to some of my colleagues who have put themselves forward for what has been described as the Grand National of Political Contests. Please think carefully.
"If you already know it’s going to be a bit of a struggle to get over the first fence, let alone Becher's Brook ahead, then maybe you should pull up. There is no embarrassment in that."
But James Cleverly, who is among those to throw their hat into the ring, said the number of candidates should not be recuced before leadership hustings begin.
He tweeted: "There are some saying that we should truncate the leadership process because the likely winner is “obvious”. We did that last time, we decided who was the right answer and then didn’t test that assumption. This time we have to test the whole field."
The 1922 Committee is also expected to debate calls for the number of candidates who make it through to the final run-off to be doubled to four.
At the moment, only two contenders are allowed through to the ballot of party members which decides the winner.
Writing for the ConservativeHome website in March, Tory backbencher Johnny Mercer said expanding the final run-off to four candidates would ensure it was not a straight fight between a Remainer and a Leaver.
He said: "MPs should select down to the last four, not two. Then our membership surely must have their properly weighted say, in a single transferable vote contest. The contest itself would be invigorating for our movement. It would electrify a country crying out for genuine political leadership. It would create an environment for authentic discussion of modern Conservatism."