Who's auditioning for the Conservative leadership?

By Greg Heffer, political reporter
Not many expect Theresa May to lead the Conservatives into the next general election, scheduled for 2022. So, who might be among those looking to put themselves forward as the party's next leader at this week's annual conference in Birmingham?
:: Boris Johnson - The former foreign secretary will deliver one of (if not the most) highly-anticipated speeches of the Tory conference on Tuesday. He plans to address a 1,000-strong rally during his one-day appearance on the fringe of the Birmingham gathering, ensuring he dominates headlines on the eve of the prime minister's own speech. Mr Johnson will no doubt be hoping to whip activists into a frenzy like he used to during his conference appearances while London mayor. This will increase pressure on the prime minister over her Chequers plan for Brexit - which Mr Johnson hates - as well as reignite thoughts of him replacing Mrs May in Downing Street. With Mr Johnson's weekly Daily Telegraph column also due to be published on Monday, could the Conservative conference become all about Boris?
Who's auditioning for the Conservative leadership?

Boris Johnson will address a 1,000-strong rally
:: Sajid Javid - The home secretary will deliver his keynote conference speech from the main stage on Tuesday lunchtime, but is also listed to appear at a number of other fringe events and receptions. Intriguingly, one is titled "How can the party continue to broaden its electoral appeal?"; a question to which some Tory members might suggest the answer is to make Mr Javid their party leader. The successor-but-one to Mrs May in the Home Office, Mr Javid has not been shy to distance himself from the prime minister's stance on key matters from her own time in the department. His conference appearances will be pored over for further signs of division between the prime minister and Mr Javid on matters such as immigration, foreign students and police pay. Although he backed Remain in 2016, Mr Javid may have since won back support from Tory Brexiteers. He reportedly led a push for EU migrants not to have preferential access to the UK over other nationalities once Britain leaves the bloc.
Who's auditioning for the Conservative leadership?

Sajid Javid's conference appearances will be pored over for further signs of division with the PM
:: Jeremy Hunt - Britain's longest-serving health secretary became foreign secretary in July, meaning he can now add international diplomacy to his CV should he wish to one day launch a leadership bid. Mr Hunt will wrap up Sunday's speeches on the first day of the conference and is only listed to appear at two further receptions in Birmingham. The Remain-supporter has strengthened his Brexit credentials amongst the largely eurosceptic Conservative membership by stating he would now vote Leave due to the "arrogance" of the EU during divorce negotiations. Mr Hunt is also said to be among those cabinet ministers pushing the prime minister to chase a Canada-style trade agreement with the EU if it continues to reject her Chequers plan.
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:: Michael Gove - The environment secretary has reinvented himself as a champion of green issues since returning to government last year. Indeed, Mr Gove's scheduled conference appearances - beyond his address to the main hall - include one alongside the head of charity WWF and a discussion on how to protect the oceans from plastic pollution. The Tories recent focus on green issues is an attempt to recapture younger voters, who turned further towards Labour at last year's general election.
:: Jacob Rees-Mogg - The man dubbed the "minister for the 18th century" appears to have replaced Boris Johnson as the darling of the Conservative grassroots. However, the "Moggmentum" of last year seems to have ebbed in recent months. He is listed to speak at a number of fringe conference events, with his presence certain to draw a crowd of both party members and journalists - not least because he is a leading critic of the prime minister's Chequers plan. Mr Rees-Mogg has always been coy about whether he wants to succeed Mrs May, although he cranked up the rumour mill recently by moving his large family into a house in Westminster less than a mile from Number 10.

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:: Dominic Raab - The Brexit secretary is due to speak from the main conference stage on Monday and, other than that, he is only listed to appear at one fringe event. However, if he is interested in raising his profile for a possible tilt at the leadership, Mr Raab will no doubt consider his efforts are better spent concentrating on negotiations with the EU rather than schmoozing party members in Birmingham. As one of the few prominent Leave campaigners to support Mrs May's Chequers plan, Mr Raab is having to deal with claims from hardline Brexiteers he has betrayed the cause in favour of a cabinet position. He has also been sidelined in favour of top civil servant Olly Robbins, with Mr Raab's Brexit department no longer directly responsible for negotiating the UK's divorce. However, if Mr Raab does help secure a successful Brexit outcome that the Tories can end up uniting around, surely he would then become a serious leadership candidate.
Dominic Raab is set for a quiet conference as he concentrates on Brexit negotiations
:: Penny Mordaunt - The international development secretary is due to speak from the main conference stage on Sunday and is also listed to speak at three fringe events. Ms Mordaunt made a name for herself during the EU referendum as a prominent member of the Vote Leave campaign. She backs the prime minister's Chequers plan by virtue of being in government, although she has been conspicuously quiet in voicing that support publicly. This has helped fuel reports she is on the verge of quitting the cabinet unless Mrs May changes tack. In her cabinet role she has led the government response to the Oxfam sex scandal, while her additional women and equalities brief has seen her generate headlines through her support for legalising abortion in Northern Ireland. She also recently became the first government minister to use sign language during a speech in the House of Commons. If the Tories wanted a third female leader in their history, the former Splash! reality TV show star might be in pole position.
Who's auditioning for the Conservative leadership?

Penny Mordaunt was first government minister to use sign language in the Commons
:: Theresa May? - Not many Tories give the prime minister much hope of leading the party into the next general election, which is scheduled in 2022. However, Mrs May has not ruled that out and her keynote conference address is intriguingly titled "Campaign 2022". Could a decent conference showing begin the rehabilitation of MPs' and members' confidence in Mrs May to continue at the head of the party?
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