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LONDON – There are five candidates competing for the position of leader of Britain's Conservative Party. The winner, to be announced September 9, will become prime minister and is expected to lead negotiations to take Britain out of the European Union. Here are brief descriptions of the candidates:
Home Secretary Theresa May did not support leaving the EU during the referendum campaign, staying largely out of the fray while backing the "remain" side, but she said Thursday she is now committed to Brexit. As home secretary, she has played a central role in shaping and implementing security and counter-terrorism policies. The Home Office that she runs is also charged with maintaining Britain's border security and has other far-ranging responsibilities. She has served in the post since 2010 and entered Parliament in 1997.
May, 59, is a vicar's daughter who came up through Conservative Party ranks, working behind the scenes at her local Conservative Association before becoming a city councilor in a London borough. Her position within the party was helped when she served as its chairman in 2002 and 2003. Stressing her extensive experience near the top of government, her campaign has launched with the slogan "Theresa May is ready to be prime minister from day one."
Justice Secretary Michael Gove helped ex-London mayor Boris Johnson lead the successful referendum campaign to take Britain out of the EU. His last-minute announcement Thursday that he was joining the Conservative leadership race indicates growing support for his candidacy in Parliament. He earlier served a controversial tenure as Education Secretary. Gove, 48, enjoyed a close friendship with Prime Minister David Cameron before they split over the referendum.
Gove was born and brought up in Scotland. His father ran a fish-processing business and his mother worked as a university lab assistant and at a school for the deaf. Gove worked first in journalism, including a stint at the Times newspaper, and built a reputation with extensive TV and radio appearances. He entered Parliament in 2005 and was made Education Secretary after the Conservatives' election victory in 2010. His reform plan made many enemies, however, and he was reassigned after four years.
Gove mostly campaigned in Johnson's shadow during the referendum on the EU but his popularity within the party appears to have played an important role in Johnson's decision not to seek the leadership.
The 43-year-old Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb does not enjoy a large national profile but he is well known among the Conservative Party lawmakers who will choose which two leadership candidates are put before the party as a whole. He has emphasized his working-class roots, having been raised by a single mother in a social housing complex in Wales. He draws a contrast between himself and other Conservative lawmakers who have elite educational backgrounds.
Crabb said when he announced his candidacy that he wants to deliver "on the expectations of the 17 million people" who voted to take Britain out of the EU, in part by making establishing control over immigration. He earlier served as Welsh Secretary.
The former defense secretary Liam Fox challenged for the party leadership in 2005 but lost out to Cameron, who eventually led the Conservatives back to power. He resigned from his defense post in 2011 because of a controversy surrounding the actions of close friend Adam Werritty, who took on an unofficial role as adviser. Despite have no official role at the Ministry of Defense and no security clearance, he traveled with Fox on numerous official trips.
Fox, 54, has been a strong backer of getting Britain out of the EU. He said when he announced his candidacy for leader that he would not favor remaining part of the single European market if that means accepting the EU's freedom of movement principle. To do so, he said, would be to betray the Britons who voted for Brexit.
Energy and Climate Change Minister Andrea Leadsom campaigned strongly in favor of leaving the European Union. She called Brexit her "absolute priority" and a focal point of her race for the party leadership. The 53-year-old had a long career in the banking and finance industry before entering Parliament in 2010 when the election brought Cameron and the Conservatives to power.
She told constituents before the Brexit referendum that Britain has a much brighter future outside the EU and could forge new and sensible trading arrangements with EU countries. She says Britain is well-positioned to take advantage of the opportunities available now that the decision to leave has been made.