May’s dilemma: 7 favourite Conservatives to replace Priti Patel

On Wednesday, Priti Patel resigned from the cabinet - the second cabinet secretary to step down in a week. Have a look at the seven favourite Conservative MPs to replace Patel here, according to Ladbrokes’ betting odds.

7th – James Cleverly

This rising Conservative Party star is Labrokes’ seventh favourite MP to replace Priti Patel – joint with Tobias Ellwood and Tom Tugendhaut (12/1). Cleverly served in the London Assembly before joining the Westminster parliament in 2015. He is a confident figure, and recently voiced his ambitions to become prime minister, according to Politics Home. In the 2016 EU referendum, Cleverly supported a leave vote.

James Cleverly MP

6th – Margot James

James is currently the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility. Her odds of taking over from Patel stand at 10/1 with Ladbrokes. She was first elected in 2010 and backed remain in last year’s referendum.

5th – Anne Milton

Also on 10/1 is Anne Milton, who currently serves as the Minister for Skills, and Apprenticeships. According to the Telegraph, Milton did not reveal how she voted in last year’s Brexit vote.

4th – Alistair Burt

Burt has served as an MP on two separate occasions. He was the representative for Bury North between 1983 and 1997 until he lost his seat to the New Labour surge of 1997. Then four years later, he became the MP for North East Bedfordshire, a position he has held ever since. He currently serves as a minister in the Foreign Office. Ladbrokes odds: 5/1.

3rd – Alan Duncan

Duncan is another Foreign Office minister, having served as the Minister for Europe and the Americas since May’s ascension the premiership last July. His odds also stand at 5/1.

2nd – Rory Stewart

Stewart is yet another Foreign Office minister, and was even a minister under Priti Patel in the Department for International Development. Before entering politics, he worked in foreign affairs and is currently to second favourite to replace Patel (4/1).

1st – Penny Mordaunt

Mordaunt is currently the favourite to replace Patel at the Department for International Development, with Labrokes offering odds for her take-over at 11/8. She currently works as the Minister for Disabled People, Work and Health, and was tipped to become Defence Secretary last week following Michael Fallon’s departure, according to the Telegraph. Could it be second-time lucky for this Brexiteer?


Two significant factors will play a key role in determining May’s choice. Firstly, after a chaotic few weeks, which have resulted in the loss of two cabinet ministers, Theresa May will want to restore – or at least create the illusion of – control. Since June’s election, the Conservative minority government has been under constant attack. An emboldened Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn is taking advantage of its new post-election position, the Conservatives have fallen behind in the polls and the consensus appears to be that May is a weak leader. In order to create stability, May will need someone who is noted as a reliant individual. After the controversy surrounding Gavin Williamson’s appointment as defence secretary last week, a sensible balance choice will be required.

Secondly, there will be Brexit dynamics at play. The Conservatives now fully support the UK’s exit from the European Union, however, the shadow of Brexit lingers over the party, and Patel was a highly prominent leave figure ahead of the referendum. A replacement in the shape of an original Brexiteer would allow for the current leave-remain balance to continue.

5th - Michael Fallon (2014 – 2017)

Michael Fallon resigned from the country’s top defence job on Wednesday and was succeeded by former Chief Whip Gavin Williamson the next day. He was first appointed to the role in 2014, and lasted three years and four months in the job. How long will his successor last?

4th - George Younger (1986 – 1989)

Younger served as Margaret Thatcher’s secretary of state for Scotland for most of Britain's first female prime minister's premiership. He served in that role from 1979, but in 1986 he was moved to defence, a position he held for a further three years and six months. Younger passed away in 2003.

3rd - Peter Carrington (1970 – 1974)

Carrington served as defence secretary for the first three years and seven months of Edward Heath’s short premiership. In January 1974, he was replaced by Ian Gilmour and given the energy portfolio.

2nd - Denis Healey (1964 – 1970)

The second longest-serving British defence secretary was Denis Healey, who served in the role during the first Wilson administration. He lasted five years and eight months in the job. Four years later, after Heath’s spell in power, Healey was made chancellor of the exchequer when Labour’s Wilson became PM for a second time. Then back in opposition, Healey was made deputy leader of the Labour party under Michael Foot, but stepped down following the party’s historic election defeat in 1983.

1st - Geoff Hoon (1999 – 2005)

Hoon takes the top spot, having served as defence secretary for five years and nine months – just a little longer than Healey. This Labour MP served in a variety of government roles, starting with his position as a foreign minister under Tony Blair in 1999. Two months later he was made secretary of defence, a role he held for almost six years. Then, after the 2005 election he became the minister for Europe. He stepped down at the 2010 election and his seat is now held by Labour's Gloria De Piero.

The full list of UK defence secretaries can be accessed here. All odds are accurate as of 9th November 2017 at 10.30am.

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