Please, not Boris! Industry split on who should be next prime minister

The door to Number 10 Downing Street is open – but who is going to be the next person to walk through it?

The Conservative leadership election is set to dominate the headlines over the summer as the race to find Theresa May’s replacement as party leader – and prime minister – finally gets underway. Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson is the current favourite, with Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove and Dominic Raab among the other leading contenders.

Whoever emerges victorious will take the lead role in delivering Brexit, meaning the contest is set to have a wide-ranging impact with long-term repercussions for the country – including on our industry. With this in mind, we decided to ask around to find out who the industry backing to be the next PM.

Rick Stainton

Rick Stainton, founder and group executive director, Smyle

“I’d like Michael Gove – his approach to the environment minister role was credible and he is a strong communicator. Having met him last year in the dining room at the House of Commons, I can only trust my instinct. But I haven’t met many of the other candidates so I can only really comment on who I have engaged with. I can’t pass too much judgement on those I haven’t… however they come across on TV. They all act so predictably politician in interviews and you never really get the essence of their beliefs, just what they need or want to say at the time!

“Not Boris though please – his track record over the last few years is seemingly self-indulgent, with little interest in the unfolding facts over Brexit and its obvious disruption to the confidence in our economy and business investment, or what’s best for his own party, let alone his own country.”

Simon Hambley, chief executive officer, Strata Creative Communications

Simon Hambley

Simon Hambley

“What I want is a resolution to the uncertainty of where we are. Preferably one that sees us either in or with a very close unencumbered trading relationship with Europe. A free and open trading environment with Europe is vital for the UK events industry. If we do not hold that position in the world post Brexit then I believe it will have a detrimental effect on the UK agency landscape as it is today. UK business will become very UK-centric. The gateway to Europe, traditionally a role the UK has always held in the industry, may well sit in Frankfurt, Paris or Berlin, which will mean big changes to the agency landscape.

“Looking at all of the candidates, what I would want is one who I believe can resolve the current uncertainty. More importantly, one that can bring the country back together and get it back on track. I think it could be a two-stage process. One to resolve the issue then another one to lead us in the future.

“In terms of resolving Brexit, I think probably Michael Gove has proven he is someone who can actually get things done. He would be my choice from the limited knowledge I have. Longer term though, I think Jeremy Hunt appears to have all the right credentials to lead the country in the long term, in the right way, and on that basis, I’d probably choose him.”

Anita Lowe, CEO, Venues and Events International

Anita Lowe, CEO of Venues and Events International

Anita Lowe

“In my eyes, it’s a poisoned chalice! Theresa May did her best but for various reasons she couldn’t get the job done. I feel whoever takes the gauntlet, they will have a battle on their hands to get any majority through parliament. Who will be the one to take us through? We need someone with a bit of personality, so Boris love him or hate him he’s the one with the personality!

“Jeremy Hunt has warned that no deal will be suicide and Dominic Raab is calling for a new direction for a humiliated UK. Whoever takes the mantle is going to need to put in place a strategic team to work together more like a business – instead of putting the knife in every minute!

“A true politician’s response, no outcome!”

Martin Ellis, managing director, Team Umbrella

Martin Ellis

Martin Ellis

“I’m backing Boris Johnson for many reasons. He’s a very intelligent and quick thinking man who is open and upfront, frequently nailing his colours to the mast. He doesn’t shy away from saying what the thinks, which often upsets the professionally offended elements of society; it will also enrage those who focus on personality over policy – both of which I believe Boris has in spades. He also has the strength of character to unite the party, and would cut through the endless diatribe at PMQs which seems to detract from the Government actually getting anything done.

“I believe he’d be as beneficial for our industry as any other candidate – essentially very little benefit at all if any. But I do think he’d be more akin to deregulation and would be more likely to release the shackles on small businesses, which can only be good for any industry.”


Former Tory MP and former Rapiergroup MD Nick de Bois quit as chair of the Events Industry Board last year to take up a role as chief of staff for Dominic Raab in the Brexit department. So it’s no surprise to find De Bois is backing Raab as the man to negotiate Brexit, saying: “I have seen Dominic Raab look Michel Barnier in the eye and it wasn’t Dominic who blinked first.”

Tory MP James Heappey, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Events, is yet to throw his weight behind any of the runners, but has been vocal about what any future leader must seek to do, saying: “Brexit must be delivered as quickly as possible – with a deal or without – and absolutely no later than 31st October. Our next leader must be absolutely clear on that aim.”

Nominations for the leadership will close next week, with ballots are expected to be held every Tuesday and Thursday from 11 June and the entire contest expected to be completed by mid-July.

Who do you want to win the race to become the next prime minister? Let us know at