A mixture of ambition, ego, a low nomination threshold, and a very democratic voting system allows a lot of Tories to stand for leader.
Since the current Tory leadership rules were first used in 2001 the highest number of candidates to be on the first ballot paper is five, in 2001 and 2016, so I can see why people may wish to back the 8/15 on there being fewer 7 candidates, however I think the value is betting on there being 7 or more candidates next time in this market by William Hill.
The events this week have shown there’s several strands of opinion in the Tory party coupled with the egos politics attracts I can see a lot of candidates standing. I can see at least four different types of Leavers standing. ERG approved, pragmatic Leavers, tweak Mrs May’s deal Leavers, and of course Boris if he doesn’t win the ERG drawing of lots.
On the One Nation wing of the party I can see a similar number wishing to stand from those espousing a second referendum to those who accept we must Brexit to those who wish to move on from Brexit and talk about delivering the policies that wins a majority.
The other factor in allowing a lot of candidates to stand is that to stand in a Tory leadership contest all it requires is for two Tory MPs to nominate a candidate. This is vastly different than Labour which requires 15% of the Parliamentary party to nominate a candidate to stand in their leadership elections.
With the quasi-alternative vote system the Tory Party uses to elect their leader it is possible for several candidates from the same strand of Conservatism to stand in the first round without damaging that strand’s chances of winning the leadership. If the election was conducted under first past the post system then there’s a huge disadvantage for one wing of the party to put up multiple candidates.
Who knows we might find out very shortly just how many make the ballot paper in the first round. Today’s Sunday Times says Boris, Hunt, Rudd, Mordaunt, Javid, Davis, and Raab are all actively preparing leadership campaigns whilst Geoffrey Cox is putting out feelers.
PS – If there is a coronation the fewer than 7 would be a winner, however I’m not expecting a coronation before the 29th of March 2019, given what is at stake.