SOUTH Swindon MP Robert Buckland was last night hedging his bets over who would be the next leader of the Conservative Party.

While Boris Johnson was being touted as a future leader, Mr Buckland compared the leadership fight to the early stages of a famous Liverpool horse race: “It’s a Grand National race and we haven’t even got to Melling Road.”

All Conservative Party leadership races follow two distinct stages. First, Tory MPs vote on a list of candidates who put their names forward to the chairman of the party’s backbench 1922 Committee, who oversees the contest.

Then, the top two candidates are voted on by the Conservative Party membership. If only one candidate emerges from the first phase – as happened to Theresa May in 2016 – there is no poll of Tory members.

Sarah Church, Labour's MP hopeful in South Swindon, said: "It sickens me to think that a tiny group of Conservative Party members will now choose our next prime minister."