By David Townsend *
Opinion - After former UK prime minister Theresa May resigned there was a waterfall of crocodile tears and obituarial praise from those who want her job. The saying that the only statesperson is a dead politician was amply fulfilled.
Ambition is the one thing that thrives in the Conservative Party, next to civil war, and a loathing of foreigners.
A number of Cabinet ministers are among the current ten aspirants for the top job. They have to be, because with the fall of Mrs May their jobs are now temporary.
The scramble to lay claim to the No 10 throne began before Mrs May's tears outside No 10 had dried.
For some of the better-known faces - Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt (current foreign secretary), both publicly recommended by US President Donald Trump - their campaigns had been stirring for months.
However, other Conservative contenders are virtually unknown to the world outside the UK Parliament. That doesn't really matter because of the system of Tory prime ministerial selection.
As long as a candidate can get eight Conservative MP supporters to endorse them they are in contention.
And that is important because being a supporter of one of those who might finish there or thereabouts could mean preferment for a junior job.
Coat-tailing is the name of the game.
A number of those who have put their names forward eg Matt Hancock (currently health minister) have no chance of winning but if they can show they have good support - say 30 MP supporters- they are well placed for a subsequent Cabinet job.
When two candidates are left out of the current ten (following exhaustive ballots of the 313 members of the Conservative Parliamentary Party) they are subject to the final vote of the UK's Conservative Party membership. That is probably around 120, 000. Interestingly there are more dead subscribers to the Party through legacies than active members.
So much for the arrangements for the Political Hunger Games. Who is the bookies' favourite? Without a doubt Boris Johnson. In his own mind, he has been PM-in-waiting for far too long.
In the 2016 leadership contest, Mr Johnson withdrew. He was forced out by a savage backstabbing from Michael Gove (currently environment minister) and one of his strongest supporters up to then. Mrs May won.
Mr Gove is back in the race this time but may have done himself a disservice by admitting to being a cocaine snorter in his early 20s.
As a result of that, all the candidates have been invited to say what drugs they might have used. For a few days, drugs was a more important and interesting subject than the more difficult Brexit.
Mr Gove won that particular contest by a nose.
No one else admitted to more than the odd youthful (and deeply regretted) spliff.
In Boris Johnson's case, he has, over the years, admitted and denied taking drugs. Currently, he says, in his laddish way, he may have snorted icing sugar. What all the hopefuls agree on, inevitably, is tax cuts for the better off.
That Mr Johnson is the favourite is reflected by the personal attacks made on him by other candidates. Mr Gove has led the way. Mr Hunt and the rest of the field are not far behind.
Basically, they say Mr Johnson is irresponsible and unfit to be PM. They have a point.
Mr Johnson has said if he were PM he would take the UK out of the European Union (EU) on 31 October, deal or no deal. And if there is no deal the UK will not pay the $NZ50 billion owed to the EU and agreed by Mrs May.
MP supporters of Mr Gove and Mr Hunt have said that would lead to an immediate vote of no confidence. It would have a good chance of success.
Mr Johnson's administration would have lasted only weeks.
Labour though unlikely to win, wants a general election. So do the minor parties. And Brexit? Who knows.
* David Townsend is an ex-UK Parliamentary Labour candidate, a former Labour ministerial speech writer and special adviser and contributor to The Guardian, The Independent and The Times.