Theresa May will become British prime minister on Wednesday
David Cameron says Andrea Leadsom made right decision to pull out of leadership race
Theresa May will become Britain’s next prime minister on Wednesday after an anticipated contest for the leadership evaporated in the wake of her rival Andrea Leadsom’s decision to withdraw.
Outgoing prime minister David Cameron said on Monday afternoon that he would chair his last cabinet meeting on Tuesday. On Wednesday, after prime minister’s questions, Mr Cameron said he would go to the palace to offer his resignation and that the new prime minister would be in place by Wednesday evening.
Mr Cameron said there would not be a prolonged leadership election campaign. “I think Andrea Leadsom made absolutely the right decision to stand aside. It is clear Theresa May has the overwhelming support of the Conservative parliamentary party.”
Mr Cameron said he was delighted Ms May will be the next prime minister. “She is strong, she is competent, she’s more than able to provide the leadership the country is going to need in the years ahead and she will have my full support.”
Mr Cameron’s announcement follows the dramatic decision by Ms Leadsom to quit, saying a nine-week leadership campaign at such a critical time for the UK would be “highly undesirable”.
She said Ms May was best placed to negotiate upcoming Brexit talks and to implement Brexit, and that she would give the prospective prime minister her full support.
In a statement, Ms Leadsom said: “So this morning I have written a letter to Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee [a committee of backbench MPs], and I would like to read it out to you.
“The best interests of our country inspired me to stand for the leadership. I believe that in leaving the EU a bright future awaits, where all our people can share in a new prosperity, freedom and democracy.
“The referendum result demonstrated a clear desire for change – strong leadership is needed urgently to begin the work of withdrawing from the European Union.
“A nine-week leadership campaign at such a critical moment for our country is highly undesirable.”
In a press briefing minutes after Ms Leadsom’s statement, 1922 Committee chairman Mr Brady said Ms May was the only remaining candidate in the leadership race and that there would be no re-run of last week’s leadership ballot.
He said: “There is no need to re-run the election. Our procedures are very clear. The rules are very clear. We will be in a position to move forward quite quickly.”
The home secretary took top slot in the MPs’ ballot last week with 199 votes to Ms Leadsom’s 84.
Gove and Johnson backing
Justice secretary Michael Gove, who came third in the leadership ballot among Tory MPs, pledged his backing to Ms May, saying: “Andrea Leadsom spoke with great dignity and courage today. I wish her every success in the future.
“We should now move as quickly as possible to ensure Theresa May can take over as leader. She has my full support as our next prime minister.”
Former London mayor Boris Johnson, who abandoned an expected tilt for the leader’s job, said he had “no doubt” that Ms May would make an excellent party leader and prime minister.
Mr Johnson said: “Theresa May will provide the authority and the leadership necessary to unite the Conservative Party and take the country forward in the coming weeks and months.
“Andrea’s decision, which is both brave and principled, allows that process to begin immediately.
“I have no doubt Theresa will make an excellent party leader and prime minister and I’m encouraged that she’s made it clear that Brexit means Brexit – that we will leave the EU.
News of Ms Leadsom’s withdrawal from the race came moments after Ms May launched her national campaign with a speech in Birmingham in which she presented herself as the candidate of unity and experience, with the backing of an “overwhelming” majority of Tory MPs at Westminster.
Earlier on Monday, Ms Leadsom said she had apologised to Ms May, over comments made to a Times journalist, in which she suggested that being a mother gave her more of a stake in the future than Ms May, who does not have children.
Ms Leadsom, who told the Telegraph she was pressed into making the comparison, said after the story was made public she had felt “under attack, under enormous pressure. . . It has been shattering.”
When asked if she had apologised to the home secretary for the comments, Ms Leadsom said she had, but declined to say if it was in person. “I’ve already said to Theresa how very sorry I am for any hurt I have caused and how that article said completely the opposite of what I said and believe,” she said.
“I was pressed to say how my children had formed my views. I didn’t want it to be used as an issue. Having children has no bearing on the ability to be PM. I deeply regret that anyone has got the impression that I think otherwise.”
Ms Leadsom provoked a furious reaction on Saturday after she told the Times: “I feel that being a mum means you have a real stake in the future of our country, a tangible stake.”