Theresa May to become Prime Minister by Wednesday after Andrea Leadsom quits Tory leadership race

Theresa May
Theresa May
  • Energy Minister withdraws from contest after ‘motherhood’ row
  • No new candidate to challenge Mrs May for leadership
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Theresa May is to be the UK’s second female prime minister, after her only remaining rival, Andrea Leadsom, sensationally dropped out of the race to succeed David Cameron.

Mr Cameron has announced Mrs May will take over as prime minister on Wednesday evening.

Andrea Leadsom speaking to the media in Westminster, London, where she confirmed that she is quitting the race to succeed David Cameron''Picture: PA Wire

Andrea Leadsom speaking to the media in Westminster, London, where she confirmed that she is quitting the race to succeed David Cameron''Picture: PA Wire

Mrs May swiftly received backing from leading Brexit supporters Michael Gove and Boris Johnson, and the chairman of the Conservatives’ backbench 1922 committee, Graham Brady, said there was no need for the leadership contest to be re-run.

Mr Brady said he had to consult with the party’s board before formally confirming that Mrs May was leader, but there seemed no doubt that she will soon be moving into 10 Downing Street. Mr Brady was unable to say whether he would be able to confirm her leadership by the end of the day or this week.

In a statement accepting that Mrs May has effectively been chosen as Tory leader, the Home Secretary’s campaign manager, Chris Grayling, said she was “enormously honoured to have been entrusted with this task”.

Mrs May, who launched her national campaign with a speech in Birmingham just moments before Mrs Leadsom’s withdrawal, was travelling back to London to make a statement.

“Theresa will do everything she can to equip our country for the challenges that lie ahead,” said Mr Grayling.

Mrs Leadsom announced that she was quitting the contest shortly after apologising to the Home Secretary over an interview in which she appeared to suggest that the fact she was a mother gave her the edge over the childless Mrs May as a future PM.

Speaking on the steps of her campaign HQ in Westminster, the Energy Minister wished Mrs May “the very greatest success” and promised her “my full support”.

Mr Gove, who came third in the leadership ballot among Tory MPs, pledged his backing to Mrs 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.”

And Mr Johnson - who abandoned an expected tilt for the leader’s job after realising he faced competition from both Mrs Leadsom and Mr Gove - said he had “no doubt” that Mrs May would make an excellent party leader and PM.

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.

“It is vital that we respect the will of the people and get on with exploiting new opportunities for this country.”

Speaking outside her home, Mrs Leadsom said: ‘For me personally to have won the support of 84 of my colleagues last Thursday was a great expression of confidence.

‘Nevertheless, this is less than 25 per cent of the parliamentary party and after careful consideration, I don’t beleve this is sufficient support to lead a strong and stable government should I win.’

She added Mrs May was best placed to implement Brexit to get the ‘best possible terms’ for the British people.

Allies of her rival Mrs May had questioned Mrs Leadsom’s suitability to be prime minister after the Tory leadership candidate appeared to suggest that being a mother gave her an advantage over her childless rival.

Mrs Leadsom, whose supporters included Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt, said she was “disgusted” by the way her comments had been presented and insisted that she believed “everyone has an equal stake in our society”, stressing that she did not want the issue of children to be a feature of the campaign.