Britain to have first female PM since Thatcher after May, Leadsom shortlist for party head
LONDON – Agence France-PresseBritain will have its first female prime minister since Margaret Thatcher after Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom made the shortlist on July 7 to be the leader who will guide the country out of the EU.
“Who’ll be the new Maggie?” asked the front page of the Daily Mail newspaper after cabinet veteran May won 199 votes from the 329 ruling Conservative lawmakers who took part in the ballot for next party leader and prime minister.
Junior energy minister Leadsom, who was only elected to parliament in 2010 and is a virtual unknown to the wider British public, got 84 votes.
The new prime minister will be announced on Sept. 9 and will immediately have the task of extricating Britain from its 43-year EU membership following the seismic vote in last month’s referendum after a bitterly divisive campaign.
May enjoys higher support among lawmakers, but the vote will now be decided by the Conservative party’s 150,000 ordinary members who may want a leader who supported Britain leaving the European Union.
“We need proven leadership to negotiate the best deals for leaving the European Union,” said May, who was a low-key figure on the “Remain” side, outside the parliament after the announcement.
“This vote shows that the Conservative Party can come together and under my leadership it will,” she said.
Leadsom, who rose to prominence in the campaign to leave the EU and has argued for a rapid exit, played down the economic downsides of leaving the 28-member bloc.
“I believe we have a great future ahead of us,” Leadsom said in a speech in London to a room packed with supporters.
“We need to unite. We need to be positive.”
The third challenger, justice minister Michael Gove, who announced his surprise bid last week after initially supporting former mayor of London Boris Johnson for the post, was rejected after winning just 46 votes following accusations of treachery.
Leadsom has received the endorsement of UKIP’s Nigel Farage and Johnson, who was the favorite to succeed Cameron until last week.
“Important the next Prime Minister is a Brexiteer - she has my backing,” wrote Farage on Twitter, after announcing on July 4 that he was stepping down as the leader of the UK Independence Party.
May has said she has no plans to invoke Article 50 - the formal procedure for leaving the EU - before the end of the year, while Leadsom has said she wants to do so as quickly as possible.