Leadsom quits race for British PM, leaving May unopposed
LONDON – ReutersEnergy minister Andrea Leadsom abruptly withdrew from the contest to succeed David Cameron as the British prime minister on July 11, leaving her rival Theresa May as the only candidate.
The two women had been due to contest a ballot of around 150,000 Conservative party members, with the result to be declared by Sept. 9, but the shock announcement opens the way for May to take over much sooner.
Leadsom was barely known to the British public until she emerged as a prominent voice in the successful campaign for Britain to leave the European Union.
With no cabinet experience, she had been strongly criticized over a newspaper interview in which she appeared to suggest that being a mother meant she had more of a stake in the country’s future than May, who has no children.
Leadsom, 53, read out a statement to reporters in which she said she was pulling out of the race because a nine-week leadership campaign was highly undesirable at such a critical time. She acknowledged that May had secured much stronger backing in a vote of Conservative members of parliament last week.
“Strong leadership is needed urgently to begin the work of withdrawing from the European Union,” Leadsom said.
“I have ... concluded that the interests of our country are best served by the immediate appointment of a strong and well supported prime minister. I am therefore withdrawing from the leadership election and I wish Theresa May the very greatest success. I assure her of my full support.”
May, 59, who has served as interior minister for the past six years, is now set to become Britain’s second female prime minister after Margaret Thatcher, although it was not clear how soon that would happen.
Graham Brady, head of the 330-strong Conservative faction in parliament, said there were still constitutional procedures to be observed before her appointment could be confirmed, but he aimed to make a confirmation announcement as soon as possible.
“We’re not discussing coronations, we’re discussing a proper procedural process which should conclude very soon,” he told reporters.