Andrea Leadsom has pulled out of the Conservative Party leadership race, leaving just one candidate in the running to become the UK’s next prime minister.
“Theresa May is ideally based to implement Brexit,” she told the press.
The junior Energy Minister had been due to go head-to-head with May, who has been Home Secretary (Interior Minister) since 2010, in the contest to succeed David Cameron. The choice was going to be put to the party’s 150,000-strong membership this summer.
Leadsom read out part of a letter she had written to the 1922 Committee chair Graham Brady, detailing her reasons for quitting. It will now be up to the committee to decide on a timetable for appointing a new prime minister.
“Twenty-five percent is not sufficient support to lead a strong and stable government should I win the leadership election,” she said of the backing she received from her party. Leadsom received just 84 votes to May’s 199 in the last round of voting.
She said she was pulling out “in the interests of the country”.
“Theresa May carries over 60 percent of support from the Parliamentary party (in Thursday’s vote). She is ideally placed to implement Brexit on the best possible terms for the British people and she has promised that she will do so,” Leadsom told reporters.
A source close to Leadsom is quoted in the British media as saying “the abuse has been too great”. She provoked criticism following the publication of an interview in The Times in which she appeared to suggest that being a mother made her a better candidate for the UK’s top spot.
Leadsom claims she was misrepresented, but apologised to May for any hurt caused by the remarks.
Conservative Party grassroots members were expected to vote on the next leader by September 9.
Earlier on Monday, before the latest developments, Theresa May spoke in Birmingham as she launched her campaign for the party leadership – and sought to clarify the country’s position following the referendum vote to leave the European Union.
“Brexit means Brexit and we are going to make a success of it. There will be no attempts made to remain inside the EU,” she said to applause.
“There will be no attempts to rejoin it by the back-door, no second referendum. The country voted to leave the European Union and as prime minister I will make sure we leave the European Union.”
The latest moves look set to fill a political void and prevent a summer of turmoil within the ruling Conservative Party, compounding a period of damaging uncertainty whose impact is being felt at home and abroad in the aftermath of the referendum.
In a statement following Leadsom’s announcement, Graham Brady said the 1922 Committee were meeting to discuss the news. But he would have to formally confirm the new leader of the party. “There is no need to re-run the election,” he said. “We will be in a position to move forward quite quickly.”
Brady added that he would get back to the press as soon as he could formally confirm the next step in the process which “will not take nine weeks,” he said of the time period between the July 11 announcement and the September 9 deadline.
Theresa May could take over the party leadership quickly and become prime minister subject to constitutional requirements.
Minutes before Leadsom’s announcement, Angela Eagle of Britain’s Labour Party said she would challenge Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership of the opposition party.