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11 July 2016

Theresa May on course for Downing Street after Andrea Leadsom pulls out of Tory race

Andrea Leadsom has quit the Conservative leadership race, putting Theresa May on course to become Prime Minister without a contest. 

By Stephen Bush

David Cameron will attend his final PMQs on Wednesday, then go to the Palace to resign as Prime Minister. Theresa May will be Prime Minister by Wednesday evening.

Her erstwhile leadership rival, Andrea Leadsom, stunned Westminster this morning by pulling out of the Conservative leadership race, and endorsing May, the Home Secretary, as the candidate who is “ideally placed to implement Brexit on the best possible terms”.

May will be elected unopposed and will take residence at Downing Street this week. The Home Secretary described herself as “honoured and humbled” to take the role, and praised Leadsom for “the dignity she has shown today”. She also thanked Cameron for “the leadership he has shown our party and country”.

Although the rules of the Conservative contest state that the 1922 Committee must present “a choice of candidates”, the Conservative parliamentary party is allowed to waive a ballot of members when one candidate has overwhelming support.

In her speech, Leadsom said that as she commanded the support of less than 25 per cent of MPs, she could not hope to lead the party. She also said a nine-week leadership campaign was “highly undesirable”.

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Over the weekend, the energy minister faced harsh criticism for saying that having children gave her a “real stake” in the future of the country, compared with her childless rival Theresa May.

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Justice Secretary Michael Gove, who was voted out in the previous round of the contest, confirms that he will not return to run against May:

“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.”

Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee, which represents Tory backbenchers, states that May should be the party’s next leader, ruling out a challenger:

“Following the decision of Mrs Andrea Leadsom to withdraw from the Conservative leadership contest the Right Honourable Theresa May is the only remaining candidate, the process is now that I as chair of the 1922 committee and the board of the Conservative Party must formally confirm that Mrs May is the new leader of the Conservative party.”

When asked whether there is any chance of reopening the leadership contest, Brady replied: “None whatsoever.”

Chris Grayling, the Leader of the House of Commons and May’s campaign chief, says she is “enormously honoured to be entrusted with this task”.