What Andrea Leadsom's resignation really means

It doesn't change the calculation for Theresa May but it might change the minds of Tory MPs.

NS

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Andrea Leadsom has resigned from the government, quitting her post as Leader of the House, citing Theresa May’s flirtation with a second referendum and the shared regulatory autonomy proposed by the withdrawal agreement as the reasons for her exit.

As far as the pressure on Theresa May is concerned, it in practice changes very little: she can, if she so desires, continue on as leader of an increasingly moribund government, struggling to fill the gaps, until either the grace period bought by the confidence vote brought against her in December expires, or the Conservative party rewrites its rulebook to oust her ahead of time.

But it might change things as far as the race to replace May is concerned. Leadsom is a longtime Brexiteer who won considerable plaudits for her campaigning in the last referendum, and although her last bid for the party leadership ended in ignominy, she has partially rebuilt her reputation as leader of the House, partly because of her frequent clashes with John Bercow, the Speaker, and partly because she has put a shift on defending the government on the airwaves, particularly the Today programme.

She will hope that her exit boosts her credentials among the diehard Leavers who were once her base while her attempts to be constructive in office will make a potential home for MPs who want to stop any candidate who they regard as an irreconcilable headbanger from reaching the final ballot of members.

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.