LONDON • Home Secretary Theresa May will take over as Britain's new Prime Minister tomorrow, said outgoing Premier David Cameron, hours after Mrs May's sole rival, Mrs Andrea Leadsom, withdrew from the party leadership race yesterday.
Mrs Leadsom's shock announcement paved the way for Mrs May to become the country's second female prime minister after Mrs Margaret Thatcher.
The two women had been due to contest a ballot of about 150,000 Conservative Party members, with the result to be declared by Sept 9.
Saying he was delighted that Mrs May, 59, will be the next Prime Minister, Mr Cameron praised her in a statement: "She is strong, she is competent, she's more than able to provide the leadership the country is going to need in the years ahead and she will have my full support."
Mr Cameron said he would chair his last Cabinet meeting today. He will go to Buckingham Palace tomorrow to offer his resignation "so we will have a new prime minister ... by Wednesday evening".
Yesterday's event began with Mrs Leadsom, 53, dropping out of a "highly undesirable" nine-week leadership race. The Energy Minister had come in for heavy criticism after appearing to imply that she was more qualified than Mrs May because she has children.
She acknowledged that Mrs May had secured overwhelming backing in a vote of Conservative MPs last week. "Strong leadership is needed urgently to begin the work of withdrawing from the European Union," she 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."
Mrs May, 59, has been serving as Home Secretary for the past six years. In a speech earlier yesterday, she set out her vision, calling for "a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few".
"In the coming weeks, I will set out (how) to take our economy through this period of uncertainty, to get the economy growing strongly across all parts, to deal with Britain's longstanding productivity problem, to create more well-paid jobs, to negotiate the best terms for Britain's departure from the EU and to forge a new role for ourselves in the world," she said.
Despite having supported the Remain camp ahead of the June 23 referendum, Mrs May made it clear that "Brexit means Brexit".
"There will be no attempts to remain inside the EU. There will be no attempts to rejoin it by the back door, no second referendum."
The 52 per cent to 48 per cent vote to quit the EU after 43 years of membership has plunged the economy into uncertainty and Britain's two main parties into turmoil.
Yesterday, lawmaker Angela Eagle also launched her bid to take over the leadership of the main opposition Labour Party from veteran socialist Jeremy Corbyn.
Mr Corbyn was elected last year with huge support from grassroots Labour activists. He has ignored a vote of no confidence from the party's lawmakers, saying he has a responsibility to carry out that mandate.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE