May wins cabinet backing
Frontrunner Theresa May. Source: Wikimedia
Britain’s next prime minister looks likely to be Home Secretary Theresa May with her bid to become Conservative leader, winning the support of two more cabinet ministers.
Cabinet ministers Michael Fallon and Patrick McLoughlin now say they back May. She has received pledges of support from many more MPs than the other four candidates.
Contender Michael Gove is to make the first speech of his campaign. Rivals Stephen Crabb, Andrea Leadsom and Liam Fox are also in the running.
On Tuesday the 329 Conservative MPs will take part in the first round of voting. The MP with the fewest votes will drop out, one at a time, until only two remain. The wider party membership will then get to chose. The winner will be announced on September 9.
Gove was expected to back Boris Johnson, who shocked the political world by ruling himself out on Thursday.
The influential middle-brow Daily Mail backed the home secretary with the headline: “A party in flames and why it must be Theresa”. With “Westminster increasingly resembling a madhouse”, says the paper, “what the country needs most is a solid and steady hand on the tiller.”
Cabinet colleagues Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, said she was the right person to steer the country through “the serious challenges we now face”. He said: “Theresa is the best person to lead our exit from the EU so that we reduce immigration and regain sovereignty while protecting our hard won economic growth.”
Writing in the Sun, her cabinet colleague Patrick McLoughlin said May had “the ‘it’ factor”.
The transport secretary said: “We know that the next prime minister needs to forge a deal from the EU as we shape our brighter future in the rest of the world. And her track record shows that when Theresa arrives in Brussels, Europe’s bosses sit up and listen.”
The 59-year-old has run the Home Office since 2010 and is a former Conservative Party chairman. The crisis-laden home secretary’s job has brought down many substantial British politicians and it rarely leads to the premiership. She backed staying in the EU.
Justice Secretary Michael Gove, 48, is a former columnist on The Times and was seen as an important figure in the party’s modernisation that led to its return to power in 2010. He was a divisive education secretary between 2010 and 2014. He was a leading player in the Leave campaign, putting a strain on his close friendship with outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron. He is largely loathed because of his controversial schools policy making him an unlikely choice. A Guardian pundit described him as not so much a Marmite politician (someone that divides opinion), more of a Vegemite politician: one that no one likes.
On Boris Johnson, Gove yesterday told the BBC: “I also believed we needed someone who would be able to build a team, lead and unite. I hoped that person would be Boris Johnson. I came in the last few days, reluctantly and firmly, to the conclusion that while Boris has great attributes he was not capable of uniting that team and leading the party and the country in the way that I would have hoped.”