Leadsom steps aside for May to become PM

Leadsom steps aside for May to become PM

Andrea Leadsom MP. Source: Wikimedia

UK Conservative Party leadership candidate Andrea Leadsom has withdrawn from the contest in the “best interests of the country”, paving the way for Theresa May to be crowned prime minister.

Outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron’s staff said discussions were under way about the timing of his resignation. The handover of power was not expected until Conservative members had voted on September 9 but it could now happen in days.

Fearing that a nine-week leadership contest would destabilise the country at a critical time following the June 23 Brexit vote, Leadsom told the media: “Business needs certainty; a strong and unified government must move quickly to set out what an independent UK’s framework for business looks like.”

The pound spiked and equities rallied at the news. The announcement soothed financial markets with the pound, which spent the morning below US$1.29, spiking to an intraday high. Since Britain voted to leave the EU, the pound fell to 31-year lows.

London’s benchmark index also made gains on hopes Leadsom’s withdrawal from the leadership contest would ease uncertainty, after the referendum vote caused the blue-chip index to drop by more than 8 per cent. The FTSE 100 is now trading up 0.89 per cent at 6,649, its highest level since August 2015.  The latest lift brings the FTSE 100’s gains from its February low to 20.1 per cent. This means the blue-chip index is now in bull-market territory, thanks to the Leave-vote pound’s fall which has lifted the index.

Graham Brady, the chair of the Conservative “1922 Committee”, which represents the interests of backbench Tory MPs, said he would formally confirm May as the new leader, opening the way for the home secretary to become prime minister.

Energy minister Leadsom said: “Strong leadership is needed immediately. I believe that in leaving the EU a bright future awaits. Theresa May won the support of 60 per cent of Tory colleagues. She is ideally placed to implement Brexit on the best possible terms for the British people and she has promised she will do so.”

Leadsom was unsettled by the response to a newspaper interview in which she suggested being a mother meant she had a larger stake in society than childless May.

Boris Johnson, who dropped out of the race, called Leadsom’s decision “brave and principled”, although some might question how he would recognise the characteristics. Johnson said: “I have no doubt Theresa will make an excellent party leader and prime minister and I’m encouraged that she’s made it clear that Brexit means Brexit – that we will leave the EU. It is vital that we respect the will of the people and get on with exploiting new opportunities for this country.”

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