Theresa May set to be UK's next Prime Minister after rival stands down

Updated: 2016-07-11 19:21

By Chris Peterson in London(

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Theresa May set to be UK's next Prime Minister after rival stands down

The two remaining candidates in the Conservative party leadership contest, Theresa May (L) and Andrea Leadsom, are seen in this combination of two photographs, released in London, Britain July 7, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

British Home Secretary Theresa May is set to become Britain's next prime minister after rival Andrea Leadsom dropped out of the race, saying she had not gained enough support and the country needed a new leader as soon as possible.

Outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron said May had his full support and added that "I am confident she can supply the strong leadership the country needs."

He said he expected her to be confirmed as prime minister by Wednesday of this week. As head of state Britain's Queen Elisabeth to be consulted, although this is only a formality, and arrangements have to be made for the handover between Cameron and May.

On June 23 Britons voted in favor of leaving the European Union in a controversial referendum, and after announcing the result, Cameron announced he was stepping aside as prime minister as soon as a successor could be appointed who could negotiate the transition out of the EU.

In a brief statement this morning Leadsom, whose candidature had been dogged by controversy over remarks she made and disputes over her CV, said she had reviewed the campaign and decided that she would not gain enough support.

"The best interests of our country inspired me to stand for our leadership. I believe in leaving the EU where a bright future awaits. The referendum result represented a clear desire for change. A nine-week leadership campaign at such a critical point for our country is highly undesirable. The interests of our country are best served from the immediate appointment of a Prime Minister with strong leadership... I wish Theresa May the very best."

Under the original plan, a leadership contest was to have been held, with the top two candidates going forward to a vote among Conservative Party members and the result being announced by early September.

Leadsom, a banker before she was elected to Parliament in 2010, is currently energy secretary but does not have cabinet rank.

Over the weekend she gave a controversial interview to the Times newspaper, in which she appeared to say that as a mother, she was better placed to leader the country than May, who is married but has no children. Leadsom, who later apologised, had earlier faced questions over the accuracy of her official CV, which was later corrected.

May is Britain's longest serving Home Secretary, or Interior Minister, of modern times, having served since 2010.

She will be Britain's second woman prime minister after Margaret Thatcher, who was in office from 1979 to 1990.

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