London: Home secretary Theresa May is set to succeed David Cameron as UK prime minister on Wednesday after her only opponent in the Tory leadership race dropped out.
Cameron said he will visit Queen Elizabeth II to resign after his last question-and-answer session in the House of Commons on Wednesday. The monarch will then invite May, 59, as leader of the party with a majority in the House of Commons, to form a government.
“We will have a new prime minister by Wednesday evening," Cameron said in a brief statement outside his official residence in central London. “She’s strong, she’s competent, she’s more than able to provide the leadership our country will need in the years ahead."
The pound and British stocks jumped on Monday as May’s rival for the leadership, Andrea Leadsom, unexpectedly announced she was pulling out of the contest.
The latest in three weeks of political shocks saw the inexperienced Leadsom accept her leadership campaign had failed, after a weekend during which she struggled under the glare of media attention. It comes after a period of unprecedented turbulence which saw the country’s foreign policy radically changed, the prime minister quit, his likely successors drop out and the leader of the opposition urged to resign. An hour before Leadsom quit, May committed herself to taking the UK out of the European Union.
“Our country needs strong, proven leadership, to steer us through this time of economic and political uncertainty, and to negotiate the best deal for Britain as we leave the EU and forge a new role for ourselves in the world," May, who campaigned to remain in the bloc, said in a speech in Birmingham, central England. “Brexit means Brexit, and we’re going to make a success of it."
Graham Brady, chairman of the Conservative Party’s 1922 Committee, which is in charge of the leadership contest, told reporters May needs formal confirmation to be named party leader. He ruled out running a new election among Tory lawmakers.
“The economy doesn’t need uncertainty, it needs certainty, so in the next few days we should move to put her in the position of prime minister so she can lead the country and provide unity," Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne told MSNBC in an interview in New York on Monday. “I’ve worked with her for six years; she’s got the steel, the determination to do the job."
May will take on the task of managing the country’s transition out the EU against a backdrop of gyrating markets, with the pound trading near its lowest in more than three decades. May has already warned that the U.K. should no longer try to meet its target of a budget surplus by 2020.
British stocks jumped, with the FTSE 100 Index climbing 1.5% as of 4:15 p.m. London time. The pound, which had resumed its decline against the dollar over the morning, recovered on Leadsom’s announcement. It was up 0.4% at $1.3009.
“The risk was that a surprise Andrea Leadsom victory in the leadership contest would lead to further in-fighting in the Conservatives and more barriers to constructive government," said Dónal Kinsella, investment director for fixed income at Henderson Global Investors in London. “The markets are likely to be more positive on Theresa May, as much for the greater political calm that her victory should engender."
Leadsom, who has only been in Parliament since 2010 and isn’t in the cabinet, quit just after midday, saying her support among Tory lawmakers was not sufficient to lead a “strong and stable" government. Her decision came after she had to apologize for telling The Times newspaper that she would be a better prime minister than May because she has children. She also faced questions over claims in her resume about her previous career in finance.
In her speech on Monday, May set out a pitch for leadership that moved to occupy the center ground, recognizing that many voters feel insecure and left behind by globalization. She promised crackdowns on high corporate pay and tax avoidance.
“There is an irrational, unhealthy and growing gap between what these companies pay their workers and what they pay their bosses," she said in a passage about Britain’s 100 biggest companies. “Yes, we’re the Conservative Party, and yes we’re the party of enterprise, but that does not mean we should be prepared to accept that anything goes."
May said when she announced her bid to succeed Cameron last month that she would wait at least until next year to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would start two years of negotiations to leave the bloc.
May has opposed the idea of an early general election, but may find herself under pressure to call one, given the dramatic shifts in British politics since Cameron won last year. Labour and the Liberal Democrats both issued statements calling for an election, and the bookmaker Ladbrokes Plc slashed the odds on one being held this year. Bloomberg