Conservative leadership candidate, Andrea Leadsom, has announced she is dropping out of the prime ministerial leadership race, ending the Tory leadership contest and leaving Theresa May as the Prime Minister-in-waiting.
In a statement, Leadsom said that while “the best interests of our country inspired me to stand for the leadership,” but that “after careful consideration” she does not believe she has “sufficient support” to run the country at such a “critical moment.”
“A nine-week leadership campaign at such a critical time for our country is highly undesirable,” she said, and “a strong and unified government must move quickly.”
Leadsom ended her statement by saying: “the interests of our country are best served by the immediate appointment of a strong and well supported leader,” and that she wishes “Theresa May the very greatest success.”
Previously, David Cameron said that he would be departing from Number 10 on 9 September, but in the hours after Leadsom’s announcement, Cameron confirmed he was accelerating the process and would be visiting the Queen on Wednesday (13 July) to tender his resignation, saying he was "delighted" to be handing the reins to such a "strong, competent and more than capable" successor.
Chairman of the 1922 committee of Conservative MPs, Graham Brady, said earlier in the day that "proper procedural process" would not be rushed, adding: "There will be conversations during the course of the afternoon."
However May's position seemed assured, as Michael Gove had previously announced that he would not be re-entering the leadership race, while Brady had replied "None whatsoever" when asked whether the leadership contest could be reopened.
The news comes just hours after Leadsom apologised to her opponent, the Home Secretary, after suggesting she was a better candidate for Prime Minister than Theresa May because she is a mother.
In an interview with The Times, Leadsom said that, as a mother of three, she had a “very real stake” in Britain’s future, and went on to say that although May “possibly has nieces, nephews, lots of people.
“But I have children who are going to have children who will directly be part of what happens next.”
The interview was run with the headline: “Being a mother gives me edge on May – Leadsom.”
But the energy minister has since said she is “disgusted” about how her quotes were used.
“In the course of a lengthy interview yesterday, I was repeatedly asked about my children and I repeatedly made it clear that I did not want this in any way a feature of the campaign.”
Leadsom tweeted the newspaper, calling it “gutter journalism.” The publication later released the audio file and a transcript of the interview.
Today, the BBC reports that Leadsom has sent a text message of apology to May, to which May was reportedly grateful, accepting the apology. Sources say that May does not believe Leadsom intended to cause offense.
Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Leadsom said she believes motherhood should play no part in the race for leadership and that she deeply regrets if anyone “has got the impression that I think otherwise.
“I've already said to Theresa how very sorry I am for any hurt I have caused,” she said.
She went on to press again that The Times article did not reflect her views, and that she felt “pressured” into discussing how her children changed her views.
The article, Leadsom said, “said completely the opposite of what I said and believe" and that the criticism she faced since left her feeling "under attack, under enormous pressure – it has been shattering.”
Leadsom faced heavy criticism following her comments, including from the business minister, Anna Soubry, who said such comments meant Leadsom was “not PM material,” and from Sir Alan Duncan, who described the comments as “vile.”
Also today, Angela Eagle announced her decision to stand for leader of the Labour Party, saying that these are “dark times for Labour” and that she intends to “save” the party.