Closed Theresa May to become PM on Wednesday – as it happened

Conservative leadership bid

Theresa May will take over as the next British prime minister on Wednesday, incumbent David Cameron has said. The swift handover of power came after her only rival, Andrea Leadsom, pulled out of the race to become the next leader of the rulling Conservative party..

Key points

  • David Cameron says he will offer his formal resignation to the Queen on Wednesday

  • 1922 committee confirms Theresa May as new leader of the Conservative party, making her prime minister-elect

  • Andrea Leadsom withdraws from Tory leadership race, saying period of uncertainty “highly undesirable”

  • Labour’s Angela Eagle begins formal challenge to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership

  • Lib Dems, Greens call for early general election

It’s already been a busy morning in UK politics, even by recent standards. Theresa May earlier outlined her claim to No.10 with a speech focused on the economy and big business. More on that here.

Meanwhile Angela Eagle has started the formal process of challenging Labour leaders Jeremy Corbyn with a speech in London.

We’ll keep you up to date with both leadership contests throughout the day.

Eagle is still speaking to supporters and journalists. She’s billing herself as the “practical socialist” to lead Britain.

We’re waiting for Andrea Leadsom to make a statement – due any moment – amid reports that she will drop out of the Tory leadership race. The Press Association reports that the party’s 1922 committee will also make a statement soon after.

Angela Eagle has formally launched her bid for the Labour leadership, triggering a battle for the soul of Britain’s opposition party between “moderates” and “left-wingers”.

The former shadow business secretary launched her leadership bid against Jeremy Corbyn as the party endures its worst split since the formation of the breakaway SDP in the early 1980s.

She said the country was facing “dangerous” times. But she said: “Jeremy Corbyn is unable to provide the leadership that this huge task needs. I believe I can.”
She added: “I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think I could be a good prime minister for our country.”

Eagle made her speech on midday on Monday at the Institution of Engineering and Technology near Embankment.

Her decision to challenge Corbyn follows the mass resignation of 63 frontbench spokespeople including most of the shadow cabinet. There has also been a vote of no confidence against Corbyn in which only 40 out of 232 supported him.

Eagle’s challenge will plunge the party into its second leadership contest since Miliband stepped down after last year’s general election.

Emoticon Andrea Leadsom pulls out of Tory leadership race, saying period of uncertainty is “highly undesirable”.

“We now need a new prime minister in place as soon as possible,” she says.

Here is some more of what Andrea Leadsom just told reporters:

Strong leadership is needed urgently to begin the work of withdrawing from the European Union. A nine-week leadership campaign at such a critical moment for our country is highly undesirable.

It is essential that current EU workers in the UK and the businesses that employ them know where they stand.

Theresa May carries over 60 per cent of the support of the parliamentary party. She is ideally placed to implement Brexit on the best possible terms for the British people and she has promised she will do so.

After careful consideration, I do not believe [I have] sufficient support to lead a strong and stable government should I win the election.

All eyes now move to Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 committee of Conservative backbenchers, who will clarify the Tory party rules over what happens next.

Andrea Leadsom has said she wants to see Theresa May appointed as soon as possible – a position that has just been backed by Iain Duncan Smith, one of Mrs Leadsom’s most prominent supporters.

There is a chance that Brady could insist that members are given the opportunity to choose between two candidates, but the expectation in the Tory parliamentary party appears to be that May will be crowned leader very soon.

Brady speaks at 12.30.

Alan Duncan MP, a supporter of Theresa May, describes Andrea Leadsom’s decision as “gracious and dignified”.

Owen Paterson, another prominent Leadsom supporter from the Tory benches, has just told Sky News he believes that the party rules say that there should be a run-off of two candidates, but that if one drops out, the other automatically becomes leader.

That could see Theresa May made prime minister-in-waiting by the end of the day.

Another May backer – Anna Soubry – wants to say thank you to Leadsom.

Sterling got a lift in the run up to Leadsom’s address, as prospects rose of a quick end to the Tory leadership race. You can read more on fastFT here.

Jim Pickard reports that Michael Gove has given his backing to Theresa May:

“We should now move as quickly as possible to ensure Theresa May can take over as leader. She has my full support.”

Graham Brady confirms that Theresa May will now become Conservative party leader – and therefore prime minister. He said:

As Theresa May is the only remaining candidate, the process is now that as chairman of the 1922 committee, I must formally confirm that Mrs May is the new leader of the Conservative party.

He later said the committee needs to consult before confirming her in that position, but that appears to be a formality.

Asked how long it could be before May becomes prime minister, he said he would need to talk to his committee members, but added:

It won’t be nine weeks.

For Twitter users, Bloomberg has this video of the Andrea Leadsom speech in full here:

John Redwood, a leading supporter of Andrea Leadsom, says “it is quite clear she would have won the country” in the votes of Conservative party members. But he said Leadsom did not want a situation facing the Labour party where the leader did not have the support of the parliamentary party.

He said

There was “too much push back from too many MPs”

Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage says he’s “disappointed”:

Meanwhile one of Ukip’s biggest donors Arron Banks reckons today marks the death of the Tories.

More reaction from Tory MPs, this time from Remain campaigner Ruth Davidson:

The FT’s Kate Allen has an update on possible timings:

One of Mrs May’s leading backers told the FT that he expects her to be installed in Downing Street “within days”. “It will all happen very quickly now,” he said. Her first task will be to carry out a reshuffle.

Chris Grayling, the head of Theresa May’s campaign to be Conservative leader, has just made a short statement in which he said:

On [May's] behalf, I would just like to say that she is enormously honoured to be entrusted with this task by so many of her parliamentary party.

He called for party unity and added:

Theresa will do everything she can to equip our country for the challenges that lie ahead.

He said May herself was returning to London from Birmingham, where she made a speech earlier today, but that she would give a statement before the end of the day.

Despite the leadership chaos in the Labour party, some of their MPs are still finding the funny side of the unraveling leadership bids of Leave campaigners. This from David Lammy:

Tony Blair’s former head of communications has this:

The “one very silly interview” is presumably Andrea Leadsom’s, given to the Times. More on that here.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron calls for a general election, saying that Theresa May has no mandate.

Boris Johnson, not long ago the favourite to replace David Cameron, has tweeted his approval at the prospect of Mrs May, PM.

The bookies do not expect a general election this year. William Hill gives just a 28 per cent chance of a snap poll, with 2020 deemed the far more likely.

It might seem like a long time ago, but Angela Eagle launched her bid to oust Jeremy Corbyn just over an hour ago. You can read more on that here.

Steps to Downing Street for Theresa May:

1. The board of the Conservative party meets this afternoon to formally confirm her election as party leader.
2. Talks will then take place between Downing Street and May’s campaign team.
3. Talks will also start between Buckingham Palace and the Cabinet Office to agree the timing for a meeting with the Queen to confirm her appointment as prime minister.
4. Her move into No. 10 however will depend on how quickly David Cameron moves out.

Watch out for removal lorries in Downing Street.

The battle in the Tory party appears to be over. But the fight to lead Labour is just beginning.

Iain McNicol, general secretary of the Labour party, said:

I have now received sufficient nominations to trigger a contest for the position of Leader of the Labour Party.

I will now ask the Chair of the National Executive Committee to convene a meeting to confirm arrangements for an election.

It may be civil war within the Labour party, but members are also gearing up for a general election:

Jon Trickett MP, Labour’s Election Co-ordinator, responding to the withdrawal of Andrea Leadsom from the Conservative leadership contest, said:

“It now looks likely that we are about to have the coronation of a new Conservative Prime Minister.

“It is crucial, given the instability caused by the Brexit vote, that the country has a democratically elected Prime Minister. I am now putting the whole of the party on a General Election footing. It is time for the Labour Party to unite and ensure the millions of people in the country left behind by the Tories’ failed economic policies, have the opportunity to elect a Labour government”

Andrea Leadsom’s bid for No.10 may be been short-lived, but it still showed that even the Conservative party is not immune to the anti-elite zeitgeist running through western politics, writes the FT’s Henry Mance.

Indeed, Leadsom would have been one of the most inexperienced prime ministers in British history — having not served as leader of the opposition or in the Cabinet.

Read Henry’s full story here.

It’s not just the Lib Dems – the Green party’s Caroline Lucas MP is also calling for snap general election:

“Andrea Leadsom’s decision to pull out of the leadership race underlines the necessity of a General Election this year, something the Greens have called for since the EU referendum result was announced.

“It is unacceptable that the next person to hold the top job in British politics is appointed by 60% of Tory MPs. They have no mandate to renegotiate Britain’s place in the world in this post referendum period. A general election is the only democratic way forward.

The analysts over at UniCredit have been cheered somewhat by today’s events, for two reasons (we’ve slightly trimmed down the full quotes):

1 – It is widely thought that Theresa May is more likely to seek a “soft Brexit” (sometimes called the “Norwegian plus” option) from the EU, which maintains access to the European single market, including financial services, and some (crucially largely symbolic) restriction on free movement.

2 – It avoids a two-month long leadership campaign and lifts one source of uncertainty in the UK. Leadsom risked splitting the Conservative Party and an early general election, in part because of her hard line on Brexit, and in part because she has little or no experience at the top level of government

The original timetable set by David Cameron envisaged the new prime minister would be installed by September. Leadsom’s withdrawal could see May as the new prime minister in the next day or so. James Cleverly, one of May’s supporters, said there was “no rush”. He told the BBC:

The prime minister will want to speak to Theresa about a sensible timetable for handover, and obviously they need to go through the formal procedure of notifying Her Majesty. These things don’t need to be rushed. But I do think we’ll now see certainty coming on board much earlier than originally planned.

If, like us, you’re wondering who might be the next chancellor under a Theresa May premiership, then Ladbrokes has some suggestions:

Philip Hammond 5/2
Andrea Leadsom 4/1
Sajid Javid 4/1
Michael Gove 6/1
Chris Grayling 8/1

The one name not on the list is George Osborne, the incumbent.

The rally in the pound didn’t last long. It’s now down on the day. More here.

UK stocks, however, are faring much better. The FTSE 100 is up +1 per cent, while the FTSE 250 +2.7 per cent. The latter is now down just -1.3 per cent over the past month.

Actually, the pound rally is back on again. It’s up +0.4 per cent on the day, and now back at $1.30.

FX wonk Simon Derrick of Bank of New York Mellon has this on the Tory race and sterling:

The decision by Andrea Leadsom to withdraw from the race this morning therefore seems likely to remove one significant political uncertainty. Although the party has yet to formally confirm that the leadership race is now over, most reports from the UK media in the past few hours indicate that this will likely prove the case and that Theresa May (the current Home Secretary) will become leader of the Conservative Party and, hence, the Prime Minister.

Given that she has previously expressed the view that the UK had to be clear about its negotiating stance on a deal with the European Union before triggering Article 50 and that she would not trigger such a move this year, this was seen as good news, helping to fuel a robust rally in GBP and supporting a recovery already under way in UK stocks.

However, he goes on to note that there are other factors likely to affect the pound, such as the Bank of England’s policy response to whatever economic shockwaves hit the UK as a result of Brexit.

What are the chances now of an early general election?

It is easy to see why Theresa May as a new prime minister looking for a mandate and an endorsement of her Brexit plan might seek one.

However under the Fixed-Term Parliament Act of 2011 it is no longer as simple as a prime minister just calling an election.

Instead, if a prime minister wants to go to the country before a five-year parliament has finished (which is due to happen in 2020), they must secure the support of two-thirds of MPs – something that would need Labour votes.

Usually with the main opposition party in disarray, you might expect Labour not to be keen for an immediate election. However a statement from the party leadership has urged the Conservatives to call one, bringing that two-thirds majority within touching distance.

There might of course be a rebellion against this stance from Labour backbenchers worried about losing their seats. But the rebels would probably need overwhelming support on their own benches as well as backing from other opposition parties to make this work.

By my calculations, if every party except Labour votes for an election, it would only need somewhere around 15 Labour MPs also to vote for one for it to happen.

Theresa May delivered an important speech in Birmingham earlier, but as a result of more urgent developments in the Conservative leadership race the details went largely unnoticed.

Here are some of her proposals for reforming capitalism, so it works not just for the “privileged few”.

- Shareholder votes on executive pay to be binding rather than just advisory as present.
- She promised to simplify the way bonuses are awarded so they are more closely linked with performance.
- She will publish data on pay multiples between top executives and other positions in the economy.
- Workers will be appointed to company boards

“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.’”

Syed Kamall, the head of the Conservative group of MEPs in the European parliament – known as the European Conservatives and Reformists – has given his backing to Theresa May. He has also suggested she has already won friends in Brussels and could begin Brexit negotiations quickly:

Theresa May now starts the hard task of forging a new relationship between Britain and the EU. She has already won respect in the capitals of Europe and will be able to immediately negotiate the UK’s withdrawal from the EU in a manner that is mutually beneficial to both sides.

Michael Noonan, the Irish finance minister, has been talking about the strange scenario of Theresa May negotiating for Brexit having campaigned against it reports Jim Brunsden. Noonan said:

When the new British team is in place, that’s the prime minister and her ministers, [the negotiations] will be based on the positions that were taken up during the referendum [campaign], and I think we all know what those are.

Then the present position in Europe, and the two at the moment don’t meet and it’s hard to see how they’ll be reconciled.”

He added:

What we cannot calculate yet is what the new arrangement between the

UK and the EU will be, and depending on that you’ll get different answers [on economic impact for Ireland].

If the relationship comes very close to preserving the single market and allowing freedom of movement, of capital and people…then the impact [on the Irish economy] will be very little.

On the other hand if there is a failure to reach agreement and it swings back to an agreement where the UK will be bound by WTO rules and we’ll have to pay tariffs and they’ll be hard borders…then the impact will be quite severe.

So it will depend on the negotiation.

And on today’s events, he said:

It’s the first major step in taking uncertainty out of the system

Earlier today, George Osborne was speaking on the Morning Joe show on US television, where he is trying to shore up investor confidence in the UK.

The chancellor and the home secretary have not always seen eye-to-eye in the past, especially over the issue of immigration, which the Treasury tends to be keener to encourage than the home office. (For evidence of this, see this story.)

Here’s what Osborne told viewers in the US today though:

[May] is now the overwhelming choice to be our country’s prime minister.

I have worked with her for six years. She’s got the steel, the determination, to do the job.

The economy doesn’t need uncertainty, it needs certainty.

So I think now, in the next few days, we should move to put her in the position of prime minister so she can lead the country, provide unity, and provide that direction, so that Britain is open to business, open to the world, free trading, out there taking our rightful place in the planet.

The next step in Theresa May’s coronation as prime minister-elect is expected soon with David Cameron due to make a statement shortly. The FT’s Kate Allen says he has spoken to May

Emoticon David Cameron will stand down on Wednesday as PM, he has just announced

So Theresa May will become only the second female prime minister of the UK late on Wednesday. Mr Cameron, speaking on the steps of Downing Street, said he would chair his last cabinet meeting tomorrow and then hold his last Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday before going to Buckingham Palace to offer his formal resignation to the Queen and his recommendation that Mrs May forms the next government.

He said of Mrs May:

She is strong, she is competetent, she is more than able . . . and she will have my full support

He added that Andrea Leadsom had “made the right decision to stand aside.”

Earlier in the House of Commons, John Penrose, the minister for constitutional reform, said government lawyers had ruled that invoking Article 50 – the so-called EU divorce clause – is a matter of “royal prerogative”, which means the next prime minister, Theresa May, can do so on her own, with or without cabinet approval. Some MPs have been arguing that triggering Brexit would require an Act of Parliament. If you want a slightly different take, have a look at this to get the thoughts of David Allen Green, the FT’s legal guru.

The BBC have posted this video clip of David Cameron announcing that Theresa May will become prime minister on Wednesday:

Technically of course Mrs May must still wait for the 1922 committee of Conservative backbenchers to confirm she will be the next leader of the party. The committee is expected to vote at 5pm.

And then of course the Queen must accept David Cameron’s resignation and his recommendation that Mrs May replaces him. Both are of course foregone conclusions and this is British politics, which of course is highly predictable . . . . .

Here’s how some of the big German news organisation are reporting May’s impending coronation:

Frankfurter Allgemeine leads its website with the news that Cameron is stepping down on Wednesday along with an analysis below it bearing the headline “Clarity in London”

and Die Welt:

The French press, however, is still somewhat pre-occupied by the failure of the national football team to lift the European Championship trophy in Paris last night, where they were beaten 1-0 by Portugal. The political events in London only get third billing on Le Monde’s website:

Some interesting insights from the FT’s Duncan Robinson in Brussels and Stefan Wagstyl in Berlin as to how the UK’s new prime minister is viewed by her continental European counterparts:

During her six years as home secretary, Ms May hammered out deals on topics ranging from counter-terrorism to the refugee crisis during regular meetings with her peers from across the EU in Brussels.

In that period she earned a reputation as being well-briefed and pragmatic — as well as unafraid to butt in on topics that did not affect the UK.

One German official compared Mrs May to the “rubble-women” who cleared the wreckage from bomb sites, immediately after the second world war. Germans of course like everthing to be ordentlich so this comparison should be taken on balance as a compliment.

The French position is even clearer – they are big fans:

News of her promotion to Number 10 was met with relief in Paris. Ms May built up a close relationship with Bernard Cazeneuve, her bespectacled French counterpart, on issues such as new rules on firearms and setting up a database of airline passengers. “She is extremely respected on the French side,” said one French diplomat.

Emoticon And there we have it, confirmation, as if it was needed, from Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 committee of Conservative backbenchers, that Theresa May is the new leader of the party and will therefore take over as prime minister.

There should be a statement coming soon from Theresa May once she has finished addressing the 1922 committee . . . . meanwhile it looks like David Cameron was quite relieved ealier after announcing he would be leaving Downing Street in two days time and handing over the reins of power . . . either that or it was faux cheerfulness:

Sky News’ Jon Craig is reporting that Theresa May is addressing more than just the 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers, suggesting there are quite a few cabinet ministers in the closed meeting. She should be appearing before the cameras shortly.

Indeed it looks like Mrs May is addressing the Conservative parliamentary party although not everyone is there of course – David Cameron was last seen in Downing Street and George Osborne is on the other side of the Atlantic in the US where he is trying to shore up investor confidence in the UK.

And as that meeting breaks up, we have a whole host of senior Conservatives, who supported various candidates in the leadership race and were on opposing sides in the EU referendum declaring themselves on Sky News as firm supporters of Mrs May – unity 101 . . . .

It looks like Christopher Hope, the Daily Telegraph’s chief political correspondent, was within earshot of Theresa May’s address to the Conservative parliamentary party:

It looks like the Conservative party is trying to pack as many of its MPs in behind the prime minister in waiting – there are 330 of them so it’s going to be tight – version 2 of “Unity 101″ (see post at 5:26pm)

And here is Theresa May, getting a rousing reception from all the MPs , she says she is “honoured and humbled” to be the new leader as she pays tribute to both Andrea Leadsom and David Cameron

She is talking of a need for strong leadership in what will be “difficult times”, adding that “Brexit means Brexit and we are going to make a success of it.”

it is basically a rehash of some of her lines from her speech this morning with a nod to greater equality and concluding with: ” . . .and that is how we are going to build a better Britain.”

The speech lasted less than 2 minutes.

The rapid move by the Tories to replace David Cameron puts an end to some of the uncertainty but crucially what it also does is give the UK a potentially stronger position in its Brexit negotiations. By avoiding a run off with Andrea Leadsom, Mrs May has not had to spell out what type of Brexit she envisage, which allows her to keep some of her powder dry when she goes toe-to-toe with fellow European leaders in Brussels.

The return of a vague semblance of political normality to British shores helped sterling briefly push through the $1.30 mark today but not for very long. This Bloomberg screen grab paints a better picture:

Can the UK’s new prime minister be compared to the world’s most powerful woman? Here’s a profile of Theresa May, written by the FT’s George Parker and Helen Warrell, back in July 2014 when she reached the milestone of becoming the longest serving home secretary in 50 years. She was tipped as the next PM by the bookies at the time . . . .

The Daily Telegraph’s Christopher Hope caught a nice moment between Theresa May and her husband Philip, an investment banker, shortly after her brief statement in front of Parliament:

Theresa and Philip May have none other than Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister of Pakistan who was assassinated in 2007, to thank for their relationship:

Here’s an excerpt about how the UK prime minister-elect met her husband from the FT’s 2014 profile of Mrs May that I flagged in my earlier post:

She was introduced to her future husband Philip May by Benazir Bhutto – a contemporary who went on to be prime minister of Pakistan – at a Tory student disco and thus started what her friends say is a rock-solid relationship which has underpinned her political career. Philip was a skilled debater and said to have harboured his own political ambitions but friends say he is a devoted champion of his wife. “He’s supportive but not competitive,” says her friend Catherine Meyer, charity CEO and wife of Sir Christopher Meyer, former US ambassador. “He’s reserved, kind, polite. He’s also a bit shy.”

Let’s not forget there is a leadership contest underway in the Labour party, after Angela Eagle’s formal challenge to Jeremy Corbyn was confirmed. It has to be said her timing couldn’t have been any worse as all the focus has been on the Conservatives ending theirs and the UK getting a new prime minister by default.

If you want to know how the rest of Europe views Mrs May’s move into Number 10, snippets of which I shared on the blog earlier, have a read of this:

And here is the FT View on the Conservative party’s coronation of its new leader, which makes the point that like the only other female British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, Theresa May takes over at a time of crisis.

British companies have reacted more coolly to Theresa May’s imminent appointment as the prime minister after digesting her speech this morning that contained a warning to big business that it needed to change and came with some concrete proposals, including binding annual shareholder votes on executive pay, consumer and worker representatives on boards and curbs on predatory takeovers.

Read our full story here

We are going to wrap up our live coverage of yet another eventful day in British politics. What was meant to be a day on which candidates from the two main parties kickstarted their respective leadership campaigns, quickly turned into one on which the UK underwent a transfer of power that will see the country’s second female prime minister assume the reins on Wednesday.

The drama began when Andrea Leadsom announced she was pulling out of the race for the Tory party leadership, clearing the way for Theresa May to take the role and replace David Cameron in 10 Downing Street.

On the face of it at least, the Tories produced a display of unity, dismissing calls from other political parties for a snap general election which they argued was needed to give the new prime minister a fresh mandate.

The relatively orderly transition inside the party in power contrasted sharply with the ongoing internal strife in the Labour party and totally overshadowed Angela Eagle’s bid to supplant Jeremy Corbyn as leader.

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