Theresa May will be UK prime minister by Wednesday, David Cameron confirms

David Cameron to field final PMQs on Wednesday, before stepping down to make way for Theresa May

By Matt Foster

11 Jul 2016

Theresa May will be the UK’s new prime minister by Wednesday evening, David Cameron has confirmed.

The home secretary had been expected to face a Conservative leadership battle with energy minister and prominent Eurosceptic Andrea Leadsom.

But Leadsom withdrew from the race on Monday morning, saying that despite winning the backing of 84 Tory MPs in a ballot only last week, she did not believe she had “sufficient support to lead a strong and stable government”.

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The move now paves the way for May, who played a relatively low-key role in the campaign to keep Britain inside the European Union, to become the leader of the Conservative party and the country.

In a statement on Monday afternoon, prime minister David Cameron — who was originally due to stay on until the Tory leadership race was settled September — said Leadsom had made “absolutely the right decision to stand aside” and confirmed that he would leave Number 10 Downing Street for the last time on Wednesday.

“Obviously with these changes we now don’t need to have a prolonged period of transition. And so tomorrow I will chair my last cabinet meeting," he said.

“On Wednesday I will attend the House of Commons for prime minister’s questions. And then after that I expect to go to the palace and offer my resignation, so we will have a new prime minister in that building behind me by Wednesday evening.”

The outgoing prime minister said May would have his “full support”, praising her as “strong”, “competent” and “more than able to provide the leadership the country is going to need in the years ahead”.

Both Labour, which now faces its own bitter leadership battle, and the Liberal Democrats have already called for an early general election to take place to avoid an unchallenged coronation of the new prime minister.

But during her brief leadership campaign, May ruled out going to the country before 2020. Under the Fixed Terms Parliament Act passed by the previous coalition government, an election would only need to be called if MPs passed a vote of no confidence in her leadership and then voted down any attempt at forming an alternative government within 14 days.

"Proper industrial strategy"

As well as ruling out an early election or emergency Budget, May, who has served in the notoriously-tricky role of home secretary for more than six years, has also come out against triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty — the mechanism kicking off two years of talks on the UK’s exit from the EU — before the end of the year.

And she has vowed to set up a dedicated Whitehall Brexit department, led by a Cabinet minister, to focus on the UK’s departure from the bloc, a step up from the small cross-government unit which has already been established in the wake of Britain's historic decision to leave the EU.

May fleshed out some of her domestic policy agenda in a speech on Monday morning, saying that while the government had “overseen a lot of public service reforms in the last six years”, it had failed to secure “deep economic reform”.

“That needs to change for a simple reason,” she said. “If we want to increase our overall prosperity, if we want more people to share in that prosperity, if we want bigger real wages for people, if we want more opportunities for young people to get on, we have to improve the productivity of our economy.”

May said she wanted to make boosting the UK’s productivity “an important objective for the Treasury”, including by issuing more “Treasury-backed project bonds for new infrastructure projects” alongside “a proper industrial strategy”.

She also signalled a more interventionist approach to business, including making it a legal obligation for big firms to have employees represented on their boards.

She told an audience in Birmingham: “This is a different kind of Conservatism, I know. It marks a break with the past. But it is in fact completely consistent with Conservative principles. 

“Because we don’t just believe in markets, but in communities. We don’t just believe in individualism, but in society. We don’t hate the state, we value the role that only the state can play.

“We believe everybody — not just the privileged few – has a right to take ownership of what matters in their lives. We believe that each generation — of politicians, of business leaders, of us all — are custodians with a responsibility to pass on something better to the next generation.”

Update 12/7: The combination of an over-zealous spell-checker and a sloppy reporter meant an earlier version of this story referred to somebody called Andrew Leadsom, rather than Andrea. Apologies for the error and thanks to an eagle-eyed reader for spotting it. Matt

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