Latest: Theresa May to become next British PM after last rival quits leadership race

Update 1.05pm: Theresa May is to be the UK's second female Prime Minister, after her only remaining rival, Andrea Leadsom, sensationally dropped out of the race to succeed David Cameron.

Mrs Leadsom - who had admitted she was "shattered" by the experience of intense media scrutiny since securing the second place on the ballot paper in the leadership contest - said she had decided she did not have sufficient support among MPs "to lead a strong and stable government".

Mrs May swiftly received backing from leading Brexit supporters Michael Gove and Boris Johnson, and the chairman of the Conservatives' backbench 1922 committee, Graham Brady, said there was no need for the leadership contest to be re-run.

Mr Brady said he had to consult with the party's board before formally confirming that Mrs May was leader, but there seemed no doubt that she will soon be moving into 10 Downing Street.

Mr Brady was unable to say whether he would be able to confirm her leadership by the end of the day or this week.

In a statement accepting that Mrs May has effectively been chosen as Tory leader, the Home Secretary's campaign manager, Chris Grayling, said she was "enormously honoured to have been entrusted with this task".

Mrs May, who launched her national campaign with a speech in Birmingham just moments before Mrs Leadsom's withdrawal, was travelling back to London to make a statement.

"Theresa will do everything she can to equip our country for the challenges that lie ahead," said Mr Grayling.

Mrs Leadsom announced that she was quitting the contest shortly after apologising to the Home Secretary over an interview in which she appeared to suggest that the fact she was a mother gave her the edge over the childless Mrs May as a future PM.

Mr Gove, who came third in the leadership ballot among Tory MPs, pledged his backing to Mrs May, saying: "Andrea Leadsom spoke with great dignity and courage today. I wish her every success in the future.

"We should now move as quickly as possible to ensure Theresa May can take over as leader. She has my full support as our next Prime Minister."

Latest: Theresa May to become next British PM after last rival quits leadership race

And Mr Johnson - who abandoned an expected tilt for the leader's job after realising he faced competition from both Mrs Leadsom and Mr Gove - said he had "no doubt" that Mrs May would make an excellent party leader and PM.

Mr Johnson said: "Theresa May will provide the authority and the leadership necessary to unite the Conservative Party and take the country forward in the coming weeks and months.

"Andrea's decision, which is both brave and principled, allows that process to begin immediately.

"I have no doubt Theresa will make an excellent party leader and Prime Minister and I'm encouraged that she's made it clear that Brexit means Brexit - that we will leave the EU.

"It is vital that we respect the will of the people and get on with exploiting new opportunities for this country."

Update 12.33pm: British Home Secretary Theresa May is set to become the next leader of the UK's Conservative Party, it was confirmed this afternoon.

Graham Brady, the chairman of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee, confirmed this afternoon that the leadership race will not be re-run after May's last remaining rival, Andrea Leadsom, dropped out of the race minutes earlier.

He could not confirm when Ms May would officially assume the role of British Prime Minister.

Another former rival, Michael Gove, has backed Ms May to become British Prime Minister, saying: "We should now move as quickly as possible to ensure Theresa May can take over as leader. She has my full support as our next Prime Minister."

Earlier:

Andrea Leadsom has confirmed she is quitting the race to succeed David Cameron as leader of the UK's Conservative Party and British Prime Minister.

She said that a nine-week leadership campaign at such a critical time for the UK would be “highly undesirable”.

Mrs Leadsom - who had admitted she was "shattered" by the experience of intense media scrutiny since securing the second place on the ballot paper in the leadership contest - said she had decided she did not have sufficient support among MPs "to lead a strong and stable government".

Speaking on the steps of her campaign HQ in Westminster, the Energy Minister wished Mrs May "the very greatest success" and promised her "my full support".

The move leaves leave Home Secretary Theresa May as the only candidate - potentially clearing the way for her to be named Tory leader and PM as early as today.

However, it is not immediately clear whether Conservative rules would require the party's 1922 Committee to seek another contender to appear on the ballot paper alongside Mrs May for a planned vote of the party's 150,000 members.

Graham Brady, the chairman of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee, is set to make a statement about the leadership contest on the steps of St Stephen's Entrance to Parliament at 12.30pm.

Earlier, Ms Leadsom has apologised to Theresa May "for any hurt I have caused" after the row over comments which appeared to suggest being a mother gave her an advantage as a potential prime minister.

The energy minister insisted that she did not want motherhood to play a part in the campaign and "deeply regret that anyone has got the impression that I think otherwise".

Mrs Leadsom said she had felt "under attack" since the row over her comments, which were branded "vile" by one senior Tory MP while a fellow minister said it showed she was unsuitable for Number 10.

In an interview with The Times, Mrs Leadsom said: "Genuinely I feel that being a mum means you have a very real stake in the future of our country, a tangible stake."

The Home Secretary has previously spoken about how she and husband Philip were affected by being unable to have children.


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