Theresa May Set To Become UK's Next Prime Minister
NEW DELHI: The uncertain question regarding who will lead Britain out of the European Union finally has an answer, with Interior Minister Theresa May set to become the United Kingdom’s second female Prime Minister on Wednesday.
May, 59 emerged the winning candidate after rival Andrea Leadsom abruptly terminated her disastrous leadership campaign. She will succeed David Cameron, who announced his resignation after a nationwide referendum on 23 June 2016 decided that the UK will leave the EU. The surprise result created huge uncertainty over trade and investment and has shaken financial markets, with the Pound Sterling hitting a three decade low.
The referendum ended Cameron’s term as Prime Minister, as he had vocally campaigned for ‘Remain’ -- arguing that leaving the EU would bring economic disaster. The ‘Leave’ campaigns arguments worked, specifically that leaving the EU would enable the UK to control immigration. The weeks following the referendum have been mired in uncertainty, with the foremost contendors on the Leave side being felled by political backstabbing as Justice Secretary Michael Gove brought down former London mayor Boris Johnson and was then punished for his perceived treachery by being eliminated from a ballot of Conservative MPs.
May’s emergence as Prime Minister was itself hampered by perceptions of her failure -- in six years as interior minister, she had not managed to bring immigration down. Additionally, May was on the losing side of the referendum.
Nevertheless, May was the last Torie standing. "I am honored and humbled to have been chosen by the Conservative Party to become its leader," said May -- who had originally supported the ‘Remain’ campaign but has since said that there is no going back on the referendum that decided the UK must leave the EU. "Brexit means Brexit, and we're going to make a success of it."
May and her rival Leadsom were due to contest a ballot of grassroots Conservative party members with the results being declared in September, but Leadsom unexpectedly quit the race after her campaign took an ugly turn, raising questions about her rival's lack of children and about whether she had possibly exaggerated her CV.
The events developed rapidly. In fact, Leadsom announced her resignation not even 48 hours after an interview with The Times newspaper, where she suggested she was better suited to lead the country on account of having children. Leadsom made no mention of the article in the speech announcing her exit from the race on Monday. Instead, she said that she was pulling out to avoid nine weeks of campaign uncertainty at a time when strong leadership was needed.
"I have ... concluded that the interests of our country are best served by the immediate appointment of a strong and well supported prime minister," she said. "I am therefore withdrawing from the leadership election and I wish Theresa May the very greatest success."
Graham Brady, head of the Conservative party committee in charge of the leadership contest, said that May had been elected with immediate effect.
While the markets responded favourably, seeing the pound bouncing back slightly and trading at $1.2970, up 0.1 percent on the day but still down around 13 percent since the day of the vote -- not everyone is satisfied.
Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens are calling for a snap general election, rather than waiting for the contest scheduled for 2020 under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act.
Labour's election co-ordinator, Jon Trickett, said (as quoted in the BBC): "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."
Farron, Lib Dem leader, said: "With Theresa May's coronation we need an early general election. The Tories now have no mandate. Britain deserves better than this."
In fact, several on Twitter complained about being left out of the process altogether:
Meanwhile, Labour is seeing its own political tussle, with Angela Eagle launching a bid to challenge Jeremy Corbyn for the job. Eagle says she can provide the leadership in "dark times for Labour" that Corbyn can not.