NEW: Theresa May officially named Conservative Party leader
May's sole rival, Andrea Leadsom, pulled out of the race
British Prime Minister David Cameron is to resign Wednesday, paving the way for Home Secretary Theresa May to take the reins.
May was officially named Conservative Party leader and successor to Cameron “with immediate effect” Monday, said Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee, a collection of Conservative members of Parliament key to electing the party leader. She will replace Cameron on Wednesday evening.
In remarks shortly after her leadership was affirmed, May said her priorities will be to administer Britain’s exit from the European Union, a move approved by voters last month, to unite the country and to create a “strong, new, positive vision for the future,” not just for the privileged few, but for everyone.
Cameron had already announced he would step down by October after failing to convince the country to remain in the EU in the divisive June 23 referendum that sent shockwaves through Britain’s political establishment.
But Monday, May’s only remaining rival to replace Cameron – Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom – pulled out of the race following controversy over comments she made about motherhood and leadership.
“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. On Wednesday I will attend the House of Commons for Prime Minister’s questions,” Cameron told reporters Monday outside 10 Downing Street.
“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 vote between May and Leadsom was supposed to go to the wider Conservative Party of 150,000 people, but being the sole candidate, May sidestepped the party rule.
Cameron welcomed Leadsom’s decision to drop out of the race and said he was confident May would steer the country in the right direction, calling her strong and competent, and offering her his full support.
Is this democratic?
May became the last one standing for a job no one else really wanted.
It is the latest twist in Britain’s political saga that ensued after the “Brexit” vote.
May, who supported Britain remaining in the EU, reiterated her commitment to Brexit on Monday.
“Brexit means Brexit, and we’re going to make a success of it. There will be no attempts to remain inside the EU. No attempts to rejoin it by the back door. No second referendum. The country voted to leave the European Union, and as prime minister, I will make sure we leave the European Union,” she said.
The country is entering uncharted territory – it is unprecedented for a candidate in Britain to run unopposed at this stage of a leadership change, and May’s quick succession to the country’s leadership is raising questions about the whole process. How can a leader be democratically chosen by so few people?
Some 329 Conservative members of Parliament voted to whittle down five candidates to two for their party’s leadership, but it seems the 150,000 party members who were supposed to have the final say will have no input in it at all.
In Britain’s parliamentary system, the leader of the ruling party is automatically made prime minister.
“There is an absurdity in the system that a prime minister can be chosen by people who are supporters of one party when it is in government,” CNN political contributor Robin Oakley said.
“There will undoubtedly be some frustration in the public, but there’s nothing much that can be done. There was a reasonable process in place, but if the last contender doesn’t have the stomach for a fight, this is how things will be decided.”
Some complained on Twitter that they were being left out of the whole process and demanded a general election.