Wednesday 21 February 2018

New 'Iron Lady' May vows to give 'control' back to UK

New Conservative Party leader Theresa May gets a kiss from her husband Philip John May at Westminster. Photo: Getty
New Conservative Party leader Theresa May gets a kiss from her husband Philip John May at Westminster. Photo: Getty

Stephen Swinford

Theresa May has pledged to "forge a new role" for Britain outside the EU and give the people of the UK back their "control" after it was announced she will tomorrow become the second female prime minister in the nation's history.

She will inevitably be now compared to Margaret Thatcher, who was dubbed the 'Iron Lady'.

Click ti view full size graphic
Click ti view full size graphic

Ms May, the home secretary, said that "Brexit means Brexit" as she pledged to "make a success" of life outside the EU after Andrea Leadsom, her rival for the Conservative Party leadership, stepped aside.

David Cameron said at Downing Street that Ms May would "provide the leadership our country is going to need".

He announced he will travel to Buckingham Palace to tender his resignation to the queen tomorrow following a final Commons farewell at Prime Minister's Questions.

Ms May will be formally confirmed as Britain's 76th prime minister in the evening, and is expected to appoint her Cabinet the following day.

Yesterday she made a brief victory speech outside the St Stephen's entrance to the Commons in front of 100 supporters in which she paid tribute to the "dignity" of Ms Leadsom.

Ms Leadsom quit the contest after she admitted she had been left "shattered" by criticism from fellow Tory MPs for suggesting that as a mother she was better placed to be the next prime minister than Ms May.

Ms May said: "During this campaign my case has been based on three things - first the need for strong, proven leadership to steer us through what will be difficult and uncertain economic and political times.

"The need, of course, to negotiate the best deal for Britain in leaving the EU and to forge a new role for ourselves in the world. Brexit means Brexit and we're going to make a success of it.

"Second, we need to unite our country and, third, we need a strong new positive vision for the future of our country. A vision of a country that works not just for the privileged few, but that works for every one of us.

"Because we are going to give people more control over their lives. That's how together we will build a better Britain."

She rejected calls for her to hold a snap general election, instead vowing to Conservative MPs that she would win an increased majority in 2020.

It came after a day of political drama, which began at 11am when Ms May officially launched her leadership campaign in Birmingham.

With her husband Philip watching from the front row, Ms May spent 20 minutes delivering her vision for a "different kind of Conservatism" as she distanced herself from the economic legacy of David Cameron and George Osborne.

As she finished her speech, she and her staff were prepared for a nine-week Conservative leadership election contest.

Instead, they discovered she would be getting a coronation - anointed prime minister-in-waiting just five hours later after a contest that lasted just four days.

At 11.50am, with rumours in Westminster that Ms Leadsom was about to resign, Ms May and her closest advisers were driven back to London.

At 12.15pm, Ms Leadsom announced she was quitting the leadership contest, clearing the way for Ms May to become Conservative leader.

On the two-hour drive back to London, Ms May texted supporters as she tried to come to terms with the sudden end of the leadership campaign and the realisation she would become the next prime minister.

On her return to London, Ms May wasted little time. At 3pm she held a meeting with Mr Cameron, where he agreed there should be a "swift" transition.

Less than an hour later, the prime minister emerged from Downing Street and announced the timetable for his departure.

Until yesterday it was assumed he would stay on as Conservative leader until September 9, finishing his tenure with a summit of G20 world leaders. He told media at Downing Street he would now be leaving office tomorrow evening.

He said he would hold a cabinet meeting this morning, have a valedictory Prime Minister's Questions tomorrow and formally tender his resignation to the queen shortly afterwards.

"We're not going to have a prolonged Conservative leadership election campaign. I think Andrea Leadsom has made absolutely the right decision to stand aside and it's clear Theresa May has the overwhelming support of the Conservative parliamentary party.

"I'm also delighted that Theresa May will be the next prime minister. She is strong, she is competent, she's more than able to provide the leadership that our country is going to need in the years ahead and she will have my full support."

Michael Gove, who finished a distant third among MPs, said: "Andrea Leadsom spoke with great dignity and courage today. I wish her every success in the future." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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