• Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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Theresa May ahead in race to be the next British Prime Minister

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U.K. Home Secretary Theresa May is ahead in the race to be the next British prime minister, as speculation grows that it may be an all-female contest pitting her against the Energy Minister and prominent Brexiteer Andrea Leadsom.

May has the backing of 101 fellow Tory lawmakers in her bid to take the helm of the party and the country, according to a tally on Saturday on the Conservative Home blog. Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb and Justice Secretary Michael Gove each have 21, and Leadsom has 20. Former Defense Secretary Liam Fox has seven.

While May has said there shouldn’t be a coronation, it’s also possible that a prime minister could be elected in the next two weeks should the leading candidates decide to unite around her after the initial rounds of voting. Many of the party’s 330 members of Parliament have yet to commit themselves publicly.

“It would be the best thing if the candidates among themselves could just back one person,” Business Minister Anna Soubry told LBC radio on Friday. “This uncertainty, for this to drag on ’till September, is not great for our country.”

Starting on Tuesday, lawmakers will vote in secret ballots to whittle the list down to just two. Then, the party’s approximately 150,000-strong nationwide membership will make the final choice in a postal ballot, with the result expected by Sept. 9.

May has said the best way forward was though a competitive process. “There needs to be a proper contest with a leader elected by the whole party with a proper mandate — and no coronation brought about by back-room deals,” she said after Cameron announced he was quitting.

Leadsom could win backing from as many as 30 Boris Johnson supporters as soon as next week, the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph reported Saturday, without saying where they got the information. Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, who backed Brexit, is supporting Leadsom, according to the Conservative Home website.

 Whoever wins will face some of the most difficult decisions for any U.K. leader since World War II. Nine days after Britain voted to leave the European Union, in a shocking break with a half-century of postwar alignment, the country remains in a state of political limbo with the main opposition Labour Party also engulfed by a leadership crisis.

Among the Tories, Gove may find his desertion of fellow leading Brexiteer Johnson has backfired, costing him the support of many lawmakers who feel he can no longer be trusted. Fox is rated a long-shot while Crabb, who like May campaigned to stay in the EU before the referendum, is said to be having difficulty finding substantial support.

‘Massive Chance’

May, who is also the bookmakers’ favorite, is seen as a steady hand. She’s ruled out any prospect of going back on Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, opening her leadership bid on Thursday by declaring that “Brexit means Brexit.”

Leadsom, an ex-financier who has worked for Barclays Plc and Invesco Perpetual, played a prominent role in the “Leave” campaign. Should she make it to the shortlist along with May, Britain would be guaranteed its first female prime minister since Margaret Thatcher.

“I genuinely believe that our future is better off outside of the EU,” Leadsom said in an interview with LBC radio after announcing her bid. “It’s a massive chance to strengthen our economy and sort out the issues around free movement.”

The next prime minister must be a “Leave” supporter, Leadsom told the Telegraph. “It’s very difficult for somebody who doesn’t agree with this, who is reluctantly following the wishes of the people,” she said.

The candidates will take to the airwaves over the weekend to promote their campaigns. May and Crabb will appear on ITV Television’s “Peston on Sunday,” while Leadsom and Gove are due on the BBC’s “Andrew Marr Show.”

Meanwhile, an anti-Brexit march was held in London on Saturday. Its organizers have called for Britain to “take its finger off the self-destruct button.”