The field of candidates to replace David Cameron had already been narrowed from five to two, but Andrea Leadsom’s decision to withdraw from the race now leaves May as the sole candidate.
Andrea Leadsom, one of two Conservative lawmakers vying to replace Prime Minister David Cameron, withdrew from the contest Monday, leaving Home Secretary Theresa May as the sole remaining candidate.
The party was expected to address whether it would to re-open the contest to candidates eliminated in earlier rounds or declare May the winner unopposed. If so, she could be prime minister within days. Cameron is resigning after British voters rejected his advice and chose to leave the European Union in a referendum last month.
Leadsom withdrew after a weekend uproar over comments she made suggesting that being a mother would be an advantage in the job. Leadsom has children; May does not.
It wasn’t clear whether the flap affected her decision to drop out. She said simply that she did not believe she had sufficient support within the party to remain in the race.
Leadsom said “business needs certainty” in the wake of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, which has unsettled the markets and sent the value of the pound plunging.
She said Britain needed a government that would “move quickly to set out what an independent United Kingdom’s framework for business looks like.
“We now need a new prime minister in place as soon as possible,” Leadsom said.
May was in favor of the UK remaining in the EU, while Leadsom campaigned for the “leave” side.
The field of candidates to replace Cameron had already been narrowed from five to two, but Leadsom’s announcement was a surprise as a final decision wasn’t expected until September. Because the Conservative Party is in power, only its 150,000 members get to pick the party leader, who by default becomes prime minister.
British politics has been thrown into turmoil by the referendum result, which has sparked leadership struggles in both the governing Conservative and main opposition Labour parties.