On Friday morning, UK Prime Minister Theresa May finally ended the speculation over when she would step down. In a statement delivered outside Number 10 Downing Street, she confirmed that she would be stepping down on June 7th, finally putting a date to a departure that had become increasingly likely as she struggled to persuade Parliament to back her Brexit deal. The suggestion that she was considering bringing back her deal for a fourth vote seems to have been too much for Conservative cabinet ministers, and with the party set for a hammering when the result of this week’s European elections are announced, it was clear that the Prime Minister’s time was up.
One of the contributing factors to her departure is likely to have been the resignation of the Leader of the House, Andrea Leadsom, who stepped down on Wednesday, and according to the bookmakers at least, that resignation has boosted her chances of taking over from May.
While the prices on most of the leading contenders in the Next Conservative Leader market have held steady so far in the wake of the Prime Minister’s announcement, Leadsom has seen a significant shortening of her odds. She can now be backed at prices between 7/1 and 14/1, making her the third favourite with some bookmakers, behind Boris Johnson (6/4) and Dominic Raab (4/1).
Leadsom, who is a leading Brexiteer, made it to the final stage of the last Conservative leadership election, in the wake of David Cameron’s resignation in June 2016, but withdrew leaving Theresa May as Prime Minister. Leadsom’s prospects in that election were hit by comments made during the campaign, when she highlighted the fact that she, unlike May, was a mother. At the time, Leadsom said that her words had been taken out of context, but some pundits suggested that at the very least, her comments suggested a level of political inexperience.
It is also unclear whether Leadsom would be prepared to enter the race alongside other Brexiteers such as Johnson, Raab and Michael Gove (10/1) which could split the pro-Brexit vote and leave the way open for a more moderate candidate such as Rory Stewart (20/1).