5.00pm: It’s confirmed: the 1922 Committee have announced that Theresa May is now the Leader of the Conservative Party. She will assume the mantle of Prime Minister from David Cameron on Wednesday, after his last PMQs.
We’re signing off the live blog now, barring some extraordinary evening development – and who can rule one out? What an extraordinary day it’s been.
4.00pm: Hi all, Henry here taking over the live blog.
- According to Twitter, the Prime Minister has announced that he will go to the Queen after his final PMQs on Wednesday, and Theresa May will have taken over by that evening.
- Other than that, pretty much all the talk at the moment is speculation about who’d profit from a snap election. Is Labour mad to be calling for one, or is it their last, best hope to get rid of Corbyn? Will the Liberal Democrats profit more than UKIP?
- That’s assuming the new Prime Minister even holds one. The arguments against are simple: May said she didn’t want one during the campaign, and most Tory MPs don’t want one. On the other hand Leadsom’s withdrawal has denied her the sort of mandate that comes from an electoral victory, even an internal one, and the next few years will be difficult to navigate with a small majority. Tories may also want to refresh their mandate whilst Labour is week and before any economic downturn later in the Parliament.
- The two statements we’re waiting on now are May’s and Graham Brady’s, the Chairman of the 1922 Committee. His is expected around five o’clock.
- ICM give the Conservatives an eight point lead. In a poll carried out before Leadsom withdrew, the pollsters put the Conservatives up one on 38 and Labour flatlining on 30.
- The markets react positively to the news. The FTSE 100 and the FTSE 250 are both up on the day, as is sterling against the dollar.
- UKIP launch a membership drive. Presumably sensing an opportunity after the withdrawal of his favoured candidate, Nigel Farage is tweeting links to join his party (but no, he hasn’t unresigned…yet).
- May’s victory should be formally recognised by teatime. Beth Rigby reports that Brady is seeking to formally secure the agreement of the ’22 and the Party Board in time for this evening’s news bulletins.
- The Labour rebels are cursed. Which pharaoh’s tomb did Angela Eagle disturb, or did she simply annoy her neighbourhood witch doctor? The anti-Corbyn rebels have had a pretty grim time of things already, but a new low was reached when the launch event for their leadership challenge was upstaged by Leadsom’s withdrawal statement. This clip of the moment when Eagle realises the media have abandoned her event is really cringe-making stuff.
- Meanwhile, UKIP’s leadership wars continue. Apparently, UKIP’s NEC has now voted to prevent anyone from standing who hasn’t been a member for five years. It seems to be a rather extreme measure to limit the field, given most UKIP members – and many of its best-known figures – have joined since 2011.
- Loughton attacks MPs and journalists for Leadsom “smears”. Leadsom’s campaign manager, Tim Loughton, has strong words for those whom he blames for her demise: “Colleagues who have chosen to further their own ends by putting smear above respect will no doubt account for their motivations but it is genuinely puzzling to understand who they think they are helping. It is certainly not our Party or our constituents. It is absolutely not the job of media commentators to ‘big up’ politicians whether in this leadership contest or elsewhere in politics. But neither should it be their compulsion constantly to try to trip them up. Using spin and underhand tactics against decent people whose prime motivation is to serve has for too long undermined the confidence of the public in our politics.”
- Thoughts turn to the practical next steps. Now the outcome is clear, all eyes are on what’s next. Apparently the Queen will return to London from Scotland tomorrow (even she can’t get a quiet summer), meaning May could theoretically become Prime Minister by Tuesday evening. However, even if that’s possible, how likely is it? It’s not implausible that they will wait until Wednesday – both so that Her Majesty can rest a little after her journey and so that Cameron will get a farewell PMQs before he departs (and so that he has some more time to load the removal van).
- The Cabinet seating plan could be quite tricky. If you’ve ever had to work out the seating plan for a wedding reception then you can imagine the difficulty that is coming up. There are various branches of the family and groups of friends who need to be kept happy – but some of them would be a disaster if you sat them next to each other, there is a limited number of places and anyone left out will be extremely aggrieved. May has to include various of the existing big beasts, while keeping an eye on the balance between Remainers and Leavers, and accommodating her backers such as Grayling and Patel, while also reaching out to enough of her opponents (Fox? Gove? Perhaps even Leadsom, if she will serve?), and satisfying the various intakes as well as engaging the parliamentary party’s pre-existing tribes. Plus, will Osborne really try to stay on? Oh, and the people in each job will have to be good at them, too.
- Labour has called for a General Election. We now have the unusual sight of an Opposition demanding an election while undergoing a leadership challenge – it isn’t quite clear how that would work in practice, but they’re evidently going to try anyway. May has already ruled out an early election (to the relief of many of her MPs) though she did accuse Gordon Brown of “running scared” in 2007 when he refused to call one in a similar position.
- UKIP are limbering up. The “People’s Army” is, of course, embarking on its own leadership race - and Arron Banks, the party’s main donor, is on record as saying Theresa May would be their preferred Conservative leader. He has now declared “game on” – though it remains to be seen if he can live up to his own hype.
Welcome to our live blog – it’s Mark Wallace here, bringing you all the latest news and analysis of today’s events in the Conservative leadership election. Here are the headlines so far:
- Leadsom has dropped out. After a bruising weekend, and with the support of only a minority of MPs, she evidently felt that her candidacy was no longer viable. In her withdrawal statement, she was keen to emphasise the need for unity and the importance of ensuring that Brexit is properly delivered.
- Gove has hailed May as Prime Minister. Despite some speculation that he might somehow re-enter the race, the Justice Secretary has issued the following statement: “Andrea Leadsom spoke with great dignity and courage today. I wish her every success in the future. We should now move as quickly as possible to ensure Theresa May can take over as leader. She has my full support as our next Prime Minister.”
- Brady has confirmed that her appointment is now just a formality. The Chairman of the 1922 Committee told assembled cameras that while the ’22 and the Party Board must now meet to agree that May is the next Prime Minister, but when asked by Sky News if there was a chance that the race might now be re-opened, he replied: “None whatsoever.”
May is now the Prime-Minister-to-be. There are three questions which now come into play:
- When will she take over? Cameron is of course still resident in Downing Street and presumably needs a little time to pack given the deadline was meant to be 9th September; the ’22 and the Board are yet to meet; May is on her way back from Birmingham and the Queen is in Scotland for the summer – all of which means there might be some delay in implementing the transition of power.
- What is the plan for Brexit? The big question mark over May is her support for Remain in the referendum. She has said that “Brexit means Brexit”, and Leadsom cited her promise to deliver in her withdrawal letter, but all those Conservative MPs and Party members who voted Leave will be watching closely to see what the timeline, the terms and the plan will be. Any failure to deliver would be highly dangerous – after all, the majority is still as small as before.
- Who will be in her top team? Unlike Osborne, May doesn’t have a particularly close-knit coterie who are predestined to populate the Cabinet table. That evidently hasn’t prevented her from building a highly effective leadership campaign, but it also offers the opportunity to build a ‘Team of Rivals’, as we suggested this morning.