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- It’s finally happened. Theresa May has announced her departure from 10 Downing Street. In a speech this morning following a meeting with Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, the prime minister said she would stand aside on Friday 7 June, with the process to select a new Conservative party leader starting the following week. Fighting back tears, she said:
I will shortly leave the job that it has been the honour of my life to hold. The second female prime minister but certainly not the last. I do so with no ill will, but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love.
- The Conservative party chairman, Brandon Lewis, confirmed that nominations to replace May would close in the week beginning 10 June. Then successive rounds of voting by Tory MPs will take place to decide which candidates will be put a vote of the party’s members. That process should be completed by the end of June, leaving time for hustings with the finalists – to which non-party members will be invited. The final votes will be cast and the result announced by the time parliament rises for the summer in mid-July.
- Jeremy Corbyn has issued a statement calling for a general election. “Whoever becomes the new Conservative leader must let the people decide our country’s future, through an immediate general election,” he said. The Lib Dem leader, Vince Cable, and Green party’s Westminster leader Caroline Lucas both repeated calls for a second Brexit referendum. “Conservative party interest has always trumped national interest, and yet Conservative MPs continue to demand an ever more extreme Brexit policy,” said Cable. “The best and only option remains to take Brexit back to the people. I believe the public would now choose to stop Brexit.”
And for some cheery lunchtime reading, Marina Hyde looks forward to the “summer of Tory fratricide and country-shafting” that lies in store.
Some reaction from Wales.
Mark Drakeford, the Welsh first minister, has issued this statement:
I have never doubted the prime minister’s sense of public service or her commitment to do her job, and I wish her well for the future. It is however, her red lines that have brought her to the end of the road and left us in a mess of her making.
A Conservative leadership contest is the last thing the country needs as we negotiate one of the biggest challenges and uncertainties our country has faced in decades. The prospect of achieving an orderly Brexit – one that protects our economy and people’s jobs – by the 31 October now seems even less likely. A change of leader will change nothing, we desperately need a change of approach to Brexit based on compromise and a will to heal the growing divisions in our country.
The Plaid Cymru leader, Adam Price, said:
On the steps of Downing Street Theresa May spoke of compromise, but she simply wasn’t willing to do so herself. Sticking rigidly by her red lines, Mrs May ignored the interests of Wales and millions across the UK who felt alienated by her approach to Brexit, as summed up in her ‘No Deal is better than a bad deal’ catchphrase.
This may be the end of the prime minister, but the beginning of a new Brexit battle. Over the coming weeks we will see an anti-EU arms race amongst the Brexiteer wing of the Tory party. We cannot let the fantasy politics which led us to this chaos define our future path.
‘Do not waste this time’, said Donald Tusk when that final extension was granted. I fear this British government has already failed to listen to such good advice. By putting it back to the people, in a final say referendum, Brexit could have been resolved months ago.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, on his 50th birthday, describes May as “an unquestionably dutiful person”.
There is some speculation that Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee, plans to run for the Tory leadership. His name was not on the statement on the party’s leadership rules issued half an hour ago, suggesting he could be removing himself from the process so that he can stand.
David Cameron has tweeted a statement saying he hoped “the spirit of compromise is continued”.
Strong and brave speech by a prime minister driven by duty and service. Theresa is right that compromise is not a dirty word and she should be thanked for her tireless efforts on behalf of the country.
I know how painful it is to accept that your time is up and a new leader is required. She has made the right decision – and I hope that the spirit of compromise is continued.
The Spanish government has described May’s decision to resign as “bad news”, warning that it significantly raises the prospect of a hard Brexit, reports the Guardian’s Madrid correspondent Sam Jones.
“A hard Brexit in these circumstances seems an almost unstoppable reality,” the government’s spokewoman, Isabel Celaá, said at a press conference on Friday afternoon.
Celaá said the announcement would disappoint all those “who want an orderly UK exit from the European Union”. But she said that Spain had contingency measures in place and would do everything possible to “guarantee the best situation” for Spanish citizens and businesses in the UK.
The Guardian’s Owen Jones has no time at all for those who have sympathy for Theresa May.
Spare me the inevitable pity for Theresa May after her tearful farewell address this morning. “Oh wasn’t she given such a terrible hand!” people might cry – or “is it her fault that her backbenchers are such a bunch of Neanderthal extremists?” some will say and “it’s not her fault Brexit is such an undeliverable mess, is it?”. We must see through this. May is the worst prime minister on their own terms since Lord North’s reign in the late 18th century, when the US colonies declared their independence.
May did indeed inherit a terrible hand. She then proceeded to douse it liberally with petrol and set it on fire.
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has tweeted a tribute to May.
New prime minister to be selected by mid-July
The Conservative party chairman Brandon Lewis and the vice-chairs of the 1922 Committee, Cheryl Gillan and Charles Walker, have issued a joint statement setting out the process for selecting a successor to Theresa May.
First they thank her for her service to the party as an activist, councillor, MP, a member of the shadow cabinet, party chairman, home secretary and, finally, prime minister.
“She embodies the finest qualities of public service and, with this decision, has once again demonstrated her strong sense of duty and devotion to the national interest,” they say.
They set out the following:
- The timetable to select a new leader has been decided by the executive of the 1922 Committee after consultation with the party board, which includes representatives of the voluntary, parliamentary and professional party.
- Nominations will close in the week commencing 10 June, before “successive rounds of voting will take place until a final choice of candidates to put to a vote of all party members is determined”.
- “We expect that process to be concluded by the end of June, allowing for a series of hustings around the UK for members to meet and question the candidates, then cast their votes in time for the result to be announced before parliament rises for the summer,” they say.
So we should have a new prime minister by mid-July.
We are deeply conscious that the Conservatives are not just selecting the person best placed to become the new leader of our party, but also the next prime minister of the United Kingdom. That is a solemn responsibility, particularly at such an important time for our nation. We will therefore propose that the leadership election and hustings involve opportunities for non-members and people who may not yet vote Conservative to meet the candidates and put their questions to them too.
Helle Thorning-Schmidt, former prime minister of Denmark, has been speaking to the BBC about “the blues” one experiences after leaving the role. Apparently her father-in-law, the former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, taught her a lot about life after politics. (She is married to Stephen Kinnock, Labour MP for Aberavon.)
Harriet Harman has called on people to focus on May’s achievements, describing her as “a woman in a man’s world”.
Some more reaction from party leaders …
The Lib Dem leader, Vince Cable, says May’s compromises were too often with the right wing of her party.
The prime minister is right to recognise that her administration has reached the end of the road. Sadly her compromises through the last three years have too often been with the right wing of her own party, rather than about bringing the country together.
Conservative party interest has always trumped national interest, and yet Conservative MPs continue to demand an ever more extreme Brexit policy. The best and only option remains to take Brexit back to the people. I believe the public would now choose to stop Brexit.
The Green party co-leader, Caroline Lucas, says May had an impossible job and calls for a People’s Vote.
While May was almost uniquely ill-equipped to be negotiator we needed, truth is she was given impossible job. You can’t achieve a hard Brexit & avoid hard border in N. Ireland, & no new PM can achieve it either. Case for #PeoplesVote stronger than ever.
Heidi Allen, interim leader for Change UK, says:
The DUP leader Arlene Foster’s statement thanks May for her “willingness to recognise Northern Ireland’s need for additional resources through confidence and supply arrangements”.
Nigel Farage says the Conservative party must stop misjudging the (pro-Brexit) mood of the country or die.
The Confederation of British Industry called on politicians from all parties to take Theresa May’s resignation an opportunity for a fresh start by putting the country ahead of their own careers.
“The prime minister could not have worked harder to deliver a Brexit deal that protects the economy. She leaves office with the respect of business,” Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director general said.
“But her resignation must be now be a catalyst for change. There can be no plan for Britain without a plan for Brexit. Winner-takes-all politics is not working. Jobs and livelihoods are at stake.
“Business and the country need honesty. Nation must be put ahead of party, prosperity ahead of politics. Compromise and consensus must refind their voice in parliament.
“We call on politicians from all parties, on all those ambitious to lead, to take this chance for a fresh start.”
Here’s some reaction to May’s resignation from journalists on Twitter.
The mayor of London has issued a statement saying that May’s job was made impossible by the “Brexit extremists” in her party. He calls for parliament to revoke article 50 and hold a public vote.
Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the DUP, says he has always found May “courteous and pleasant”.
The Scottish secretary, David Mundell, has also praised May’s “unswerving commitment to the union” – there’s a theme emerging here in reaction from Scottish Tories.
Mundell was one of those senior cabinet colleagues who signalled their private unhappiness with her pledge to allow a vote on a second EU referendum earlier this week, something which Scottish Tories believe makes it much harder to argue against a second independence referendum.
I am very sorry it has come to this. Nobody could have worked harder, or shown a greater sense of public duty, in delivering the result of the EU referendum than Theresa May. She has my utmost respect for those endeavours, in the most challenging of circumstances, as well as her unswerving commitment to the union. As Mrs May herself acknowledges, she has, however unfairly, become an impediment to the resolution of Brexit, and was no longer being given a hearing by parliament. Yesterday’s elections will surely show that delivering Brexit is now more urgent than ever, and that will fall to a new prime minister. It’s time to get on with the process of appointing one.
Although May’s premiership has been short in historical terms, she has managed to cling on to power longer than Gordon Brown did. She will overtake Brown’s two years and 319 days on 29 May.
Corbyn welcomes May’s resignation and calls for general election
Jeremy Corbyn has said Theresa May was right to resign and has called for an immediate general election.
The prime minister is right to have resigned. She has now accepted what the country has known for months: she cannot govern, and nor can her divided and disintegrating party.
The burning injustices she promised to tackle three years ago are even starker today.
The Conservative party has utterly failed the country over Brexit and is unable to improve people’s lives or deal with their most pressing needs.
Parliament is deadlocked and the Conservatives offer no solutions to the other major challenges facing our country.
The last thing the country needs is weeks of more Conservative infighting followed by yet another unelected prime minister.
Whoever becomes the new Conservative Leader must let the people decide our country’s future, through an immediate general election.
Business leaders have expressed fears that the Tory leadership is going to prolong the uncertainty and deter investments decision.
“Westminster has already squandered far too much time going around in circles on Brexit,” said Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce.
He warned that “drift and lack of direction” had real consequences that were not headline-grabbing closures of big business but by “the quiet and growing loss of contracts, investments and jobs”.
“The UK is already paying the price for a political system at war over Brexit. Our hard-earned reputation as a great place to do business has been tarnished. And for too long, government has been distracted from working with business to fix the fundamentals here at home, particularly around skills and infrastructure.
“Any leadership contest must be swift and followed urgently by a clear plan to break the impasse. The clock is still ticking down to 31 October, regardless of who is in Downing Street. A new prime minister must work to avert a messy and disorderly exit from the EU. At the same time, preparations must continue to ensure that government, its agencies and our communities are as ready as they can be for all possible eventualities.”
Tributes from May’s cabinet colleagues –
Tributes are pouring in for May. These from the Tory leadership frontrunners.
The Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, has called on Tory leadership candidates to “show that same level of commitment to Scotland’s place in the union” that Theresa May has done, as she praised the outgoing prime minister’s “quiet dignity and resilience”.
Davidson said: “The prime minister has always put country before party and, by announcing her resignation and setting out a plan for an orderly departure, she has shown that commitment again today.
“Theresa May knew when she took on the job of prime minister that the challenges facing our country were unprecedented.
“Her time in office has been characterised by the hard work, resilience, quiet dignity and attention to detail for which she is known.
“Above all, by opposing the SNP’s call for an immediate second independence referendum in 2017, the prime minister demonstrated her resolute commitment to the union, and to Scotland’s place in it.
“As Britain’s second female prime minister, she has been a role model for girls and women across the United Kingdom, showing that there is no glass ceiling to their ambitions.
“On behalf of everyone in the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party I would like to thank her for her years of service as an MP, party chairman, secretary of state, and prime minister.
“The party will now elect a new leader over the coming weeks.
“As leader of the Scottish Conservatives, I want to see candidates show that same level of commitment to Scotland’s place in the union, an ability to advance our interests at home and abroad and, crucially, demonstrate how they intend to bring our country back together after the divisions sown by two constitutional referenda.”
Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s taoiseach, has paid tribute to May, describing her as “principled and honourable”.
I got to know Theresa May very well over the last two years. She is principled, honourable, and deeply passionate about doing her best for her country, and her party. Politicians throughout the EU have admired her tenacity, her courage, and her determination during what has been a difficult and challenging time.
Theresa May strove to chart a new future for the United Kingdom. I want to wish her the very best for the future. And I look forward to working closely with her successor.
Here is Theresa May’s full resignation statement.
Ever since I first stepped through the door behind me as prime minister, I have striven to make the United Kingdom a country that works not just for a privileged few, but for everyone. And to honour the result of the EU referendum. Back in 2016, we gave the British people a choice. Against all predictions, the British people voted to leave the European Union.
I feel as certain today as I did three years ago that in a democracy, if you give people a choice you have a duty to implement what they decide. I have done my best to do that. I negotiated the terms of our exit and a new relationship with our closest neighbours that protects jobs, our security and our union. I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back that deal. Sadly, I have not been able to do so.
I tried three times. I believe it was right to persevere, even when the odds against success seemed high. But it is now clear to me that it is in the best interests of the country for a new prime minister to lead that effort.
So I am today announcing that I will resign as leader of the Conservative and Unionist party on Friday 7 June so that a successor can be chosen. I have agreed with the party chairman and with the chairman of the 1922 Committee that the process for electing a new leader should begin in the following week. I have kept Her Majesty the Queen fully informed of my intentions, and I will continue to serve as her prime minister until the process has concluded.
It is, and will always remain, a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit. It will be for my successor to seek a way forward that honours the result of the referendum. To succeed, he or she will have to find consensus in parliament where I have not. Such a consensus can only be reached if those on all sides of the debate are willing to compromise.
For many years the great humanitarian Sir Nicholas Winton – who saved the lives of hundreds of children by arranging their evacuation from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia through the Kindertransport – was my constituent in Maidenhead. At another time of political controversy, a few years before his death, he took me to one side at a local event and gave me a piece of advice. He said: ‘Never forget that compromise is not a dirty word. Life depends on compromise.’ He was right.
As we strive to find the compromises we need in our politics – whether to deliver Brexit, or to restore devolved government in Northern Ireland – we must remember what brought us here. Because the referendum was not just a call to leave the EU but for profound change in our country. A call to make the United Kingdom a country that truly works for everyone. I am proud of the progress we have made over the last three years.
We have completed the work that David Cameron and George Osborne started: the deficit is almost eliminated, our national debt is falling and we are bringing an end to austerity. My focus has been on ensuring that the good jobs of the future will be created in communities across the whole country, not just in London and the south-east, through our modern industrial strategy.
We have helped more people than ever enjoy the security of a job. We are building more homes and helping first-time buyers onto the housing ladder – so young people can enjoy the opportunities their parents did. And we are protecting the environment, eliminating plastic waste, tackling climate change and improving air quality. This is what a decent, moderate and patriotic Conservative government, on the common ground of British politics, can achieve – even as we tackle the biggest peacetime challenge any government has faced.
I know that the Conservative party can renew itself in the years ahead. That we can deliver Brexit and serve the British people with policies inspired by our values. Security; freedom; opportunity. Those values have guided me throughout my career.
But the unique privilege of this office is to use this platform to give a voice to the voiceless, to fight the burning injustices that still scar our society. That is why I put proper funding for mental health at the heart of our NHS long-term plan. It is why I am ending the postcode lottery for survivors of domestic abuse. It is why the Race Disparity Audit and gender pay reporting are shining a light on inequality, so it has nowhere to hide. And that is why I set up the independent public inquiry into the tragedy at Grenfell Tower – to search for the truth, so nothing like it can ever happen again, and so the people who lost their lives that night are never forgotten.
Because this country is a union. Not just a family of four nations. But a union of people – all of us. Whatever our background, the colour of our skin, or who we love. We stand together. And together we have a great future.
Our politics may be under strain, but there is so much that is good about this country. So much to be proud of. So much to be optimistic about. I will shortly leave the job that it has been the honour of my life to hold – the second female prime minister but certainly not the last. I do so with no ill-will, but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love.
Nicola Sturgeon has reacted to May’s resignation. She says May deserves thanks for her service and calls for a general election.
I wish Theresa May well. She and I had profound disagreements – not least on her handling of Brexit and her disregard for Scotland’s interests. However, leadership is tough – especially in these times – and she deserves thanks for her service.
Her departure will not solve the Brexit mess that the Tories have created. Only putting the matter back to the people can do that. Given current circumstances, it also feels deeply wrong for another Tory to be installed in Number 10 without a general election.
The prospect of an even more hardline Brexiteer now becoming PM and threatening a no deal exit is deeply concerning. Added to the experience of the past three years, this makes it all the more important that Scotland is given the choice of becoming an independent country.
Here are some key passages from May’s resignation speech:
Back in 2016, we gave the British people a choice, against all predictions the British people voted to leave the european union. I feel as certain today as I did three years ago that in a democracy if you give people a choice you have a duty to implement what they decide. I have done my best to do that … I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back that deal. Sadly I have not been able to do so. I tried three times. I believe it was right to persevere even when the odds against success seemed high. but is is now clear t me that it is n the best interests of the country for a new prime minister to lead that effort.
It is and will always remain a matter of deep regret for me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit. It will be for my successor to seek a way forward that honours the result of the referendum. To succeed, he or she will have to find consensus in parliament where I did not. Such a consensus will only be reached if those on both sides of the debate are willing to compromise.
She quoted Sir Nicholas Winton, the British humanitarian who organised the Czech Kindertransport: “Never forget that compromise is not a dirty word. Life depends on compromise.”
I know that the Conservative party can renew itself in the years ahead. That we can deliver Brexit and serve the British people with policies inspired by our vales.
Our politics may be under strain but there is so much that is good about this country. So much to be proud of. So much to be optimistic about. I will shortly leave the job that it has been the honour of my life. The second female prime minister but certainly not the last. I do so with no ill will, but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love.
And there you have it. May will resign as leader of the Conservative party on 7 June and the process to select a new leader will start the following week. So, she will be the prime minister that welcomes Donald Trump on 3 June. I’ll post some key quotes from her speech shortly.
“Our politics may be under strain but there is so much that is good about this country. So much to be proud of. So much to be optimistic about.”
May says it has been “the honour of my life” to be the “second female prime minister, but certainly not the last”.
Her voice cracks as she says it has been an honour to have the opportunity to serve the country she loves.
She says she knows the Conservative party will serve people in the years ahead. She says the importance of the office of prime minister is to fight “burning injustice”, the phrase she used at the beginning of her premiership.
She says that it will always remain a source of great regret that she could not deliver Brexit.
She quotes Nicholas Winton that “compromise is not a dirty word”.
Theresa May will stand down on 7 June
She says she has done her best to deliver Brexit. “I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back that deal … sadly I have not been able to do so.”
She will resign as leader of the Conservative party on Friday 7 June. The process to select a new leader will begin in the following week.
Theresa May is making her statement. She says that she has striven to make the UK a country that works for the many, not the few, and to deliver Brexit.
A statement is imminent …
Steve Baker, the deputy chair of the Eurosceptic European Research Group, has been on the BBC saying he has been approached by fellow Conservative MPs asking him to stand for the party’s leadership.
He rejected accusations of treachery, saying: “I’ve always believed that it was really important that we have a culture of honour … Colleagues really need to rise above that kind of condemnation and language.”
Downing Street has confirmed that Theresa May will make a statement in Downing Street at around 10am.
Readers have been sharing their predictions below the line on what will happen next once May steps down.
‘Neither Boris, Raab nor Hunt will get it’
My tuppence worth. Not that it means anything – my opinions rarely do and I’m usually wrong. Boris won’t get it. Nor will Raab or Hunt. I think they’ll go for a rank outsider, without the baggage. Personally I think they should drag Cameron back and force him to sort the shitfest he created. Pity it won’t happen. pocclondon
‘A delay to Brexit is granted by the EU, again’
Theresa May resigns. Brexiter is elected leader of the Conservatives. A no-confidence vote is called, they lose. General election is called. No one wins. Hung parliament. A government of national incompetence is formed. A delay to Brexit is granted by the EU, again. Limbo continues, despite polls showing the UK population no longer wants Brexit in any form. PaulB1
‘The only way to resolve this is a general election and a Labour party win’
A new PM is never going to solve anything for the country. The Tories are not negotiators and any leader’s hands are still tied by the factions in their own party. The problem is we have the wrong party leading the country on Brexit and the only way to resolve this is a general election and a Labour party win. Their recent plan has been well received in Europe by Barnier and Tusk and they both described it as promising and negotiable. Their GE campaign then should be a Brexit deal and a people’s vote on the deal negotiated or the option to remain. I think that’s the way it will go. forageforfood
‘Brexit will be a poison chalice for at least three or four governments’
My bet is Theresa May will be gone soon after Trump’s visit ends – why else has her husband turned up at 10 Downing Street? I reckon it is to help pack. That means the Tories are in for a leadership contest and that means there is almost no possibility of an EU deal before November, and based on who wins that contest the UK will be granted a further extension to article 50 by the EU. Who knows? The local and EU election results could affect that decision and with any luck not to the joy of the ERG. Either way I can see the Tory party still trying to achieve Brexit one way or another, and any which way I look at it Brexit is likely to be a poison chalice for at least three or four UK governments because of the problems of instability, uncertainty, and economic damage it will cause the UK. cpp4ever
It looks pretty certain that there will be a statement this morning. The lights and lectern are out and No 10 has just – apparently accidentally – sent journalists an empty email.
This is an interesting thread from the Guardian’s Paris bureau chief, Angelique Chrisafis, who visited the north-west to write this piece about the fallout from the Brexit chaos from a European perspective. “No idea how this all ends,” she concludes.
Today is likely to be a good day for Jacob Rees-Mogg
My colleague Peter Walker has put together this helpful list of the runners and riders for the Conservative party leadership.
Here are the top four –
The out-and-out favourite, so popular with the Tory grassroots – polling for the Times showed he is the first choice of 39% of them, with Dominic Raab trailing him on 13% – that it would be hard for MPs to not make Johnson one of the final two. He has been relatively quiet recently, beyond his regular Telegraph column, but this is very deliberate.
Odds: 6/4 favourite
Few things say “would-be leader in waiting” like a kitchen photoshoot with your spouse, and the former Brexit secretary duly obliged with this image awash with tasteful pastel hues.
Among the more core constituency of Conservative MPs, Raab has been pushing hard, as has his semi-official “Ready for Raab” Twitter feed.
Fears that the foreign secretary would be another overly woolly compromise choice – “Theresa in trousers”, to use the critics’ phrase – were hardly assuaged when after a set-piece speech, he seemed unable to outline why his brand of Conservatism might appeal to voters.
The environment secretary has not done anything specific to merit his place in the decliners list, but that is perhaps the point – he has not done very much at all to cement his place in the hearts of Tory MPs.
Robust Brexiters in particular dislike the fact he has stayed loyal even in the final days of the crumbling May regime.
Not the resignation we’ve been waiting for …
Helen Grant, MP for Maidstone and the Weald, has announced her resignation on Twitter. She says:
Regrettably, I must now give notice of my resignation because I wish to actively and openly support one of the new leadership candidates and would not want there to be any perception of a conflict between the candidate’s campaign and my role at CCHQ.
Here are some pictures of May arriving at 10 Downing Street with her husband, Philip.
We’ve got a bit more of this morning’s timings. Sky News reports that May will meet Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee, at 9am and make a statement afterwards.
Here’s a reminder of what Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, treasurer of the 1922 Committee, said yesterday.
I want her to give a timetable for when she will go. I think this blank denial from Number 10 today may be a smokescreen because she does not want to influence the outcome of the European elections. Maybe she will still quit tomorrow.
Asked what would happen if the PM did not announce a resignation date, Clifton-Brown said:
I think there will be overwhelming pressure for the 22 to change the rules and hold a ballot on confidence in the prime minister.
We can expect more tweets like this (from the BBC’s political editor) this morning. Every move the prime minister makes will be scrutinised.
Ken Clarke – at 78 years old, the father of the House of Commons – has been speaking to the Today programme on BBC Radio 4. He said the majority of Conservative MPs did not vote Conservative in yesterday’s European parliament elections.
He denied that Boris Johnson was a shoo-in for the leadership, but admitted the Conservative party was in for a chaotic few weeks. “The European Research Group – the right wing of my party – have finally got their woman,” he said. “They’ve been trying to get rid of her for the past few months. They seem to imagine that the party will now unite behind the one of them that most resembles Nigel Farage. I don’t think it’s going to be like that.”
Former Middle East minister Alistair Burt told the programme earlier that he could vote for Boris Johnson to take over from May.
When asked whether he could back Johnson, he said: “The answer to the question for almost all the candidates is yes. I would find it very difficult to support a candidate who said it was in Britain’s best interest to leave with no deal, leave straight away, WTO … I don’t expect any candidate really to say that.”
Damian Green, former first secretary of state, has been singing May’s praises. “All prime ministers, in the end, take responsibility for what happens on their watch, but I think that it’s undeniable that suddenly and unexpectedly becoming prime minister after the seismic shock of the Brexit referendum meant that she was dealt an extremely difficult hand to play. And the truth is that having an election a year later, which cut the Conservative party’s majority, then [made it] impossible.”
He added: “The fact that parliament has not been able to get a Brexit deal through has led to the impatience, bordering into contempt, for the political class and the amount of hostility and borderline violence is something we have not known for a very very long time.”
Asked whether May’s personality had made her unsuitable to be prime minister, he said: “Prime ministers come with all forms of personality. Perhaps inevitably people are concentrating on the downsides, but we have to remember the extraordinary sense of public service and, actually, in an era when political discourse has become so poisonous and vicious, she was always courteous and polite.”
Ukip deputy quits to run for leader
Ukip deputy leader Mike Hookem has quit and will run for party leader.
This is from the Press Association –
Hookem said he could no longer support the direction of party leader Gerard Batten and wanted to offer “a real alternative” to his leadership that would “consolidate and rebuild our party”.
Batten has already said he will stand down on 2 June, launching a leadership contest.
In a letter sent to party officials at the close of polls in the European elections, Hookem said: “I believe Ukip always has been and always should be a libertarian party that encourages and promotes common-sense policies with a broad electoral appeal.
“However, under Mr Batten’s leadership, and despite my appeals, Ukip has been derailed from this objective. Mr Batten’s policy direction and associations have given the mainstream media the ammunition to label our party ‘extreme’ and ‘far-right’, accusations I do not believe to be true.”
Batten has been Ukip leader for 16 months and appointed former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson as his political adviser in November 2018.
Hookem, an MEP who stood for re-election this week, said Brexit had been a “golden opportunity for Ukip”, which was led by Nigel Farage before he stepped down in 2016.
He said Batten had “squandered our natural advantage and seriously undermined 26 years of work in the process”.
There is one clear frontrunner in the Conservative party leadership race: Boris Johnson. Today’s Today in Focus podcast looks at the prospect of Prime Minister Johnson.
Andrew Sparrow put together this helpful bit of analysis yesterday, explaining May’s options. The most widely reported scenario this morning is that May will announce that a Conservative leadership election will kick off on 10 June, after Donald Trump’s state visit, and that she will stay on as prime minister until a successor has been selected.
Andy wrote: To place the current events in context, you need to recall that we have already had three resignation-related announcements from May already.
1) In December last year May announced that she would resign before the general election due in 2022. She made the promise to Tories in private to help boost her chances in a no-confidence ballot, which she subsequently won. Whether she would resign ahead of the election if it took place before 2022 was left unresolved.
2) In March May announced that she would resign before the next phase of the Brexit negotiation started. She delivered the pledge, again at a private meeting of Tory MPs, ahead of the third vote on her Brexit deal. It was taken to mean she would go by the summer, assuming her deal was passed. What would happen if her deal was not passed was left unresolved, although subsequently the Conservative 1922 Committee said she needed to clarify this.
3) Last week, at her meeting with the executive of the 1922 Committee, May agreed to set a date for her departure after the second reading of the EU withdrawal agreement bill (Wab), which at that point the government was saying would take place on Friday 7 June at the latest. She did not say what the date would be, but the implication was that it would be soon after that 7 June deadline.
Good morning and welcome to the Guardian’s politics live blog, on what could be a pretty big day for British politics.
Theresa May is expected to announce today that she will resign as Conservative leader and set a date for her departure from 10 Downing Street. Her cabinet colleagues – Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt among them – are said to have told her they could not support her withdrawal agreement bill offering a vote on a temporary customs union and second referendum.
As the Guardian reports this morning:
May’s allies believe she will promise to step down as leader by 10 June after the state visit of US president Donald Trump and then stay on as prime minister until her successor has been chosen.
A Downing Street source said she is expected to name a date for her resignation at a meeting with Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, on Friday morning, while staying on as prime minister for the duration of a leadership contest. “But everything remains quite fluid,” the source said.
If May does not announce a date for her resignation today and tries to cling to power (as she has done before), the 1922 Committee could open a sealed envelope containing the results of a ballot on whether to hold another vote of no confidence in her leadership.
We’ll have all the latest news here throughout the day. You can get me on Twitter on @fperraudin.
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