LONDON: UK home secretary Theresa May won the first round as the Conservative party began voting today to choose a new party leader who will go on to succeed David Cameron as the British Prime Minister.
May was the clear frontrunner in the race and bagged 165 votes in the first round, which resulted in the first elimination of a candidate with the least votes, which was former defense minister Liam Fox with just 16 votes.
Work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb, who secured just 34 votes, announced he was dropping out of the race soon after and threw his support behind May, who said she was “pleased” with today’s result.
Fox also backed May, saying she would make a “wonderful” Prime Minister.
“I am the only candidate capable of delivering these three things as prime minister, and tonight it is clear that I am also the only one capable of drawing support from the whole of the Conservative Party,” May said.
This just leaves UK energy minister Andrea Leadsom, who bagged 66 votes, and UK justice secretary Michael Gove with 48 votes still in the race for the second round of voting on Thursday.
They had both campaigned vehemently in favor of Brexit, as opposed to May’s backing of Cameron’s remain camp.
Cameron, who had campaigned for a remain vote, had announced he would be stepping down for a new PM to take the negotiations for Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU) forward after Britain voted 52-48 per cent in favor of leaving the economic bloc.
The Tory party’s 330 MPs will vote in a further round next Tuesday until the two final candidates remain for Conservative party’s members to choose from and the winner will be named on September 9 to replace Cameron.
Yesterday, the candidates had the chance to make their case to be the next Conservative leader during a parliamentary hustings.
May, who had campaigned to stay in the EU, had emerged in the lead among her colleagues with support from 35 per cent of the parliamentary Conservative Party and went on to bag 50 per cent of the vote today.
A Times/YouGov survey today also put her ahead in the race, suggesting she would triumph by a 32-point margin if she went head-to-head with Leadsom in the final round.
According to the survey, the tough-talking politician is favored as the strongest leader (63 per cent), the one able to make the toughest decisions (58 per cent) and also the unifying candidate in this vote (61 per cent).
In reference to Brexit, 44 per cent of those surveyed said they thought May would get the best deal from the EU, compared to a quarter who sided with Leadsom and 16 per cent with Gove.
The bookmakers also predict that it will be May who is most likely to be the next British prime minister.
However, with the bookies forecasting a remain win in the referendum on June, their predictions are not likely to be seen as very reliable this time.–PTI