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 foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, reportedly became the first cabinet minister to declare he would run to replace May as prime minister. According to his local paper, the Farnham Herald, he made the announcement at the Haslemere festival in his constituency of South West Surrey.
The former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, has already declared his intention to stand. On Friday, he said: “We will leave the EU on 31 October, deal or no deal. The way to get a good deal is to prepare for a no deal.
Some of those May invoked in her speech later distanced themselves from her and her legacy as prime minister. Grenfell United said the person to inhabit Number 10 would “inherit the moral debt owed by this government” to the families of 72 people who lost their lives, while the daughter of Sir Nicholas Winton said May had failed to live up to his legacy.
The head of the Electoral Commission attacked the authorities for not taking seriously his organisation’s warnings about the European elections. In an article for the Guardian, Rob Posner wrote that the commission raised concerns about the elections, in which many people were denied their vote.
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.”