Tory leadership election: Andrea Leadsom or Theresa May will be Britain's second female Prime Minister

Both women have been compared to Margaret Thatcher but who will convince enough of the party's 150,000 members?

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Indy Politics

Britain's next Prime Minister is set to be a woman, after Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom took the top two slots in a crucial vote of Conservative MPs while Michael Gove was eliminated.

The Home Secretary won the support of 199 MPs while Andrea Leadsom, the energy minister, came second in the contest with 84 votes. Mr Gove, the Justice Secretary, was pushed back into third place with 46 votes, meaning he is now eliminated from the leadership contest. 

The leader of the party – and Prime Minister – will be chosen from in a ballot of around 150,000 Conservative Party members in just nine weeks’ time.

Responding to the results, which were announced by the chairman of the 1922 Committee of Conservative MPs in Westminister, Ms May said: “I am delighted to have won so much support from my colleagues. This vote shows that the Conservative Party can come together - and under my leadership it will.

“I have said all along that this election needs to be a proper contest. And now it is time for me - and my team - to put my case to the Conservative Party membership.

“That case comes down to three things. Because we need strong, proven leadership to negotiate the best deal for Britain as we leave the European Union, to unite our party and our country, and to make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us.

“Those are the things my colleagues have voted for in overwhelming numbers today, and I am confident they will win the support of our members - and the support of the country as a whole.”

Speaking to reporters, Ms Leadsom said: "My commiserations to Michael [Gove] but I'm absolutely delighted with the results.

"The great news is we have an all-female shortlist with no positive discrimination or anything, isn't that fantastic?"

During the first round of voting Liam Fox, a former Defence Secretary, was eliminated from the contest and Stephen Crabb, the Work and Pensions Secretary, withdrew his bid to succeed David Cameron as Prime Minister after he failed to gather enough support for his campaign. Both of the candidates pledged their support.

Ms May won the first round with an overwhelming result of 165 votes – followed by Ms Leadsom on 66, Michael Gove on 48 and Stephen Crabb on 34.

Boris Johnson, the former London mayor, endorsed Ms Leadsom on Tuesday and insisted that she had the “zap, drive and determination” required to lead the country through the Brexit negotiations.

Mr Johnson, who was widely believed to succeed Mr Cameron, was effectively forced to pull out of the race before announcing his candidacy after Mr Gove – his close ally and fellow Leave campaigner – decided to run himself.

Ms Leadsom has laid claim to inheriting Margaret Thatcher's mantle, telling the Telegraph in a recent interview that Britain's first female Prime MInister was "always kind and courteous and as a leader she was steely and determined. I think that’s an ideal combination – and I do like to think that’s where I am.”

However Priti Patel, the Employment minister who was one of the leading Leave campaigners in the EU referendum, said Ms May had more in common with the woman who led Britain for 11 years.

“She shares the steely determination I always admired in Margaret Thatcher, and she has the experience and trust needed to succeed for this great nation of ours,” Ms Patel said.