Why Andrea Leadsom pulled out of the Conservative leadership contest

Announcement means Theresa May will be the first female Prime Minister since Margaret Thatcher

Andy McSmith
Monday 11 July 2016 14:28 BST
Ms Leadsom dropped her bombshell when her team assembled at 11am
Ms Leadsom dropped her bombshell when her team assembled at 11am (EPA)

Andrea Leadsom sensationally pulled out of the Conservative leadership contest after deciding she could not take any more of the vitriol directed at her.

Her announcement means that Theresa May will be the first woman Pirme Minister since Margaret Thatcher's resignation 26 years ago.

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She was caught by surprise yesterday. She was in Birmingham, where she had delivered a speech setting out her stall in what she expected a prolonged leadership race when aides told her that the contest was off. She rushed back to London to find out exactly when and how she will take over from David Cameron.

Mrs Leadsom dropped her bombshell when her team assembled at 11am, thinking they were meeting to plan the next stage in her campaign.

Leadsom quits Tory race

In her public announcement, Mrs Leadsom said she was quitting the contest because the uncertainty of a two month contest was bad for the county and economy, and that Mrs May had her unqualified support.

Privately, her supporters said that what changed her mind was the hostility she was attracting form people who thought she was not up to the job of prime minister.

“After some of the vitriol that was thrown at her in the media and some in the parliamentary party over the weekend, even if she had won the contest it would have been very difficult for `to lead the party,” one said.

One her backers, Heather Wheeler, told Sky News: “it has been the most dreadful few days for Andrea and her family. Nobody should have been put through what she has been put through. She is a bigger person than this.”

Mrs Leadsom made her announcement outside 13 Cowley Street, in Westminster, directly across the road from what used to be the offices of the Liberal Democrat party.

Standing on the doorstep, flanked by the leading backers, including Iain Duncan Smith, Owen Paterson, Bernard Jenkin and Tim Loughton, she read out the letter she had written to Graham Brady, chairman of the backbench 1922 committee which oversees Conservative leadership contest.

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