Tories Set To Pick Between Two Women To Replace David Cameron

Regardless of the outcome of the Conservative Party's leadership race, the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom will be a woman.

British Houses Of Parliament

The next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom will be a woman, the only question left is which one:

LONDON — One way or another, Britain will have its second female prime minister.

The governing Conservative Party took another step on Thursday in its process to replace Prime Minister David Cameron, winnowing the contest to two candidates: Theresa May, the home secretary, and Andrea Leadsom, the junior energy minister.

When the contest is concluded in September, one of them will become the first woman to lead Britain since Margaret Thatcher, also a Conservative, stepped down in 1990. The winner will take over as Britain grapples with how to carry through with its stunning decision last month to withdraw from the European Union, a choice that Mr. Cameron opposed and that led him to announce he would step aside once the party chose a successor.

Ms. May quietly supported remaining in the European Union but has since said that she respects the outcome of the June 23 referendum and that she will seek the best possible deal for Britain as it negotiates its withdrawal from the bloc. She dominated the first stage of the selection process, in which the field is narrowed to two candidates through voting by the 330 Conservative members of the House of Commons.

Ms. May, 59, remains the favorite, but in the next round will be judged by a different constituency: registered party members, many of whom were vociferous supporters of leaving the European Union. Conservative Party headquarters has for days been unable or unwilling to disclose how many registered voters there are, but the House of Commons Library said that the latest published figure of 149,800 stems from December 2013. Voters will mail in their ballots, with the winner, to be announced on Sept. 9, becoming party leader and prime minister without having to call a general election.

Ms. Leadsom, 53, the runner-up in Thursday’s round of voting by members of Parliament, was a vocal advocate of leaving the European Union. In finishing second and qualifying for the final round, she eliminated Michael Gove, the justice secretary, who helped lead the Leave campaign. Mr. Gove had announced his candidacy just before the deadline last week, and in doing so torpedoed the hopes of his partner in the Leave campaign, Boris Johnson, the former London mayor, to succeed Mr. Cameron.

Ms. May holds one of the highest-profile posts in the British government and is considered the more experienced candidate — serious and competent but lacking charisma. Ms. Leadsom, who had a low profile and entered government as a junior minister only in 2014, has been accused of inflating her résumé. As recently as three years ago, she supported continued British membership in the European Union.

Ms. Leadsom put her 25 years of working in financial services before becoming a legislator in 2010 at the center of her leadership campaign, but those who worked with her have told reporters that she exaggerated her role at Barclays Bank and Invesco Perpetual, a fund manager. She told Sky News, “My CV is correct.”

In Thursday’s voting, Ms. May received 199 votes, Ms. Leadsom 84 and Mr. Gove 46.

Ms. May and Ms. Leadsom are both ideological conservatives whose backgrounds are far different from those of the Eton-Oxford male circle that has dominated Conservative politics since Mr. Cameron became party leader in 2005. Both women went to state schools, where Ms. May won a place at Oxford. Ms. Leadsom went to the University of Warwick.

Ms. May said on Twitter that she was gratified by support from across the Conservative Party, including both people who favored membership in the European Union and those against it. “I’ve always said there should be a proper contest. Now is the time for me and my team to take our case out to members in the country,” she wrote. “We need proven leadership to negotiate the best deal as we leave the E.U., unite our party, and build a country that works for everyone.”

In a speech on Thursday, Ms. Leadsom said she would focus on “the continued success of the U.K. economy,” which has been hit hard by Brexit, raising fears of an increased budget deficit from lower growth and lower tax receipts. “Prosperity should be our goal, not austerity,” she said.

She also said that “trade must be our top priority: continued free trade with the E.U.” She added that she favored “fair but controlled immigration,” without explaining how duty-free trade with the European Union could be maintained while scrapping European rules on freedom of movement and labor, which she also has said she intends to do.

European Union leaders have repeatedly said that access to the single market of the European Union is not possible without accepting freedom of movement and labor.

Since this is a private, secret, ballot the results of which won’t be revealed until September, it’s likely that we won’t have any real idea who may be leading in the balloting. It’s also unlikely that there will be any reliable polling that will answer the question either given the fact that we’re dealing with such a small sample size and one that is hard to identify in advance. Nonetheless, the pre-balloting coverage does seem to indicate that May is the favorite largely due to her deeper connections in the party, her superior position in the cabinet, and her experience. As Home Secretary, for example, she has been intimately involved with many of the issues that will be at the center of the negotiations that will need to take place under the tenure of the next Prime Minister, including but not limited to immigration, crime, and national security. Her position also means that she has been more intimately involved in British Government dealings with the European Union and thus more likely to have the kind of personal relationships with officials in Brussels and elsewhere in Europe that will be necessary to pull off the incredibly delicate and complicated negotiations and decision that Britain’s exit from the European Union will require. Additionally, the fact that May was in favor of remaining in the E.U. but did not play a prominent role in the campaign could mean that she did not build up the kind of ill will on the part of pro-‘Leave’ Tories that other candidates may have. Finally, she has been in office since 1997 and in that time served in a number of positions in government and as a member of the Shadow Cabinet while Labour was in charge. Leadsom, on the other hand, holds a relatively minor position in the government and has only been in office since 2010.

Whatever the outcome, though, we can say for sure that the United Kingdom will be led by a female Head of Government at some point within the next two months, and depending on the outcome of the Presidential election in the United States, that means that a large part of the western world will be led by woman for the first time in history:

If Hillary Clinton becomes U.S. president in November, women could be running the Western World by January.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who fended off a recession in Germany during the global economic crisis, is already considered to be the most powerful leader in the history of the European Union. She is acting as de-facto leader of Europe as she endeavors to save the failing euro and navigate the region through an unprecedented refugee crisis.

Janet Yellen, the head of the Federal Reserve, is arguably the most powerful economic leader in the world, exercising massive influence over global financial markets and the U.S. economy.

Reinforcing the flanks, Christine Lagarde begins her second term this month as the world’s top banker. She is the first female head of the International Monetary Fund, the economic advisor for 189 countries, and she has made gender economic equality a priority for the global organization.

United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres, who orchestrated a historic global climate change deal in Paris last year, is launching a bid to run the United Nations. As secretary-general, she would be the de facto spokesperson and leader of the UN, a global peacekeeper.

And Great Britain will be led by either Theresa May or Andrea Leadsom. Interesting times.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Eric Florack says:

    The obvious question becomes if whoever takes over as p.m. in England is of the Statue of a Margaret Thatcher. Given the mess they’ve got to clean up over there after the EU get their butts booted out they’re going to need it I can say with some degree of assurity that Hillary Clinton will never rise to that level

  2. grumpy realist says:

    Well, the guys originally running for the office have basically vanished, shot their own feet off, or imploded….

  3. Michael Robinson says:

    cough Marine Le Pen cough

  4. Jenos Idanian says:

    It appears I have been made persona non grata…

  5. Sleeping Dog says:

    Angela, Andrea or Theresa, maybe Marine, probably Hilary, obviously the end of men. If I wasn’t so old, I could look forward to a future of being a reproductive slave. Realistically women can’t do worse than men.

  6. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Eric Florack: Well that was pretty thoroughly incoherent. Good job!

  7. Eric Florack says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: try it without the alcohol. It might make a bit more sense to you

  8. rachel says:

    @Eric Florack: I’m sober but still don’t get it. What does the “Statue of a Margaret Thatcher” have to do with anything, and why are you hoping that the woman who becomes the next PM is “of” it? Also, what does “assurity” mean? I don’t find it in any dictionary.

    ETA: Also, “a Margaret Thatcher”? There was more than one famous Margaret Thatcher?

  9. Moosebreath says:


    Bithead missed a few spelling lessons — I am sure he blames it on the liberal education system.

    Try reading it again with “stature” instead of “Statue”. I think he made up his own word “assurity” to be a combination of “assure” and “certainty”.

  10. Pch101 says:

    Now all of the cool kids are going to want a Statue of a Margaret Thatcher. Or a pinata.

  11. An Interested Party says:

    try it without the alcohol.

    Drunk, sober thyself…

  12. Tyrell says:

    Merkel is way down in popularity and odds are against re-election – this a result of the refugee disaster.
    The president was in Poland for a NATO conference, yet few networks got into that. Something is going on. Tanks are gathering in Poland and the Ukraine. US diplomat is beaten up by Russian security in Moscow. Tensions are high. Something is going on.

  13. gVOR08 says:

    @Tyrell: Germany’s got hillbillies, just like everybody else. Merkel pandered to them on Greek debt. I was surprised she didn’t on immigration. Of course the German banks also wanted Greece punished. I don’t know where they stand on immigration, Quite possibly in favor of cheap labor.

    A couple weeks ago a Russian cop assaulted one of the two diplomats. We expelled two of their diplomats in retaliation. They’ve now expelled these two in a silly tit for tat. It’s just Putin posturing tough for his domestic audience. Who will never hear the truth about any of it from their media. Sort of like our hillbillies and the CEC.

  14. stonetools says:

    It would be interesting if at the next international conference, you have Clinton, Merkel, May, Lagarde, Yellin, and Figueres sitting down to decide the fate of the world. It would not be all sweetness and light, because all of these women necessarily have large egos( you don’t get where any of those women have gotten by being shrinking violets). I hear that LaGarde can be , shall we say, undiplomatic, but hey, they can’t do worse than the sausages.
    The relationship between Clinton and Merkel would be especially interesting. Merkel and Obama apparently got on very well, as they are both cool customers who can make the tough, unpopular but right decisions that good leaders have to make. Not sure if Clinton and Merkel would hit it off as well, although both have similar characteristics too. The good thing is that Clinton, Merkel, Yellin, and Lagarde all know of each other, so there is a basis for good communication to begin with.
    However it turns out, having so many women in power at the table would be a breath of fresh air. Hope it comes to pass!

  15. gVOR08 says:

    @stonetools: Bit of trivia I found interesting. Before going into politics in E. Germany as it transitioned to democracy, Merkel was a Quantum Chemist. Quite bright, one would assume.

  16. CSK says:

    Leadsom has bailed, according to the BBC. One of her aides said that “the abuse was too great.”