Former London Mayor Boris Johnson has declared that he will not stand in the race to become the next British prime minister or Conservative Party leader.
“Having consulted colleagues and in view of the circumstances of Parliament I have concluded that person cannot be me,” Johnson said.
With this announcement, Britain’s powerful Home Secretary Theresa May launched her bid to succeed Prime Minister David Cameron, saying the country needs strong proven leadership to negotiate the best possible terms for the UK leaving the European Union.
Apart from May, the four other contenders for the Conservative leadership and prime ministership are Stephen Crabb, Liam Fox, Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom.
The first ballot of Conservative MPs will be held on Tuesday.
May, who has been the UK’s longest serving home secretary, said at a press conference, “My pitch is very simple. I’m Theresa May and I think I’m the best person to be prime minister of this country.”
She underlined that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ as she announced that she will be running for party leadership contest.
“Our country needs strong proven leadership to negotiate the best possible terms for the UK leaving the EU. Brexit means Brexit. The campaign was fought, the vote was held, turnout was high and the public has given its verdict,” the 59-year-old Conservative party leader said, adding, “We need leadership that can unite our party and our country”.
Johnson, who was considered to be the strongest contender to replace Cameron after the latter resigned in the wake of Brexit, wrote in The Telegraph a couple of days ago, ‘I cannot stress too much that Britain is part of Europe, and always will be. There will still be intense and intensifying European cooperation and partnership in a huge number of fields: the arts, the sciences, the universities, and on improving the environment. EU citizens living in this country will have their rights fully protected, and the same goes for British citizens living in the EU.’
This, experts say, has not gone down well with the Brexiters and unnerved many pro-Leave campaigners.
However, it is not sure whether this is the reason for Johnson not contending to be the next PM.
Cameron had announced that he would be stepping down after the referendum results in favour of Britain’s exit from the EU last week.
May said that among her first jobs as the prime minister would be to create a new government department responsible for negotiating Britain’s exit from the EU, headed by an MP who campaigned for Britain to leave the EU.
May, considered as the most powerful Conservative woman since Margaret Thatcher, spoke about invoking Article 50, the formal procedure for leaving the EU, which Cameron has left for his successor to do.
“Article 50 should not be invoked before the end of the year,” she said.
She argued that under her leadership the Conservative Party will come back together, not just for Remain or Brexit, but for the whole country.
“I know I’m not a showy politician...I don’t go drinking in Parliament’s bars. I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve, I just get on with the job in front of me and you can judge me by my record,” May said.
Calling for an ‘open contest’, she added: “Whether it’s a woman or a man it’s about the qualities of the people doing the job.”
Seen as a tough politician for her firm stance on complex issues like immigration, May has strong support within the Conservative Party.
Whoever next ends up in No. 10 Downing Street will begin extracting the UK from the economic bloc as Cameron said it will be the new PM who will take the negotiations forward.
The party’s executive committee has finalised the time-frame for the contest so that a new leader and PM is declared by September 9.
With inputs from PTI.