Home Secretary Theresa May was assured of a place on the final two-member shortlist to decide the next British prime minister as 330 Conservative MPs vote in the second round of election on Thursday, with a close contest likely for the second place.
Two leading Indian-origin Conservative MPs have extended their support to May: Alok Sharma, who campaigned for Britain to remain in the European Union, and minister of state Priti Patel, who was a leading member of Brexit camp.
Of the five candidates in the first round on Tuesday, Liam Fox was eliminated after polling only 16 votes. May polled 165. After the result was declared, Stephen Crabb, another candidate, withdrew and extended support to May. Thursday’s election is to decide the two-member final shortlist from three candidates: May, Michael Gove and Andrea Leadstom, but the contest is essentially between Gove and Leadsom for second place.
The winner between the final two candidates will be decided by 150,000 members of the Tory party through a postal ballot. The winner, who will replace David Cameron as the next party leader and primer, will be announced on September 9.
Sharma told HT: “Theresa has very real experience from the private sector and fantastic experience at the very top of government. She will command respect from Delhi to Dublin, from Brussels to Beijing”.
“I believe serious times call for a serious candidate. Someone who is very experienced at the highest levels. Someone who is highly competent. Someone who will command respect on the international stage”, he added.
Patel said: “Theresa May is the only candidate best placed to deliver and there no other candidate who comes anywhere close to her experience, or record of strong leadership. She shares the steely determination I always admired in Margaret Thatcher”.
“Equally important will be the need to unite our party and our country. We must end the tribalism and divisions seen in the Referendum between leave and remain and focus on defining our place in the world and putting core Conservative principles and values into action”, she added.