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New PM Theresa May vows to give Britons 'more control over their lives'

Published 11/07/2016

Home Secretary Theresa May officially launches her campaign to become prime minister at Austin Court in Birmingham. PA
Home Secretary Theresa May officially launches her campaign to become prime minister at Austin Court in Birmingham. PA
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 11: Andrea Leadsom MP speaks to the media as she announces her withdrawal from the Conservative leadership race at Cowley Street race on July 11, 2016 in London, England. Leadsom has pulled out of the Conservative leadership race to be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and will now offer her full support to Theresa May MP. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
Home Secretary Theresa May is vying to succeed David Cameron as Conservative leader and PM

Theresa May has promised to give British people "more control over their lives", after a day of drama in Westminster saw her coronation as David Cameron's successor as Prime Minister.

Mrs May will take up office as Britain's second female PM on Wednesday, after Mr Cameron answers MPs' questions in the House of Commons for the last time and goes to Buckingham Palace to offer his resignation to the Queen.

Even before arriving at 10 Downing Street, Mrs May was facing calls for a snap general election from Labour, who said it was "crucial" that the UK has a "democratically elected Prime Minister" at a time of economic and political instability following the vote to leave the EU.

The Home Secretary was unexpectedly transformed from leadership candidate to prime minister-designate by the sensational decision of her only rival, Andrea Leadsom, to pull out of the race to succeed Mr Cameron, which had been due to last until September 9.

Admitting she was "shattered" by a torrid few days of negative headlines since securing her place on the ballot paper for a nationwide poll of Tory members, Mrs Leadsom conceded she had too little support among MPs to offer "strong and stable government", and offered Mrs May her "full support".

Mrs May - who rushed back to Westminster from a campaign speech in Birmingham - appeared outside Parliament to declare herself "honoured and humbled" to become the Conservative leader.

Accompanied by husband Philip and flanked by dozens of applauding MPs from all sides of the party, Mrs May said she would offer "strong, proven leadership to steer us through what will be difficult and uncertain economic and political times".

She repeated her message that "Brexit means Brexit", in a clear bid to reassure Eurosceptic Tories that she will make good on the referendum vote to quit the EU, despite being a Remain supporter during the campaign.

And she set out her One Nation vision of "a country that works not for the privileged few, but that works for every one of us", adding: "We are going to give people more control over their lives and that's how together we will build a better Britain."

Her speech in Birmingham signalled a sharp change in direction for the Government when she takes the helm, promising "a different kind of Conservatism" that will "get tough on irresponsible behaviour in big business" and give ordinary workers a greater share in economic growth.

In comments indicating she recognises voter "frustration" with the austerity offered by Mr Cameron, she said the June 23 referendum was not only a vote to leave the EU but also "a vote for serious change".

She set out a series of plans to rein in executive pay and bonuses, put workers into the boardroom and tackle market abuses by banks and utility companies, while also putting multinational companies such as Amazon, Google and Starbucks on notice that she expects them to pay their taxes in full.

Mr Cameron said he was "delighted" that the 59-year-old Home Secretary will replace him in Downing Street.

Speaking outside Number 10, he said: " She is strong, she is competent, she is more than able to provide the leadership that our country is going to need in the years ahead and she will have my full support."

Mrs May also won the backing of Brexit standard-bearers Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, who issued messages of support immediately after Mrs Leadsom's withdrawal, at a time when there was still some confusion in Westminster over whether she would now have to fight a different opponent.

Mr Johnson said he had "no doubt Theresa will make an excellent party leader and Prime Minister", while Mr Gove - who was eliminated from the leadership contest after taking third place in last week's vote by MPs - said Mrs May had "my full support as our next Prime Minister".

Labour election co-ordinator Jon Trickett said he was putting the whole party on general election footing, on the very day when its own leadership contest was kicked off by a formal challenge to Jeremy Corbyn from Angela Eagle.

Mrs May set her face against a snap election when she launched her campaign for the Tory leadership on June 30, saying: "There should be no general election until 2020."

But other parties are likely to remind her of Mr Cameron's demand for an immediate election in 2007, on the grounds that Tony Blair's successor Gordon Brown "doesn't have the mandate (and) wasn't elected as prime minister".

I would like to congratulate Theresa May on her victory in the Conservative leadership election. She will be a great...

Posted by Theresa Villiers for Chipping Barnet on Monday, 11 July 2016

Mr Trickett said: "It is crucial, given the instability caused by the Brexit vote, that the country has a democratically elected Prime Minister. I am now putting the whole of the party on a general election footing. It is time for the Labour Party to unite and ensure the millions of people in the country left behind by the Tories' failed economic policies have the opportunity to elect a Labour government."

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron demanded an early election, saying: "The Tories now have no mandate. Britain deserves better than this."

And Green MP Caroline Lucas - herself a candidate for her own party's leadership - said it was "unacceptable" that the next PM should be appointed only by Conservative MPs rather than chosen by voters.

Plaid Cymru's Westminster leader Hywel Williams said he anticipated many disagreements with Mrs May in the coming months, but said he wished her well as she led the negotiations on Britain's disengagement from the EU.

He said: " First and foremost, the UK needs certainty. Wales, more than any other country in the UK, relies on its trading relationship with the European Union and I will be seeking urgent assurances from Theresa May that the UK Government will not allow a vote to leave the EU to lead us towards leaving the European single market."

DUP leader and Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster MLA paid tribute to David Cameron and wished Ms May success.

She said: "I want to pay tribute to outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron as he prepares to leave office, particularly for the role he played in Northern Ireland on issues from the devolution of Corporation Tax to assisting with PMS savers and of course his role in the political process.

"I wish Theresa May every success as she becomes Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and assure her that we stand ready to work with her in the best interests of both Northern Ireland in particular and the United Kingdom as a whole.

"Theresa May has a positive history of working with the Northern Ireland administration across a range of Justice issues, including the NCA becoming fully operational in Northern Ireland. The withdrawal of Andrea Leadsom means our new Prime Minister will be in place within a much shorter time frame than previously thought which helps reduce some of the political uncertainty.

"I welcome the fact that Mrs May has indicated that the UK will exit the European Union in keeping with the result of the referendum.  It is important that she can commence work on planning the UK exit and the new arrangements to be negotiated.

"The DUP Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds MP has already had discussions with Oliver Letwin MP about Northern Ireland’s place during the negotiations and I look forward to early discussions with our new Prime Minister. We will be emphasising the unique circumstances that Northern Ireland faces and the need for regional administrations to work in partnership with the national government to bring about tailored solutions.

"At Northern Ireland Executive level we will continue work planning for the future to ensure Northern Ireland is well placed for the future."


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