Theresa May Has Stepped Down – What The Hell Happens Now?

Your guide to the next few weeks.

It’s been a week filled to the brim with official duties for Theresa May. From a series of events welcoming Donald Trump to the UK – including a state banquet at Buckingham Palace – to D-Day commemorations in northern France, May has been the face of the UK again and again in recent days.

But all that is about to end. On Friday May stepped down as leader of the Conservatives, opening the door for a new PM in Number 10.

But what does that actually mean – and what happens while the UK searches for its next PM?

Why is Theresa May resigning?

How much time do you have?

In short, May is stepping down as PM because she couldn’t get parliament – and many in her own party – to back her Brexit deal. While MPs rejected her plan three times in parliament, talks with the Labour Party to find a Brexit compromise collapsed disastrously.

But it was May’s last ditch attempt to get MPs on side that pushed her over the edge. The PM’s offer to give MPs a vote on whether to hold a second referendum if they passed her EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill sparked fury on the Tory benches – and within the Cabinet – and led to the resignation of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom.

Announcing last month that she would resign as Conservative leader on June 7, May said: “It will always remain a matter of deep regret for me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit.

“It is now clear to me that it is in the best interest of the UK for a new PM to lead that effort.”

Wait, does this mean the UK is without a PM?

For those of us outside the Westminster loop, it may certainly have seemed that way when May announced her resignation last month.

But actually, the move is pretty arbitrary – not a lot is going to change. May is only stepping down as Tory leader for now, meaning she will remain in Downing Street as prime minister until the end of July, when her replacement has been chosen.

She’s not even really resigning as leader of the Conservatives. In order to avoid the party having to register a new leader with the Electoral Commission, May will remain as acting Tory leader.

So… we can probably all chill out for a bit.

Who will pick the next prime minister?

House of Commons - PA Images via Getty Images

With the Conservative Party in government, the next PM will effectively be decided by Tory MPs and the party’s membership when they pick their next leader.

After nominations for the top job close on Monday, there will be a series of ballots giving Tory MPs the chance to vote for their favourite candidates. The least-popular contenders will be knocked out of the race in each round until just two remain.

The vote will then be put to Conservative Party members, who will get to choose between the two Tory MPs still in the race. Whoever gets the most votes will become the UK’s next prime minister.

The Conservative Party has put new rules in place for this leadership race because of the high number of MPs who have already thrown their hat into the ring. Unlike other years, contestants will not only be kicked out of the race if they are the least popular on the Tory benches, but if they fail to meet specific levels of support.

For example, anyone who fails to receive the backing of 16 MPs – 5% of the party in Westminster – in the first round will automatically be eliminated, even if they weren’t the least popular.

When will we have a new PM?

The next prime minister is expected to be announced in the week beginning July 22. At that point, May will head to Buckingham Palace and hand her official resignation to the Queen.

JUNE 10: Nominations close

JUNE 11: First hustings with Tory MPs

JUNE 13: First candidates eliminated in ballot by MPs

JUNE 17: Second hustings with Tory MPs

JUNE 18: More candidates eliminated by MPs

JUNE 19: Final two leadership candidates chosen

JUNE 22: Conservative Party members begin voting

WEEK BEGINNING JULY 22: New PM announced

Who is likely to move into Number 10?

PA Wire/PA Images

There are currently 11 Tory MPs in the race to move into Number 10, with Brexit minister James Cleverly and Kit Malthouse having already pulled out.

However, Boris Johnson is currently the bookies favourite, followed by environment secretary Michael Gove and foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt.


Michael Gove – environment secretary

Jeremy Hunt – foreign secretary

Matt Hancock – health secretary

Sajid Javid – home secretary

Rory Stewart – international development secretary

Boris Johnson – former foreign secretary

Dominic Raab – former Brexit secretary

Esther McVey – former work and pensions secretary

Andrea Leadsom – former Commons leader

Sam Gyimah – former universities minister

Mark Harper – former chief whip


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