LONDON, July 7 (UPI) — Britain’s ruling Conservative Party narrowed the field of prime minister candidates to Theresa May, the home secretary, and Andrea Leadsom, the energy minister, putting the country on track to have its first female leader in more than 25 years.
May, 59, came out of the vote with 199 votes from the party’s 330 members of Parliament. Leadsom had 84 votes. Michael Gove, the justice secretary, came in third with 46 votes and was eliminated. May and Leadsom will now campaign throughout the country among the party’s 150,000 members. Results are expected Sept. 9.
May, who supported staying in the European Union, is the party’s leading candidate.
“We need strong, proven leadership to negotiate the best deal for Britain as we leave the European Union, to unite our party and our country, and to make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us, ” May said following Thursday’s party vote.
Leadsom, 53, backed the Leave campaign. She entered Parliament in 2010 after working in the financial sector.
“I will not use people’s lives as bargaining chips in some negotiation,” Leadsom told supporters Thursday. “I say to all who are legally here that you will be welcome to stay.”
The winner of the vote will become the first female prime minister since Margaret Thatcher, who governed from 1979 to 1990.
The vote comes after Prime Minister David Cameron resigned in response to the United Kingdom’s historic June 23 vote to leave the European Union. The country has not yet begun the formal process of exiting the bloc.
May and Leadsom have vowed to follow through on the Brexit vote by triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the mechanism in place that allows countries to leave the bloc, but disagree on the timeline. May suggested it will not happen this year, while Leadsom said she will act quickly.