As of Thursday, the race for UK Conservative party leadership has been narrowed to two: Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom. That means that the race is potentially a referendum on Brexit as one candidate was for the U.K. remaining in the EU, and the other was in favor of withdrawing from it.
It also means that the next British prime minister will be a woman for the first time since Margaret Thatcher, the first woman to be prime minister. Theresa May, the home secretary, and Andrea Leadsom, a minister in the energy department, received the most votes in the first and second rounds of voting.
In the second round, Ms. May received 189 votes. She had supported David Cameron’s push for Britain to vote down Brexit and remain in the EU. Ms. Leadsom was a distant second in voting receiving just 84 votes. She campaigned for Brexit. Third in the voting was Justice Secretary Michael Gove with 46 votes. That eliminated Mr. Gove from the race.
The next step in the election will be to open it up to the party membership, which will mean that 150,000 people will now get a chance to choose who will become the next prime minister and replace David Cameron who resigned after the Brexit vote promising a smooth transition.
Though Ms. May overwhelmingly received the most votes more than doubling Ms. Leadsom’s votes, that does not necessarily reflect the vote of the party membership or even that she will be able to defeat Ms. Leadsom in the next stage. To be clear, a majority of the party membership supported Brexit and voted to leave the EU – Ms. Leadsom’s position, while lawmakers largely backed Mr. Cameron – and Ms. May’s – position and backed the U.K. remaining in the EU.
At the same time, it is unclear whether Brexit still remains as popular today as it did on June 23. As has become evident many in the U.K. are now having “Regrexit.” Some polls seem to support a wide change in attitude toward Brexit. The party is planning to announce the new leader by September 9 as the vote will be done by mail.