Theresa May bows out, succession race begins

Brexit Party candidate Mike Greene gives a thumbs down as newly elected Labour MP Lisa Forbes gives her winners speech

Brexit Party candidate Mike Greene gives a thumbs down as newly elected Labour MP Lisa Forbes gives her winners

May will step down as leader of her Conservative Party on Friday, formally triggering the race for a successor who will try where she failed to deliver Brexit.

Naturally reserved and reliant on her husband and a few close aides, she often says she is just quietly "getting on with the job".

The Conservative premier's turbulent time in office was swamped and ultimately sunk by her legacy-defining battle to secure a Brexit divorce deal.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives fell to third place in the Peterborough by-election, behind winners Labour and the Brexit Party in second place, in what is traditionally a Tory-Labour marginal seat.

May will remain prime minister until a new leader is chosen, likely in late July, but has relinquished control over the direction of Britain's tortuous departure from the European Union.

Nigel Farage launched the Brexit party just eight weeks ago and the party was hoping to replicate its success in the European elections by winning its first United Kingdom parliamentary seat.

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There are so far 11 hopefuls, including frontrunner Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary.

Nigel Farage claims he's "fundamentally changed" British politics despite his party's narrow defeat to Labour in the Peterborough by-election.

Esther McVey, who has promised as leader she would "embrace" a no-deal Brexit, said: "The result in Peterborough is the shape of things to come if we don't deliver a clean Brexit on October 31". No official event took place and there was no statement from her 10 Downing Street office.

The contest to replace her has been heating up for weeks, with candidates arguing over the rights and wrongs of a so-called no-deal Brexit, or leaving the European Union without a deal. Labour managed to hold the seat by a wafer-thin majority of 683 votes with a candidate who's been accused of anti-Semitism.

Nigel Farage of the Brexit Party talks to the media after handing in a letter to 10 Downing Street asking for the Brexit Party to be included in Brexit negotiations, in London, Britain, on June 7, 2019.

With the worst performers eliminated each time, the goal is to have two candidates left by 20 June.

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After Theresa May resigned as Prime Minister on May 24, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for a general election.

Other leading contenders include the current foreign minister, Jeremy Hunt, and environment minister Michael Gove, who take a less hardline stance on Brexit.

The final two candidates will be put to a postal ballot of about 160,000 Conservative members, with the victor announced the week of July 22. To succeed, he or she will have to find consensus in parliament where I have not.

May's Conservatives and the main opposition Labour Party are both fractured over how to leave the EU.

Hard-core Brexiteers in the leadership contest say they would rather leave the bloc with no deal than countenance a further delay.

The poll in the eastern English city of Peterborough was triggered after the sitting MP, Fiona Onasanya, was dumped by voters after being jailed for lying over a speeding offence.

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Mr Johnson, a leading campaigner in the 2016 referendum who quit the government past year over Mrs May's plan, is among several would-be candidates who say they are willing to do this. "I look back and I think I wish I hadn't done that", he said.

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