Theresa May steps down: what happens next?

May will stay on as acting PM after officially resigning as Tory leader today

Theresa May
(Image credit: (Leon Neal/Getty Images))

Theresa May will officially step down as the leader of the Conservative Party today, but will stay on as prime minister until her successor is chosen.

Looking back over May’s three-year reign, Sky News says “Brexit sapped her energy and her time in office ended with an emotional goodbye,” while the Daily Mail says she will “quit with a whimper”.

The Guardian’s Gaby Hinsliff says May’s departure “increasingly looks not so much like passing on the torch as dropping a burned-out sparkler and accidentally starting a grass fire”.

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May officially announced her resignation two weeks ago but today the formalities will begin. May will confirm her decision in an exchange of letters with the joint acting chairmen of the backbench 1922 Committee, Charles Walker and Dame Cheryl Gillan.

Then, at 5pm, a call for candidates will then be issued, with nominations opening at 10am on Monday and closing at 5pm the same day. Eleven Tory MPs are battling to replace her as party leader and prime minister.

Leadership candidates need eight Conservative MPs to back them. The party’s MPs will vote for their preferred candidates in a series of secret ballots held on 13, 18, 19 and 20 June.

Walker, of the Tory backbench 1922 committee, said on Thursday: “We are aiming to have two people by Thursday 20 June.”

That final two will be put to a vote of members of the wider Conservative Party. The winner is expected to be announced in the week of 22 July.

Until then, May will remain involved at the coalface of politics. The Financial Times says she is embroiled in a growing row with chancellor Philip Hammond over her plans to leave with a series of big spending announcements, including a multi-billion pound overhaul of England's schools and colleges.

The Independent points out that May is also set to legally commit to ending the UK’s contribution to global warming by 2050 before she leaves Downing Street. However, it adds, “there are fears of a ‘get-out clause’ that could allow her successor to roll back on the measures”.

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