Home secretary vows to make sure Britain leaves EU, saying there must be no attempts to remain through the back door
Theresa May has launched her bid for the Conservative leadership, pledging that Brexit means Brexit and that there would be no general election before 2020.
The home secretary, who campaigned to remain in the EU, positioned herself as the candidate of stability and experience.
Asked for her pitch, she said: Im Theresa May and Im the best person to be prime minister.
The event was electrified by Michael Goves surprise announcement just minutes before she stood up that he would run for the leadership because, he said, Boris Johnson was not a suitable candidate.
Bookmakers were making May the favourite, followed by Gove, even before Johnson dramatically announced later in the morning, after she had made her speech, that he was not going to stand.
At the May leadership announcement event, most MPs thought her speech had worked against Johnson and in her favour by splitting the vote among leave supporters. But Gove is also extremely popular among the Conservative grassroots, so could prove fatal to her campaign if the pair become the final two on the shortlist.
While a string of MPs were defecting from Johnsons camp to Gove, those loyal to May were making frantic plans to check that all her supporters were still backing her bid.
During her speech, May positioned herself as a candidate to unify the party after a divisive referendum and someone to appeal to the whole country, not a privileged few.
She attempted to woo leave voters by signing up Chris Grayling, a prominent leave campaigner, to chair her campaign and pledging to create a department to negotiate the UK leaving the EU.
After the meeting, other prominent Conservatives signed up to support her. Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, declared his support after having considered a bid himself.
He said: I have decided that now is not the right time for me to run for the leadership though I remain completely committed to ensuring we secure our position as a great trading nation with sensible controls on migration. I believe that Theresa May has the strength, judgment and values to deliver those things. She is the right choice to lead Britain in a challenging period and will make a truly outstanding prime minister.
May also promised categorically that Britain would leave the EU, with no attempts to remain through the back door.
The country voted to leave the European Union, and it is the duty of the government and of parliament to make sure we do just that, she said.
She also ruled out an early general election if she was leader and said there would be a normal autumn statement and no emergency budget. No decision to invoke article 50 should be made until the British negotiating strategy was agreed, she said, which means not before the end of this year.