The search for the next prime minister of the UK ended abruptly when one of the two remaining contestants Andrea Leadsom withdrew from the race leaving Theresa May. May will take over from David Cameron on Wednesday, showing how quickly these transitions take place in the UK when compared to the US.
Why did Leadsom suddenly withdraw? It is not clear. In a statement, she said that a long-drawn out contest for the leadership would destabilize the country, which would be amusing for us in the US where leadership races these days run into years. But apparently there were other factors as well.
Leadsom had been shaken by the scale of the response to a newspaper interview in which she suggested being a mother meant she had a larger stake in society than May.
She admitted she had been left in tears at the weekend after a stream of colleagues said she was inexperienced and had been insensitive.
May does not have children of her own. Suggesting that having children makes one more committed to society is absurd but when compared to the kinds of attacks that we are seeing in the US on the personalities and families of candidates, it seems pretty mild. British politics and the media have a reputation for being somewhat raucous so her reaction to the criticisms about her statements on the value of motherhood surprises me.
I wonder if she had other reasons for leaving and used these as an excuse because this whole thing strikes me as rather odd. Cameron resigned because he was in favor of staying the EU but he lost the referendum. But May was also in favor of remaining while Leadsom campaigned to leave. The party rules were that the members of parliament would select the two finalists who would then be voted on by the 150,000 party members on September 9. Those members, especially those who would have liked a leader who supported leaving, have now had that choice taken away from them at the last minute.
It is possible that the party establishment, for whatever reason, worked behind the scenes to force Leadsom out quickly.