May formally quits as leader of the Conservative Party in low-key style

Outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May
Outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May
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Theresa May has officially ended her turbulent reign as Tory leader as potential replacements step up their campaigns.

The low-key resignation saw Mrs May write to the joint acting chairmen of the backbench Conservative 1922 Committee, Charles Walker and Dame Cheryl Gillan, confirming the announcement she made a fortnight ago in Downing Street.

She will remain Prime Minister until Tory MPs and members complete the process of choosing her successor in late July.

Mrs May spent her last day as Tory leader in her Maidenhead constituency, with the Peterborough by-election defeat a stark illustration of the difficulties she has faced and which will now trouble her successor.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, one of the 11 declared candidates in the race to replace her, warned there would be “no future” for the party unless Brexit is resolved.

Boris Johnson, the bookmakers’ favourite to replace Mrs May, has said that unless the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union is completed by October 31, an election would see Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove, another leading contender, said the Peterborough result was a message that “we’ve got to come back together as a party and work together to get Brexit done”.

The Peterborough election saw the Tories slump to third place, behind victors Labour and the Brexit Party, in a seat which had traditionally been a Conservative-Labour marginal.

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.

“Our persistent thwarting of the referendum result shows that a Brexit Party vote will let Jeremy Corbyn into No 10 by the back door.”

The nominations process for the new leader will be completed on Monday, with candidates requiring the support of eight MPs to enter the race.

Under the timetable set out by the party high command, it is expected the new leader will be in place in the week beginning July 22, following a postal ballot of the party members.

Mrs May is stepping down amid 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, according to the Financial Times.

Meanwhile the leadership contenders were setting out their own policy platforms.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock set out proposals to abolish business rates for small high street firms and boost the living wage to £10.21 by 2022.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid promised to tear up major parts of the immigration policy he inherits from the Prime Minister.

He has committed to two-year post-study work visas for foreign students when they graduate, up from the existing six months, and said it was “nonsense” to have a net migration target “that you know you can never meet”.