The Next British Prime Minister Will Be A Woman: Meet The Contenders

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It’s official: the next U.K. prime minister will be a woman.

In a vote this afternoon, Conservative MPs decided on the two candidates they want to run to replace outgoing leader David Cameron.

Mr. Cameron stepped down from the governing party after failing to convince Britain to stay in the European Union last month.

The news team has been taking a look at the candidates. Here's what you need to know.
Theresa May or Andrea Leadsom will be the next British prime minister. This afternoon, Conservative MPs knocked out Secretary of State for Justice Michael Gove in the second round of voting for the next candidate to lead their party and the country.

This means that on September 9, the U.K. will have its second-ever female PM, after Margaret Thatcher resigned in 1990, which in itself is a tiny progressive step towards gender equality in politics.

But as a BBC journalist helpfully reminded viewers recently, "May and Leadsom may both be women, but they have quite different views."

May is the current favorite by quite a long way and public support for her, particularly among women on social media, seems to have strengthened since Conservative Ken Clarke called her a “bloody difficult woman” on Sky News. By contrast, Leadsom’s CV has been ripped to shreds by the mainstream press.

British voters won't have a say over who becomes the next PM unless unless they're a Conservative party member, but has taken a look at where the possible future leaders stand on some of the issues most likely to affect women in the U.K.

Crime Against Women

Theresa May, as home secretary for six years, made moves to tackle violent crime against women and girls. She was vocal about police failure to investigate rape and made tackling modern-day slavery one of her main priorities. She also set up inquiries into child sex abuse and undercover policing after a controversy involving undercover officers betraying women.

However, she failed to secure national funding for women’s shelters, The Guardian reported, and supports immigration detention centers.

Unlike May, Leadsom has never held a Cabinet position, so it’s unclear where she stands on violence against women. In the past, she voted against laws promoting equality and human rights and for restricting the scope of legal aid.


Both candidates voted for raising undergraduate tuition fees in England to 9,000 pounds per year in 2010. However, May voted against fees in the past while Leadsom has always supported them. Leadsom also voted to end the education maintenance allowance (EMA), which provided financial support to 16-19 year olds in training and further education. May didn’t vote.


May backed the campaign to remain in the E.U., but she is Euroskeptic. After the result, she announced that “Brexit means Brexit.” As such, she would work towards Britain leaving the E.U. as PM and she is experienced when it comes to negotiating in Europe, The Guardian reported.

Leadsom was a vocal "Leave" supporter in the run-up to the referendum and believes the U.K. would thrive outside the E.U., a view that makes her an attractive candidate for UKIP. supporters. However, somewhat awkwardly, in the past, she said losing the U.K.'s AAA credit rating would be “seriously bad news” — something that is now a post-referendum reality.


Leadsom once said small businesses shouldn’t have to offer basic rights to their workers, including minimum wage, maternity or paternity rights, unfair dismissal rights, or pension rights. She has voted against funding to secure jobs for long-time unemployed young people.

By contrast, as the Conservative equality spokesperson in 2008, May made comments supporting equal maternity and paternity leave. However, she also voted against spending on jobs for long-time unemployed young people.


Gay supporters of May have compared her to a parent who has “come to terms with” her gay child, BBC Newsbeat reported. In the past, she voted against reducing the age of consent for gay people, the repeal of Section 28 (the prohibition of promoting homosexuality by teaching or by publishing material), and civil partnerships. But she voted for equal marriage in 2013 and has a group of gay followers on Twitter.

It’s fair to say Leadsom wouldn’t be a very socially progressive PM. She is staunchly pro-marriage, having written on her personal blog that “marriage IS KEY to the safety of our society” and blaming social problems on single parenthood. But she is less keen on marriage between same-sex couples — she abstained from voting on gay marriage in 2013 and said today that she “didn’t like” the equal-marriage legislation. She has also implied that straight couples should be ahead of gay couples in the adoption queue.

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