Britain’s David Cameron said he would resign as Prime Minister on Wednesday, paving the way for Interior Minister Theresa May to take over the job the same day.
Mr. Cameron said he expected to chair his last cabinet meeting on Tuesday and then take questions in Parliament for around 30 minutes on Wednesday morning.
“After that I expect to go to [Buckingham Palace] and offer my resignation,” he told reporters outside his office in Downing Street. “So we will have a new prime minister in that building behind me by Wednesday evening.”
That new prime minister will be Home Secretary Theresa May, who has emerged as the only candidate to replace Mr. Cameron after Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom dropped out Monday. Ms. May, 59, is expected to be sworn in later this week.
She has a long track record in government and has spent six years in her current role, a senior post that is responsible for policing, anti-terrorism and immigration.
Ms. May is known as a woman who hates small talk and isn’t afraid to take on any rival.
Tory veteran Kenneth Clarke recently described her as a “bloody difficult woman,” something Ms. May responded to with a laugh and the comment: “I am a bloody difficult woman. The next man to find that out will be Jean-Claude Juncker,” the president of the European Commission who will be leading the EU negotiations with Britain on Brexit.
Born the only child of an Anglican church minister, Ms. May studied geography at Oxford and landed a job at the Bank of England after graduating, working in the financial institutions section. She met her husband, Philip May, now a stock broker, at Oxford and they were married in 1980 by her father. Tragedy struck the following year when her father died in a car crash and then her mother, who had multiple sclerosis, died a few months later.
She was elected to Parliament in 1997 in Maidenhead, west of London, and became chair of the Conservative Party in 2002. She drew scorn among some party members for saying bluntly that the Tories had become known as the “nasty party” and had to change. After the comments caused controversy, Ms. May held firm, telling reporters: “I have no regrets.”
After the Tories formed a coalition government in 2010, she was named Home Secretary, and has won wide praise for her steady handling of a demanding position.
While she guards her personal life, she revealed in 2013 that she had Type 1 diabetes, which she controls with four insulin injections a day. And she has talked publicly about the agony she and her husband felt at being unable to have children.
During the referendum campaign, Ms. May backed the Remain side but kept a low public profile, leaving much of the campaigning to Mr. Cameron and others in cabinet. There were suggestions she was not committed to the European Union, something she later denied.
When Mr. Cameron announced his resignation the day after the referendum vote, Ms. May’s name immediately surfaced as a potential replacement. But Tory MP Boris Johnson, who campaigned for Brexit, was considered the favourite. He decided not to run after being sideswiped by Justice Minister Michael Gove, who launched his own bid for the leadership.
After two votes among Tory MPs, Ms. May and Ms. Leadsom, who also backed Brexit, were the only two left standing and party members were supposed to make the final decision via a postal vote this summer.
Ms. Leadsom’s campaign got off to a shaky start. She had far less support among MPs and had to fend off questions that she had embellished her resumé and business experience. She also initially refused to disclose her tax returns, even after Ms. May produced her records. Then last week, Ms. Leadsom suggested in an interview that having children would give her an edge as prime minister, which many considered a direct shot at Ms. May.
Ms. May told the Daily Telegraph she likes to keep her “personal life personal” and added that she and her husband had “dealt with” the fact they couldn’t have children and “moved on.”
“I hope nobody would think that mattered,” she said. “I can still empathize, understand people and care about fairness and opportunity.”
Ms. Leadsom tried to backtrack and issued an apology but many in the party were furious. On Monday, she announced she was stepping down.
“There is no greater privilege than to lead the Conservative party in government and I would have been deeply honoured to do it,” she said. “I have, however, concluded that the interests of our country are best served by the immediate appointment of a strong and well-supported prime minister.”
Ms. May’s campaign manager, Tory MP Chris Grayling, paid tribute to Ms. Leadsom and said Ms. May was “enormously honoured” to be the new Conservative leader.
The announcement caught the party and Ms. May off guard. She had been in Birmingham on Monday launching her leadership campaign. In that speech she vowed to push ahead with Brexit. “I couldn’t be clearer. Brexit means Brexit and we’re going to make a success of it,” she said. “There will be no attempts to remain inside the EU.”
Globe and Mail with files from Reuters.