Former London mayor Boris Johnson, who led the successful campaign for the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, announced Thursday that he would not run to replace David Cameron as leader of the Conservative Party and prime minister.
New York-born Johnson was the bookmakers’ favorite to replace Cameron, who led the losing “remain” campaign and said after the June 23 referendum that he would step down this fall.
“Having consulted colleagues and in view of the circumstances in Parliament I have concluded that person cannot be me,” Johnson said in the surprise announcement.
“My role will be to give every possible support to the next Conservative administration to make sure that we properly fulfill the mandate of the people that was delivered at the referendum and to champion the agenda that I believe in, to stick up for the forgotten people of this country,” he said.
The nominations to replace Cameron as leader of the Conservative Party opened Wednesday and closed at noon Thursday. Under the current schedule the new leader would be announced Sept. 9.
Justice Secretary Michael Gove, a prominent member of the “leave” campaign, surprised the nation by announcing he would run as party leader Thursday. Gove was expected to back Johnson and has said he does not want to be prime minister.
“I wanted to help build a team behind Boris Johnson so that a politician who argued for leaving the European Union could lead us to a better future,” he said. “But I have come, reluctantly, to the conclusion that Boris cannot provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead.”
Home Secretary Theresa May, who supported “remain,” is among the five Conservatives who declared they would run as candidates.
The winner faces the arduous task of finalizing Britain’s EU divorce, which thus far has not been amicable. While Cameron and others have been lobbying for continued access to lucrative EU trade rules, EU leaders have stressed that any deal must be “based on a balance of rights and obligations.” Those obligations, including free migration among EU nations, were sticking points that helped drive Britain out of the EU in the first place.
Politics is politics, though, the U.K. being little different from the U.S. in the regard. Education Secretary Nicky Morgan announced support for Gove and immediately was asked by the BBC whether she was offered a job in a future Gove cabinet.
“There’s not a sausage being offered, that’s not why I’m doing it,” she told the iconic British media outlet.
Housing Minister Brandon Lewis announced support for Theresa May, dismissing the fact that May sided with “remain” in the hotly contested referendum.
“We’re all ‘leavers’ now,” Lewis said.
(Source: USA TODAY)