Themorningbellbd.com desk, July 12: David Cameron has chaired his final cabinet meeting, with some “wonderful tributes” paid to the outgoing PM.
Mrs May, home secretary since 2010, had been expecting a nine-week race for the Tory leadership, but rival Andrea Leadsom withdrew on Monday.
Mrs May, who has pledged to make Brexit a success, will appoint her own ministerial team when she takes office.
She says she is “honoured and humbled” to be taking over as Conservative Party leader and, therefore, prime minister. Speaking after Tuesday morning’s cabinet, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said there were some “wonderful tributes” to Mr Cameron led by Mrs May and Chancellor George Osborne.
“There was a feeling across the cabinet of great pride at what David Cameron has achieved over the last six years, sadness that it has ended, in a way, perhaps much quicker than people thought,
Culture Secretary John Whittingdale described the meeting as “quite emotional”, saying there was “sadness” about the PM’s departure, while Commons leader and Brexit campaigner Chris Grayling spoke of a “very warm sentiment around the table”.
“We all recognise what a good job he’s done for the country,” Mr Grayling added. Theresa May was expecting a nine-week leadership contest, giving her plenty of time to think about her new team.
Instead, she got just 48 hours notice before having to walk into Downing Street and assemble a government.
As someone who wanted the UK to stay in the EU, there will be pressure to give prominent cabinet roles to those who backed Brexit.
Mrs May has promised radical social and economic reform – fuelling speculation over the future of current senior figures.
With limited time to make delicate political choices, the new prime minister must weigh change versus continuity, while trying to unite the Conservative Party after a bruising EU referendum campaign.
So far, Tory MPs have rallied round their new leader, but rival political parties have questioned her mandate after the leadership contest was cut short.
Sources close to Mrs May said she’d been very clear – there would be no general election. Mrs May – who posed briefly for photographs on her way in to Downing Street – is to appoint a new ministerial team when she takes over the reins on Wednesday.
The swift transition comes after the expected nine-week leadership campaign was truncated to just a couple of days by leading Brexit campaigner Andrea Leadsom’s withdrawal from the contest.
Mrs Leadsom’s surprise announcement meant Mrs May, who had been the front runner, was the only remaining candidate in the race.
After being formally declared the winner of the contest, Mrs May praised Mr Cameron for his stewardship of the party and the country and paid tribute to Mrs Leadsom for her “dignity” in withdrawing her leadership bid. But senior Labour MP Jon Trickett has joined the Lib Dems and Green Party in calling for a snap general election.
Mr Trickett, Labour’s general election co-ordinator and an ally of leader Jeremy Corbyn, said it was “crucial” to have a “democratically elected prime minister” and said he was putting the party on “general election footing”.Unity cabinet?
Mrs May has rejected such demands.
BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said EU negotiation, controlling immigration and managing the economy were “huge issues” that would challenge Mrs May’s desire for a “steady as she goes” approach.
Former chancellor Ken Clarke – who supported Mrs May in the final ballot – said the new leader and prime minister needed to “balance the party” in her cabinet appointments.
“She’s got a real problem of bringing the warring wings of the party together. She’ll combine her own strong personal opinions about who she wants to work with, with a desire to bring the party together,” he said.
But he cautioned that the party’s small parliamentary majority would not make the task “easy”.
“To actually get the real head-bangers together on both sides and to see four years of government through will require some political skill… but she’s pragmatic, she’ll want to get on and do things,” he said. Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers – who backed Mrs Leadsom in the contest – said she was sure Mrs May would “want to draw on talents from across the parliamentary party”.
Asked whether Mrs May should balance the cabinet, she said: “I certainly hope that both Remain and Leave campaigners will be represented in the cabinet.”
But she urged all colleagues, whatever the outcome of the reshuffle, to be “incredibly supportive” of the new prime minister, saying a “stable government” was needed.
Mrs May said he had based her leadership bid on the need for “strong, proven leadership”, the ability to unite both party and country and a “positive vision” for Britain’s future.
And in a message perhaps designed to reassure Brexit-supporting colleagues on Monday, Mrs May, a Remain campaigner, said: “Brexit means Brexit – and we’re going to make a success of it.”
Mr Cameron, who has been prime minister since 2010, decided to quit after the UK’s referendum vote to leave the EU, having campaigned for the losing side.
He said Mrs May would have his “full support”, describing her as “strong”, “competent” and “more than able to provide the leadership” the country needs.