HENLEY MP John Howell says he is giving his “full backing” to Home Secretary Theresa May to
HENLEY MP John Howell says he is giving his “full backing” to Home Secretary Theresa May to be the next Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister.
She comfortably won the first round of the contest to replace David Cameron, who will step down by October.
Mrs May, who is MP for the neighbouring constituency of Maidenhead, received 165 of the 329 votes cast by Tory MPs.
Second place went to Andrea Leadsom, who was a South Oxfordshire district councillor from 2003 to 2007 and head of corporate governance and a senior investment officer at Invesco Perpetual, which has its head office in Henley, from 1999 to 2009.
She collected 66 votes with Michael Gove in third with 48.
Stephen Crabb was fourth and dropped out of the contest and fifth-placed Liam Fox was eliminated. Both have since backed Mrs May.
Further voting will narrow the field to two before party members make their choice.
Mr Howell said: “I thought the vote was a great success for Theresa but, of course, the battle hasn’t ended by any means and she has a long way to go. I’m going to be sticking close to her and working with her to make sure she gets there.
“I believe she has the ability to bring unity, take the party forward, to win elections and to give the role the credibility and credentials it needs.”
Mr Howell, who joined Mrs May in voting for BritainÂ to remain in the European Union, continued: “With the Prime Minister stepping down the Conservative Party needs to pull back together.
“In order to do so it is my personal view that the next party leader should be someone who has not taken a high profile role in the campaign on either side and can exercise the level of competence we require.
“This is an issue about trust and it is important that they have the trust and respect of their colleagues, party members and, as far as is possible, the general public.
“The person will also need a solid track record to show that they can rise to the huge challenge that will be before them. We have an uncertain future and we need strong and unifying leadership.
“Whoever we have, we will need to rally behind them. In the end, while there may be differences of opinion on single issues, the fundamental political philosophies of the different parties remain.
“I continue to stand for freedom and opportunity, which have always been at the heart of Conservatism, and I continue to be a friend of Europe.”