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Theresa May Is Building Support for Her Bid to Be Britain’s Next Prime Minister

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In the race to become Britain’s next Prime Minister, Home Secretary Theresa May is gaining support in her party and in the right-wing press after positioning herself as the steady hand required to lead negotiations with the European Union after the U.K. voted to leave the bloc last week.

The result of the June 23 referendum has sent both major parties into leadership battles, with Prime Minister David Cameron having announced his intention to step down and allow his successor to initiate and negotiate Brexit.

His resignation has triggered a contest to select a new leader for the ruling Conservative Party, and the country. Cameron’s successor will be chosen before Sept. 9 by party members, after the party’s lawmakers have whittled the field down to two candidates.

May, who has been Home Secretary since 2010, is running against leading Brexit campaigner and Justice Secretary Michael Gove, Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb, Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom and former Defense Secretary Liam Fox. Gove, who behind May is probably the most likely pick, surprised Britain on Thursday by announcing his candidacy, torpedoing his pro-Brexit ally and the former favorite for the leadership, Boris Johnson, who promptly withdrew from the race.

May is the bookmakers’ favorite, and has polled favorably against her rivals. She backed the losing Remain campaign, but avoided playing a leading role. Launching her leadership bid on Thursday, May pledged to follow through with the voters’ wish to leave the E.U., and indicated she was against holding the early general elections that many have proposed to solve the crisis in Westminster.

May’s fellow Cabinet members Michael Fallon, the Defense Secretary, and Patrick McLoughlin, who holds the transport brief, are backing her, the BBC reports. More than 70 Members of Parliament, including at least three other serving members of the Cabinet, are also believed to have lent support to her bid.

In an editorial setting out its stall unusually early in a leadership contest, the Daily Mail said it believes that “only Mrs May has the right qualities, the stature and experience to unite both her party and the country — and possibly usher in a new, cleaner, more honest kind of politics.”

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Write to Simon Lewis at simon_daniel.lewis@timeasia.com