Robert HARNEIS -TDO- (FRANCE)- Through an exchange of letters with the 1922 Committee yesterday afternoon, Theresa May quietly yet formally quit as leader of the Conservative Party, after two years, ten months and twenty-five days in the post. She does, however, remain as Prime Minister until her successor is chosen over the coming weeks

The Prime Minister handed her resignation letter to Charles Walker and Dame Cheryl Gillan, the acting chairs of the powerful 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers. It means Mrs. May is now the acting leader of the Conservative party, under Electoral Commission rules, and remains as Prime Minister until a replacement is found.

Eleven candidates are fighting to succeed Mrs. May in Downing Street, with Boris Johnson the current frontrunner. The winner is set to be announced in the week of 22 July.

After the exchange of letters this afternoon, the 1922 Committee party bosses said nominations for the contest had formally opened. They close at 5pm on Monday 10 June.

Mrs. May fired the starting gun on the Tory leadership race two weeks ago when she tearfully announced outside Number 10 that she was quitting over her failure to deliver Brexit."I tried three times I believe it was right to persevere even when the odds against success seemed high," she said."But it is now clear to me that it is in the best interest of the country for a new Prime Minister to lead that effort."

"It is and will always remain a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit," she said. "It will be for my successor to seek a way forward that honours the result of the referendum.”

"To succeed he or she will have to find consensus in parliament where I have not such a consensus can only be reached if those on all sides of the debate are willing to compromise."

In a clear attempt to discourage a no-deal Brexit, Mrs. May said "compromise is not a dirty word". In doing so she drew attention to her key failure to do what she promised to do 108 times – leave the EU on 29 March 2019. She has frequently said that “no deal was better than a bad deal” but when she had the chance to leave on 29 March with no deal she refused to do so.

MPs will whittle down the 11 candidates until two remain, which the Tory membership will choose between. The first round of voting by MPs will take place on 13 June and the second on 18 June, with up to three further ballots expected to take place.

Mrs May leaves her successor with the complex task of extracting her party and country from the current Brexit impasse in which she has placed it.

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