Theresa May launches Tory leadership bid with pledge to unite country

Theresa May, speaking at the Girl Summit

Theresa May has launched her bid for the Conservative leadership , promising that the UK will leave the EU and saying the country needs a prime minister who can unite the country.

“We need a prime minister who is a tough negotiator, and ready to do the job from day one,” the home secretary said.

Introduced by prominent leave campaigner Chris Grayling, May said that Britain would leave the European Union, and there must be no attempts to “remain through the back door”.

“The country voted to leave the European Union, and it is the duty of the government and of parliament to make sure we do just that.”

She also ruled out a general election before 2020, and said there would be a normal autumn statement and no emergency budget. No decision to invoke article 50 should be made until the British negotiating strategy is agreed, which meant not before the end of this year.

May made a speech during the campaign that

“The status of British nationals living or working in Europe will not change – and neither will the status of EU nationals in Britain,” she said.

A Conservative government under May would no longer seek to reach a budget surplus by the end of the parliament, to avoid tax increases that might disrupt investment, she said.

“Nobody should fool themselves that this process will be brief or straightforward,” she said, proposing a new government department led by a senior secretary of state to lead on the change, an MP who had been a leave campaigner.

May said new restrictions of immigration could not be avoided, taking a dig at her opponent Boris Johnson, by saying any attempt to wriggle out of that “especially from leadership candidates who campaigned to leave the EU by focusing on immigration will be unacceptable to the public”.

The home secretary said she wanted to make fighting inequality and injustice the hallmark of her campaign. “If you’re from an ordinary, working-class family, life is just much harder than many people in politics realise,” she said.

“Frankly, not everybody in Westminster understands what it’s like to live like this. And some need to be told that what the government does isn’t a game, it’s a serious business that has real consequences for people’s lives.”

“I know some politicians seek high office because they’re driven by ideological fervour. And I know others seek it for reasons of ambition or glory. But my reasons are much simpler. I grew up the daughter of a local vicar and the granddaughter of a regimental sergeant major. Public service has been a part of who I am for as long as I can remember.”

May said she knew she was not “a showy politician” who toured TV studios. “I don’t gossip about people over lunch. I don’t go drinking in parliament’s bars. I don’t often wear my heart on my sleeve. I just get on with the job in front of me.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Jessica Elgot, for theguardian.com on Thursday 30th June 2016 10.13 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010