Another dramatic turn of events in politics today.

Mrs Leadsom was said by friends to have spent the last couple of days in a state of emotional turmoil after she suggested in an interview that she would make a better prime minister than Mrs May because she was a mother.

The shock move leaves Home Secretary Theresa May as the only candidate – potentially clearing the way for her to be named Tory leader and PM as early as today.

She said: “The best interests of our country inspired me to stand for our leadership. I believe in leaving the EU a bright future awaits. The referendum result represented a clear desire for change. A nine-week leadership campaign at such a critical point for our country is highly undesirable.

“The interests of our country are best served from the immediate appointment of a Prime Minister with strong leadership… I wish Theresa May the very best.”

Mrs Leadsom’s statement came less than an hour after Mrs May launched her national campaign with a speech in Birmingham.

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