Former London Mayor Boris Johnson, who had been considered one of the favorites to replace David Cameron as Prime Minister said on Thursday he would not be standing.
“Let us seize this chance and make this our moment to stand tall in the world. That is the agenda for the next prime minister of this country,” Johnson told reporters.
Johnson’s support for the campaign to leave the EU was widely considered one of the decisive factors in the campaign. Johnson’s unexpected departure from the race, announced just minutes before the party unveiled the list of candidates, shows the speed with which the political landscape is being reshaped.
“I must tell you, my friends, you who have waited faithfully for the punchline of this speech, that having consulted colleagues and in view of the circumstances in Parliament, I have concluded that person cannot be me,” Johnson said to audible gasps at a news conference.
Justice Secretary Michael Gove, another of the main figures in the Leave campaign who had previously said he would back Johnson, had earlier announced he would stand to be leader of the Conservative Party, saying he did not think Johnson could provide leadership.
Johnson’s decision means Gove and Home Secretary Theresa May are front-runners in the race.
They and others will compete to succeed Prime Minister David Cameron, who announced he would resign last week after Britons voted to leave the European Union.
Cameron’s replacement will face tough talks with the EU to mend a broken relationship – balancing a desire to reduce immigration to Britain while trying to secure the economy by maintaining access to European markets.