Andrea Leadsom quits Tory race… and top ally blames dirty tricks
Watch: Leadsom made her bombshell announcement surrounded by ashen-faced supporters.
As she pulled out of the Tory leadership race, Andrea Leadsom acknowledged that she did not have "sufficient support" among Tory MPs.
The right wing Tory MP did not elaborate on why that might have been. But she did not need to.
Over the weekend, the energy minister managed to alienate scores of Tory MPs by crassly suggesting that being a mother made her better placed than Theresa May to become prime minister.
Alan Duncan said the comments were "vile", while Sam Gyimah called them "wrong and insulting".
Anna Soubry said: "She should do us all a favour including herself and step aside."
At midday on Monday, Soubry got her wish as Leadsom did just that.
She said: "For me personally to have won the support of 84 of my colleagues last Thursday was a great expression of confidence for which I am incredibly grateful. Nevertheless this is less than 25% of the parliamentary party and after careful consideration I do not believe this is sufficient support to win a strong and stable government should I win the leadership election
"I have however concluded that the interests of our country are best served by the immediate appointment of a strong and well-supported Prime Minister – I am therefore withdrawing from the leadership election and I wish Theresa May the very greatest of success. I assure her of my full support."
Leadsom’s announcement is a hammer blow to the right of the Tory party which wanted to wind the clock back on David Cameron’s modernisation programme.
So it was no surprise that one of her top supporters, Tim Loughton, was rather unhappy.
In a statement released soon after Leadsom’s announcement, the angry MP turned on his colleagues and on journalists who had responded to Leadsom's comments about motherhood:
He said: "Throughout our short campaign we have made it clear that we should be relentlessly focused on the positive case for electing Andrea as leader without the need to undermine the qualities of her opponents.
"Despite an onslaught of often very personal attacks from colleagues and journalists we have never deviated from that goal.
"Colleagues who have chosen to further their own ends by putting smear above respect will no doubt account for their motivations but it is genuinely puzzling to understand who they think they are helping. It is certainly not our party or our constituents."