'I'm thinking of voting for my cat' - Norfolk MPs react to Theresa May's resignation
PUBLISHED: 13:11 24 May 2019 | UPDATED: 12:39 25 May 2019
Norfolk MP Keith Simpson joked he was "thinking of voting for his cat" as Theresa May's resignation signalled the start of a crowded leadership race within the Conservatives.
Keith Simpson, Conservative MP for Broadland, said: "There was an inevitability about this growing within the last few weeks, I'm very sorry in many respects to see her go. We were both elected together in 1997."
But Mr Simpson said although there will be a new leader and prime minister, it would not change the divisions over Brexit or the challenge faced to pass a Brexit deal.
He said: "I've been through so many of these [leadership races], this one is going to be in the full glare of social media."
On those who had already announced their intention to run Mr Simpson joked: "I'm thinking of voting for my cat."
But he said he had not made his mind up on who to back, and that MPs would have a challenge of narrowing down the candidates to just two to put to members.
He said: "I think there are going to be a number of people who are displaying themselves because they want to be a member of a future cabinet, I'm sure they will be thinking what a challenge they are going to have to face. And they will need to have a vision for the future, and to rebuild the reputation of the Conservative Party. The candidates are going to come in for a lot of questions.
"I hope when they are shaving or doing their make up first thing in the morning they will think 'am I capable of this?'"
Mr Simpson said Mrs May was leaving behind two failures.
"The first that she called an election for which she wanted a bigger majority," he said. "And she said she was determined to see through delivering on Brexit, and she has not been able to do that."
But he said: "On the plus side, I think she drove forward in lots of areas, on the social side, on women's rights, on the whole keeping the economy steady, and shes shown great courage and determination."
He also hit out at some Conservative colleagues who treatment of Mrs May he called "despicable".
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"And I get the feeling that's what a lot of the public think too," he said.
George Freeman, Conservative MP for Mid Norfolk, tweeted that Mrs May had been "principled, proud, passionate, poignant" and said it had been a privilege to serve as chairman of her policy board when she became prime minister in 2016.
In a statement he said: "The prime minister leaves No 10 as she arrived: with an inspiring statement rooted in her deep commitment to public service. But defeated by Brexit, the loss of the majority she blew in 2017 and a deepening division and disillusionment in the country, which a new prime minister now has to try and heal, by delivering a withdrawal from the EU in a way which a majority can accept, with bold domestic reforms to make this a moment of inspiring national renewal."
While Liz Truss, Tory MP for South West Norfolk who has been tipped as wanting the top job, added: "Very dignified statement from the Prime Minister. She has put her all into the job and has shown huge resilience at this difficult time."
Sir Henry Bellingham, MP for North West Norfolk, said a new leader must command respect in Europe and appeal to the youth.
He said: "Delivering Brexit was always going to be a difficult task, but the prime minister tackled it with dignity and honour from the onset. Indeed, over the last three years she has shown great courage and determination and did all she could to bring Brexit to a sensible resolution.
"No one could have worked harder or shown greater commitment to public duty than the prime minister. Throughout her time in public office the prime minister has always acted with dignity and honour in pursuit of what she believes to be in the national interest.
"I greatly respect the prime minister's decision and I think she can take great pride in her many achievements, not only as prime minister but also as this country's longest serving home secretary. What the party must now do is run a very orderly and professional leadership election, so we have a new Conservative prime minister in place by the summer.
"Looking to the future I will personally be looking to someone who can help deliver Brexit by virtue of commanding respect in Europe, and also someone who can unite our party. It is vital this person has a really credible and strong post-Brexit narrative that will appeal to the younger generation."
"I also want someone who will inspire confidence across the country. Although Brexit is a massive challenge I personally take the view we are not that far off securing an agreement - this is why it is essential the new leader is someone who can instantly command respect and trust not just in Brussels but around Europe as a whole. I also take the view that we certainly need to jump a generation."
Richard Bacon, Conservative MP for South Norfolk, said: "Theresa May has done the right thing in announcing her departure from Number 10. She has tried very hard but an endless search for compromise was never a promising strategy and in the end she has run out of road.
"The truth is that we need a prime minister who actually believes in delivering the instruction from the British people to leave the European Union - and in selecting her successor that must be our chief criterion".
Great Yarmouth MP and Tory Party chairman Brandon Lewis tweeted: "We saw a speech this morning by our prime minister that highlighted why, for me, she has shown how driven by duty and service she is. I have been honoured to serve in our government under her premiership."