Former Prime Minister Theresa May says whoever succeeds Boris Johnson needs to “unite the country and unite the party” and be honest with the public about the challenges of the cost-of-living crisis.
Mrs May was asked if she would be prepared to act as a caretaker Prime Minister, but said: “I don’t think there’s going to be a caretaker Prime Minister in the sense of somebody else coming into that role.”
The ex-Tory leader was making a speech in London as Boris Johnson announced his resignation in Downing Street.
After her lecture, she asked what she would want to see in a new Prime Minister and said: “I would want see somebody who wants to concentrate on healing division, who wants to unite the country and unite the party.
“This is so important going forward.
“I am concerned when I look at some other countries and the polarisation of politics in the United States, for example.
“I think that we need to ensure that we avoid going down that very polarised route of politics and society.”
Mrs May said: “The key task of somebody coming in as Prime Minister is going to be dealing with the current situation with the cost-of-living crisis.
“There are some difficult messages for people there.
“I think it’s important that somebody comes in who is willing to be honest with people about what the issues are and what the potential solutions are, and how we might get to there and the difficulties there will be on the way.”
Mrs May was answering questions after delivering the James Brokenshire lecture on “public service and restoring faith in politics” at the Institute of Government (IfG).
She did not mention Mr Johnson directly in her speech but jokingly congratulated the IfG on the timing of the lecture, given its subject matter, stressing it was the text she would have delivered even without the events of the past few days.
She remembered the Conservative secretary of state Mr Brokenshire, who died last year, and said: “He exemplified decency, honesty and integrity – values that I believe are essential in public life if we are to have faith in our politics.
“As was remarked at his memorial service, James came into politics to serve and not to be served.”
Mrs May said: “Our politics and parliament would be more likely to be trusted by the public if there were more politicians who clearly showed they shared James’s values.”
She said: “We ought to be placing at least as much, if not more emphasis on improving honesty and integrity in public life as we do in other areas of public policy.
“Those of us engaged in politics must grasp just how significantly the electorate feel their expectations are not being met.”