Tories call for fresh start after May's tearful exit
Tory MPs have called for a "fresh start" in the wake of Theresa May's resignation, saying the next Conservative leader must deliver Brexit for the sake of the party and the country.
Conservatives from across the region paid tribute to Mrs May, who broke down in tears during a resignation speech in which she conceded that her best efforts to deliver Brexit had failed.
She will step down as party leader on June 7 and leave Number 10 in the summer once a new Tory leader has been elected.
South Staffordshire MP Gavin Williamson, who Mrs May sacked as Defence Secretary last month, said the party's focus must immediately shift to electing a successor.
Speaking during a visit to St Bernadette's Catholic Primary School in Wombourne, Mr Williamson, who is backing Boris Johnson for the top job, said: "I have had first hand experience of how hard the Prime Minister has worked for the party and the country, and I think we can all recognise she has done everything she can in order to move things forward with Brexit.
"Now is the moment to choose a new leader. We must make sure we have the best person in place to deliver Brexit, and just as importantly, to set out an agenda of how they want to govern the country.
"This must be taken forward so we can defeat Jeremy Corbyn in the next general election in 2022."
Dudley South MP Mike Wood, said: "On a personal level, I have a lot of sympathy for Theresa May. I hope that looking back people will have a better appreciation of the many strengths and personal qualities she brought to the role, that in other circumstances would have made her a very good Prime Minister.
"It is time for a fresh start. We need a change of leader and Prime Minister so we can get Brexit back on track."
Mr Wood added that he hoped the leadership campaign would be conducted swiftly in order to get a new leader in place as soon as possible.
Aldridge-Brownhills MP Wendy Morton, who has served as an assistant whip under Mrs May, said she had showed "great dignity".
"As Prime Minister no one could have worked harder or with greater sincerity, demonstrating a tremendous sense of duty and passion in the service of our country," she said.
"Theresa has successfully brought an end to the austerity agenda leaving our economy in an even stronger position for her successor to take forward – whoever that may be.
"She demonstrated unprecedented stoicism in the face of terrorist attacks in our country. As a result of her personal commitment to our NHS she leaves it with a longer-term vision, significant funding and a 10-year plan which puts the care of Mental Health patients firmly on the agenda.
"She has never been afraid to shine a light on the difficult subjects which affect so many people and for too long have gone unnoticed such as the need to tackle domestic abuse in our society.
"It has been a privilege to serve under her premiership."
Mrs May's decision means the latest version of her EU withdrawal bill will be scrapped, increasing the possibility of further delays to Brexit.
The revamped deal had sparked a mutiny among MPs, with many who had previously backed it calling for her to stand down.
Stafford MP Jeremy Lefroy, one of the few who had remained loyal to Mrs May, paid tribute to her for "trying to find a solution to Brexit".
He added: "I am personally very sad because I believe she had come up with a sensible, reasonable way of leaving the EU. Unfortunately Parliament decided not to support it.
"The fact is that whoever takes over as leader will be left with exactly the same set of problems, and it is difficult to see how they will be able to change things."
Labour deputy leader and West Bromwich East MP Tom Watson said Mrs May had "an unenviably difficult job, and she did it badly". "She tried to do what was right for our country. But she failed because by the time she realised the need for compromise it was too late," he added.
"History will record she was honourable in her intentions. To those who have plotted her downfall to further their own ambitions, the ideological fanatics who won't stop until they have cut off all our ties with Europe, history will not be so kind."
Labour MP John Spellar, who represents Warley, called on Mrs May to leave office as soon as possible.
“After months of dithering and delaying the inevitable, Britain cannot afford Theresa May clinging on to office for any longer," he said.
“Her announcement was obvious, and should have happened sooner.
“The public and Parliament should be given an immediate say on who the next Prime Minister should be – Theresa May should not be allowed to squat in Downing Street doing nothing for several months.”
Wolverhampton North East Labour MP Emma Reynolds said there should be a general election after the Tories have picked a new leader.
“Theresa May should have sought compromise on Brexit in Parliament from the start," she said.
"She tried to blame MPs for not getting her deal through, but the fact is she did not engage with Labour for a cross-party agreement until it was far too late, and was never willing to compromise.
“However, I believe that she is motivated by public service, something which isn’t true of Boris Johnson.
"After her successor is chosen by a tiny number of the electorate, specifically just members of the Conservative Party, we must have a general election so the public can have their say on who leads our country.”
Business leaders across the region also raised concerns over the timing of Mrs May's resignation.
Dan Turner, from the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, said a Tory leadership race was "the last thing the business community needs" as it would cause "further distraction" from the key issues surrounding Brexit.
"The government’s focus should be wholly on achieving a deal beneficial to our business communities and instead risks further uncertainty as this impasse continues to cast a shadow over the UK economy," he added.