LONDON, June 30 (UPI) -- The decision by presumed front-runner Boris Johnson not to seek the British prime minister's position Thursday expanded the field of candidates in the wake of David Cameron's departure.
Johnson, a member of Parliament and former mayor of London, announced his intention Thursday not to replace Cameron as Conservative Party leader and head of government. A leading exponent of the British exit from the European Union, which was approved last week in a referendum, Johnson was regarded as the leading candidate to replace Cameron, who announced his resignation, effective in October, after the vote.
With Johnson's departure, Justice Minister Michael Grove announced he would join the race Thursday, after weeks of denying his interest in the position. In a statement, Grove said he had hoped to work with Johnson in support of the Conservative majority in Parliament, but added "I have come, reluctantly, to the conclusion that Boris cannot provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead. I have, therefore, decided to put my name forward for the leadership."
Grove was also a leader in the "leave" campaign.
The leadership contest for the Conservative Party now has two front-runners, Grove and Home Secretary Theresa May, who also announced her interest in the position Thursday. May supported remaining in the EU, and has been home secretary in Cameron's Cabinet as Britain experienced a steady rise in migration from other EU countries, referred to as free movement and a major issue in the referendum. May promised to get Britain its best possible deal with the EU as it leaves the economic bloc, including access to the EU's single market, but EU leaders have said such access will come only with free movement.
Other Conservative Party members who have announced their interest in the leadership position include Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb and Parliament members Andrea Leadsom and Liam Fox. Potential candidates have until Thursday to declare their candidacy; two finalists will be selected next week, and a vote of party members will decide the contest. The winner is expected to be announced by Sept. 9.