Stephen Crabb drops out of Conservative leadership race

Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb has dropped out of the race for Tory leader, after a fourth-place finish in the first round of voting.

Five candidates, Theresa May, Michael Gove, Andrea Leadsom and Dr Liam Fox, had put themselves forward for the vacancy, after the Prime Minister announced his resignation in wake of the EU referendum.

In the first round of voting among the party’s MPs today, Dr Fox was eliminated from the contest with just 16 votes, as the Tories whittle down the field.

Theresa May led on 165 votes, with Andrea Leadsom on 66. Michael Gove amassed 48, while Stephen Crabb garnered 34 votes.

Mr Crabb has now dropped out rather than face the next round of voting on Thursday.

The leadership hopeful voted against same-sex marriage legislation for England and Wales in 2013 and also opposed LGBT anti–discrimination protections in 2007.

During the campaign, Mr Crabb has faced questions about his ties to the Christian Action Research and Education (CARE), an anti-LGBT evangelical organisation which advocates ‘gay cure’ therapy.

Mr Crabb entered politics as an intern for CARE, and his office has also taken interns from the group – though he has disavowed any ‘gay cure’ links.

Speaking to PinkNews ahead of the first ballot on Tuesday, Mr Crabb had addressed his record on LGBT issues.

The Tory MP told PinkNews that he had been wrong to oppose marriage equality and equal rights for LGBT people, adding that he does not believe homosexuality is sinful or can be cured.

Asked if he would back protections for a homophobic B&B owner who had turned a gay couple away on religious grounds, he said: “I’m somebody who does take very seriously this issue of protection of religious freedoms. I think we do need to strike a balance of rights in society, but that is one issue where I was wrong.

“I think that anybody who is looking to offer a good or service in the marketplace there should be no grounds for discrimination whatsoever.”

He added that he believed a religious person who refuses to serve someone who identifies as LGBT should be prosecuted “if they persistently show that they have no respect for equality”.

Dropping out, Mr Crabb gave his “wholehearted support” to Theresa May – describing her as “the only one candidate in a position to unite our party and lead a strong and cohesive government”.