Britain's Daily Mail newspaper on Friday backed Theresa May's bid to become the next prime minister, saying she was the only one out of five candidates for the Conservative Party leadership who was up to the job.
After last week's vote to leave the European Union plunged Britain into its biggest political crisis of modern times, Prime Minister David Cameron said he would resign, prompting a leadership battle in the party.
"The Mail believes only Mrs May has the right qualities, the stature and experience to unite both her party and the country — and possibly usher in a new, cleaner, more honest kind of politics," the anti-EU newspaper said in a comment piece.
"She is a serious-minded woman, with an ethic of public service and an enormous capacity for hard work and attention to detail," said the newspaper which has a daily circulation of 1.5 million, the second-biggest in Britain after The Sun tabloid.
"In this respect, and in her steeliness, she is somewhat reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher," it said.
The other candidates are Michael Gove, Liam Fox, Stephen Crabb and Andrea Leadsom.
Gove, the justice secretary, dramatically shifted expectations of the contest on Thursday when he put his name forward despite expectations that he would back Brexit campaign ally and then-favorite Boris Johnson.
Under the front page headline "Brexecuted", The Sun said Johnson, who after Gove's shock move announced he would not run, had gone from "Brexit hero to zero in a week." In an editorial, the newspaper praised both May and Gove.
May "would make a formidable PM," The Sun said, adding that Gove's "performance in the top job could yet win skeptics round."
The list of five candidates will be whittled down to two in several votes by Conservative lawmakers, with the winner then being selected from the final pair by party members.
The first test comes on July 5 when the candidate with the least support in that vote will be eliminated, and the winner will be announced on September 9.