Newspaper headlines: Press anticipate female prime minister

The papers are as one in heralding a female prime minister, as the Conservative leadership race comes down to the final two.

The party's 150,00 members will decide between Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom after Michael Gove was knocked out in a vote among Tory MPs.

The Times reports: "Mrs Leadsom, who has been an MP for six years and began the contest as a rank outsider, secured second place in the vote by MPs yesterday, eliminating Michael Gove from the race he joined by betraying Boris Johnson a week ago.

"Mrs May, the longest-serving home secretary in a century, topped the second-round poll as expected, with 199 out of 330 Conservative MPs, up from 165 in the first ballot on Tuesday.

"The result ensures that Britain's second female prime minster, 26 years after Margaret Thatcher left office, will be another Conservative."

The Times notes that the leaders of three of the UK's four nations will be women - Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland, Arlene Foster in Northern Ireland, and either Mrs May or Mrs Leadsom.

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The Telegraph forecast that the winner will face face one of the most difficult tasks in post-war history - renegotiating the UK's place in the world.

The paper continues: "Because of the scale of support among the Parliamentary party - largely because of her experience of running the Home Office for the past six years - Mrs May is now the front-runner to become the country's first female prime minister since Margaret Thatcher.

"However, unlike Mrs Leadsom, she backed remaining in the European Union in the recent referendum campaign, which may prove unpopular among Tory members.

"The result caps a disastrous campaign for Mr Gove who, having chosen to stand as leader at the last minute, effectively forcing Boris Johnson to pull out of the race, will now not be in the race to become prime minister."

According to the Guardian, Mrs May said she was delighted to have the support of so many of her colleagues and emphasised her experience at the highest level of government.

Mrs Leadsom, it adds, is regarded as a straight-talking right winger, who said she was sceptical about same-sex marriage and would repeal the ban on fox hunting.

The i says Mrs May will campaign on her experience in government - but could face resistance because of her support to remain in the European Union.

Mrs Leadsom, a leading Leave campaigner, may pick up backing from grassroots activists who are thought to have voted two-to-one in favour of leaving the EU, it adds.

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And then there were two

The Times urges the Conservative Party to accelerate the process of choosing a new leader to bring stability in uncertain times.

"Britain is in the midst of economic fragility, political change, currency weakness, diplomatic rupture and questions about the very existence of the United Kingdom," it says.

"These consequences of the vote for Brexit need speedy resolution. A majority of Conservative MPs appear to understand the urgency of the situation. The nation must hope that the party membership does too."

The Guardian says, for both the Conservatives and Labour, the mismatch between modern party rulebooks, which entrust the choice of leader to the mass membership, and the British constitution, which insists on the head of government securing the support of MPs to get things done, is coming into focus like never before.

"And then there were two," it states. "As recently as Tuesday there were five Conservative leadership hopefuls jostling for MPs' support, but by last night the Tory party members, who will now make the final decision on Britain's next prime minister, knew that they faced a straight choice between two women, Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom."

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Media captionDaily Express deputy editor Michael Booker and financial commentator Louise Cooper join the BBC News Channel to review Friday's front pages.

Oliver Duff, editor of the i, says the party faithful have a stark choice between a Leaver and a (soft) Remainer, a rank outsider with momentum and an experienced cabinet minister, an outspoken hoper and a taciturn, sometimes ruthless pragmatist.

"Although early polling of Tory members suggests a clear lead for Theresa May over Ms Leadsom, read nothing into that at this early stage," he writes.

"Neither woman has had a chance to lay out their vision for Britain, and Ms Leadsom is that popular creature in a Tory leadership fight, a Eurosceptic elected five minutes ago, with a potent message for the Brexiteers.

"Have what you want, straight away. Take back control of your party and the government, while bypassing the wider British electorate. Ms May will have to - quite bloodily - attack her rival's substance and inexperience to triumph."

The Sun insists Mrs May must become the country's next prime minister.

"The home secretary is by far the most experienced and most credible of the two final contenders to run the country at this pivotal moment in our history," it says.

"It may seem odd of us to endorse her after our campaign to leave the EU. Mrs May backed Remain, albeit reluctantly.

"But she has promised 'Brexit means Brexit' and we believe she would deliver it. It would be politically suicidal - and dangerous - to betray the 17.4 million people who voted for it.

"Andrea Leadsom did back Brexit. But three days ago we said she would be a huge gamble as PM and we believe that even more strongly today.

"Britain knows nothing about her or her abilities. She is untested at cabinet level."

The Mirror argues they would both lack legitimacy because they "loyally toed the David Cameron line until they fell out over Europe."

Green, green grass of home

The Guardian looks ahead to the homecoming of the Wales football team after their run to the semi-finals of Euro 2012 in France.

"They left with modest expectations: advance to the knock-out stages and perhaps emulate the famous team of 1958 by reaching the quarter-finals of a major tournament," says the Guardian.

"The Welsh football team will fly back into Cardiff today as heroes, having nearly become the first British side for half a century to reach a final.

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"Fans are expected to gather in their thousands at the temporarily renamed Cardiff Bale Airport to catch a glimpse of the players and manager Chris Coleman when they touch down at lunchtime.

"Many thousands are bound to line the streets of the capital to watch an open-top bus parade from Cardiff Castle to Cardiff City Stadium, where a 'homecoming show' will be staged starring acts ranging from the Welsh rock band Manic Street Preachers to the Barry Horns, an 11-piece brass band whose name is a homage to the former Welsh footballer Barry Horne."

The paper says Wales's dreams of silverware were wrecked when they lost to Portugal on Wednesday night but the team won the hearts of a nation.

Game on

Manchester City have signed a new player but he will not be kicking any footballs, reports the Times.

The paper says the club has followed in the footsteps of West Ham United and signed their first e-sports player to compete in the world of gaming.

Kieran Brown, an 18-year-old gamer who has more than 12,000 followers on his YouTube channel, will apparently represent the club at Fifa e-sports tournaments.

The paper explains that gamers sit in rows in front of computers where they play against each other, often watched by thousands of spectators.

"E-sports have become increasingly popular in recent years," says the Times.

"In May, the International Olympic Committee announced it was considering an application to include professional video gaming, or esports, a £400m-a-year industry with more than 130 million fans, in the 2020 Tokyo Games."