Theresa May is stepping down, what’s next for Britain?

By Louis Shankar

Published May 28, 2019 at 10:16 AM

Reading time: 2 minutes

Theresa May announced on Friday morning (24 May) that she will step down on 7 June, ending her tenure as Prime Minister in under three years. As she completed her prepared speech, her voice cracked, clearly, she was feeling emotional. Compare this to David Cameron’s resignation, he was cheerful, he had served for 6 years and won two general elections, he was running away from the chaos that would consume May’s governments. As he reentered 10 Downing Street after his resignation speech, you might recall, he hummed a tune, whereas Theresa May was in tears.

“Feel no pity for Theresa May. She has been the worst Prime Minister in modern times,” wrote Owen Jones in the Guardian, as a video of him explaining his indignation went viral on Twitter.

May’s premiership saw the disaster at Grenfell Tower, where she was criticised for her lack of empathy in the aftermath, and the Windrush scandal, attributed by many to the “hostile environment policy” she implemented as Home Secretary, although Amber Rudd was the one who took the fall.

Mrs May called a snap general election in order to secure a greater mandate for delivering Brexit. This was a thoroughly ill-conceived and downright disastrous decision: despite gaining 5.5 percent more of the electorate, the Tories lost 13 seats. In the past twenty-two years, the Conservative party has only had an outright majority in Parliament for two years—a majority that May lost, instead relying on support from the DUP to pass policy.

Perhaps she knew something else that we didn’t when she stepped down on Friday, a day after votes were cast across the U.K. in the EU elections but a full two days before any results would be announced. It was the worst election for the Conservatives in over 150 years, according to BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg. “If this was a first-past-the-post election, they would not have taken a single seat,” she said. Overall, in terms of vote share in England and Wales, the Tories came fifth, trailing Labour by five percent and the Green Party—who have one MP—by three points.

In January, May suffered the biggest parliamentary defeat suffered by any Prime Minister in the modern era. Brexit was delayed twice: as many Brexiteers will tell you, we should have left the EU by now, but we’ll remain until at least October now.

All of this falls on Theresa May’s shoulders. But was it her fault? I’m in two minds about this. Brexit is, always has been and will remain a Gordian Knot—unsolvable, if done properly. Potential successors for Prime Minister—I’m thinking here of Mr Johnson in particular—seem intent on approaching the knot as Alexander the Great did: with a sword, regardless of damage or consequences. But it was Mrs May’s personal red lines that have backed her, and the rest of us, into a corner. It was May who promised us a ‘red, white and blue’ Brexit, that Brexit means Brexit, and very little else.

Will anyone else be able to do a better job? What has become clear is that this can only be solved if the Tories relinquish some of the control over the situation, yet they are incapable of doing so, and would rather prioritise the party over the country. May will likely be blamed in the future for much of this mess.

But, with her gone, Brexit will no doubt be similarly impassable. Will a Brexiteer manage to somehow magically solve everything? Will May’s secret plan to stop the U.K. leaving the EU be revealed? Or will a career politician send their country into chaos for the chance to, however briefly, run Her Majesty’s Government?

What’s next for May? A tell-all memoir, no doubt, and a walking holiday upon England’s mountains green. She has served her party and her country for 22 years, and can retreat from the public eye, if she so wishes, into safety, security, and historical analysis in the decades to come.

What’s next for Britain? Nobody knows, really. We will soon have a Prime Minister who nobody elected trying to rush through a policy that people are becoming less certain about. One thing is clear, the public deserves a vote. Either a general election or a referendum on the current Brexit situation: it’s our turn now.

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