Earlier this morning, Theresa May announced that she will resign as Prime Minister on the 7th of June.
And I really don’t know how to feel about it.
Her speech has been widely praised for being both magnanimous and defiant to the last, which it was. There were a few aspects to it that felt a touch disingenuous, such as saying that, “We have helped more people than ever secure a job,” when food banks and homelessness are more prevalent than ever.
But, right up until the last couple of sentences, it was a good speech – strong and stable, as it were. She even warned her successor that “Compromise is not a dirty word,” trying to protect them from the inevitable shit-storm when everyone realises that having a new leader will change diddly-squat.
Then, at the very end, a crack in the facade – as she told us how grateful she was to “serve the country she loves,” her voice wobbled, and the tears welled. She quickly about-turned and retreated into the safety of No. 10.
You Sound Sympathetic…
Because I am.
Look, I have laid into Theresa May as much as the next pundit over the last few months (and years). Her handling of Brexit has been nothing short of catastrophic, beginning with the one of the worst election campaigns in living memory back in 2017, which lost her the Conservative majority.
She then pretended that her government was far stronger than it was. She forgot about the fact that Brexit has always been a case of 52% vs 48%, rather than anything unanimous. There were always going to be rebels, there was always going to a furious debate over it, and there was always going to be a need for compromise.
She refused to search for it until it was far too late.
But I don’t think any Prime Minister could have negotiated a better Withdrawal Agreement with the EU. She was sitting at the negotiating table holding UNO cards while everyone else was playing high-stakes poker.
Trying to ram it through Parliament three times was desperate, but it was the only real way to achieve a negotiated Brexit – she has always been clear that she believes firmly in upholding the referendum result, she recognised the lack of majority for a no-deal Brexit, and she made plain the fact that the Withdrawal Agreement could not be renegotiated with the EU (which they decided, not her).
And, in the end, it was the right thing to do to try to find a compromise. Anyone who says otherwise simply doesn’t understand how government works. You cannot pass something through Parliament without a majority, and not everyone is going to agree with what you propose. The arithmetic demanded that she find support from those across the House because some in her own party, like the ERG, flatly refused to recognise this simple truth and continuously betrayed her. She really did try her best to find it.
And, more than anything else, I think that she is a tempered, honourable woman who courageously took up the mantle of Prime Minister because no-one else would. She was the one who offered to try to fix the Brexit mess when the leadership bids of Johnson and Gove collapsed, and she fought off the frankly offensive campaign from Andrea Leadsom, who famously said she’d be a better Prime Minister because she had children and May didn’t.
Anyone who thinks that she doesn’t love the United Kingdom or didn’t try her best is wrong – she tried her utmost to serve her country in impossible circumstances. You can see, plain and simple, the toll it has taken on her, yet she has fought until the last.
So yes, I think that I am sympathetic on the whole. She has made some fatal errors, and I strongly disagree with much of her politics aside from Brexit, but she is an honourable woman who has given her all to do what she thinks is right.
So I, for one, will say this: “Cheers Tezza. You did your best.”
“Also, in about three months time, we’re really going to miss you.”
What?! We’ll Miss Her?!
Oh dear sweet reader. If you think that this the beginning of a bright new dawn then you are sorely mistaken.
What comes next is going to be horrific.
First up, the leadership contest. As I mentioned, the last one was chock-full of bitching, in-fighting, betrayals and smears. Since then, the Conservative Party has absolutely unravelled into Mad Max levels of anarchy.
So this leadership contest will be twice as brutal.
Boris Johnson is the leading candidate according to polls of the 125,000 Conservative Party Members, who will eventually choose the new leader of the party. But first, the party itself chooses who will be the final two candidates, which is going to lead to a few grubby weeks of candidates trying to rally support with backhanded deals.
Then, the candidates will have to go head-to-head. It will be bitter, it will be bitchy, and we will likely end up with a Brexiteer leader, who will probably win with a swashbuckling promise to go to Brussels and get a better deal.
And then promptly be told that it can’t happen, as May was, and as the EU has openly said, multiple times. They have always said that the Withdrawal Bill is the final offer, and will not be reopened.
Additionally, no-deal will continue to be voted down by Parliament, and it would be seen amongst the Tories as a huge betrayal if a second referendum is mooted.
There is nowhere to go.
Whoever comes in next will quickly come to realise that they are also a lame-duck Prime Minister. Brexit will not be resolved by the deadline of October 31st, and this mess will continue.
This is not a bright new start. May, for all her ills, was starting to handle Brexit in the name of concession and compromise, which is what is needed to make it happen. Now, I fear, we are back to square one.
So goodbye Theresa. We’ll miss you.
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