- - Friday, May 24, 2019


On May 24, Theresa May finally stood outside of 10 Downing Street and resigned as prime minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, well sort of.

Unlike her predecessor David Cameron who was gone the same day, she will stay on for two more weeks, until June 7. Then the process of electing a new leader of the Conservative Party will begin, which comes with the added bonus of being prime minister too.

Whoever that will be is probably grateful that Mrs. May will be at the helm of the sinking ship, “Conservative fortunes,” for a while longer. Indeed, this extra fortnight may actually be a form of punishment for her.

On Monday morning she will have to deal with the Conservatives’ near certain wipe-out in EU elections after results are announced on Sunday evening. Then she has two more difficult events to deal with.

First is the state visit of President Trump from June 3-5. Worse than dealing with any disturbances from left-wing protestors and politicians, will be the thought that maybe she should have taken the advice he gave her during her visit to the White House in 2017 on how to get a good Brexit deal. Will he be able to resist saying, “I told you so”?

Then there is a by-election in Peterborough on June 6. This could see the Tories take another beating and the Brexit Party win its first seat in the House of Commons.

Of course, it is human nature to sympathize with someone making a tearful exit, especially from such a high-profile position. But Mrs. May has been the architect of her own demise and her tenure has been a series of wrong choices.

However, the biggest error of all was the decision by the Conservative party to give the job of implementing the historic Brexit referendum result to a “Remainer.”

It was already clear to many of the public by 2017 that something was wrong with her exit plans. So, when she called a general election to strengthen her negotiating hand, it backfired spectacularly. She reduced the slender lead that the Conservatives held under David Cameron, down to below the level needed to form a majority government.

Rather than resign, she offered her party a strangely defiant mea culpa, “I got us into this mess, I’ll get us out of it”. May was never going to go easily and so they just let her lead them further into the mire.

For the Conservatives to survive in power, Mrs. May entered into a ‘confidence and supply’ relationship with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) from Northern Ireland, which gave her ten more MPs and a majority to govern.

That deal included £1 billion in extra funding to the province, but those MPs still voted against her EU withdrawal deal once it became clear that it risked separating Ulster from the rest of the U.K. They had too much integrity for that.

The very making of that EU deal was hugely controversial too. By appointing “Leaver” MP, David Davis, as her Brexit secretary to negotiate with the EU she seemed to be confirming her pledge to deliver the result of the referendum, but this was for the cameras.

In July 2018, she invited her ministers to Chequers, the PM’s official country residence, to reveal her latest proposals. They were shocked to discover that Mrs. May had been working covertly with a team of civil servants to produce a deal that would keep Britain tied to the EU. Days later, Mr. Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson resigned.

Since then, a record total of 35 cabinet ministers and aids have quit in protest over her withdrawal plans. The deal itself has been rejected three times by Parliament and the first time was by the biggest margin ever with 230 votes against.

One benefit of staying on for two more weeks is that she gets to leave Gordon Brown with the dubious honour of being in office for the shortest amount of time this century — though she had to survive a no-confidence vote to do so.

The legacy of her stubborn premiership is that, three years after the referendum, Brexit still hasn’t happened. The prolonging of that act has certainly increased and entrenched the divisions in British society.

It has also pitted parliament against the people. By delaying the democratic verdict of the referendum, she has damaged the democratic reputation of the House of Commons as the mother of parliaments.

Britain has also lost three years where it could have been establishing new markets and would by now have dealt with the immediate consequences of leaving. That’s three years of unnecessary and very expensive business uncertainty. Then add the defenestration of Britain’s oldest political party.

Yes, all that really is worth a few tears. Especially if another “Remainer” is given her job.

Andrew Davies is a U.K.-based video producer and scriptwriter.

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