It has been a whirlwind 24 months for the now former British Prime Minister, Theresa May who has juggled with negotiations, resignations and division in her time in public office. With 11 candidates to take the top job in the leadership elections, the contest to be Britain’s next Prime Minister remains wide open.
We take a look at the high points and low points of Theresa May’s tumultuous reign at the forefront of UK politics.
Theresa Arrived at the Start Line All Guns Blazing
Prior to 2016, May could do no wrong. After Boris Johnson announced he would not stand, May overpowered Andrea Leadsom and Michael Gove to record an impressive victory in the Tory leadership contest. Having spent six years as the home secretary during David Cameron’s reign, May was trusted, and indeed widely supported. Though she did offer her thoughts on Britain staying in the EU, she was not a particularly outspoken Remainer, which served to strengthen her pitch.
A Passionate Plea to the People
May arrived at 10 Downing Street to make the most important speech of her career, and she seemed unshaken. Driven on by the momentum of her success, she announced her intention to make a “country that works for everyone“. In a speech that seemed to resonate with the people, May made light work of her early engagements. Her PMQ debut even saw her take a dig at Labour candidate, Jeremy Corbyn, earning her comparisons with Margaret Thatcher.
May’s dedication to sticking by ‘the decision of the people‘ was evidenced when she triggered Article 50 on 29 March 2017. It is perhaps that resilience and determination to deliver Brexit that has seen her emerge with credit from many involved in politics.
The 2017 General Elections
Arguably May’s biggest mistake came at the beginning of her journey as Prime Minister. Calling a general election in 2017 was meant to strengthen her leadership position, and help her to lead the country towards an amicable and positive exit from the European Union. Unfortunately for May, it went the other way, as the Conservatives failed to win a majority, and had to settle for a coalition with the DUP.
An Unforgiving Brexit
May soon came under the sort of criticism that only political figures seem to be able to generate. The media branded her ‘rigid’ and ‘robotic’, and early optimism was replaced by a series of setbacks.
It was the infamous speech at the 2017 party conference where she was handed a fake P45 by comedian Lee Nelson that really cemented May’s downfall. Everything seemed to go wrong for May that day and her credentials as the country’s leader fell into doubt.
From Dancing Queen to a Historic Defeat
A year later, she restored some of the faith of her party, as she made a light-hearted poke at herself, entering the stage to ABBA‘s Dancing Queen.
It didn’t last too long, however, and her leadership looked in further doubt as key cogs in the Brexit machine began handing in their resignations. The deal with the DUP caused further problems as the backstop became a major talking point. Though she was backed by the Cabinet initially, MPs began to revolt, and losing the support of Dominic Raab, Boris Johnson, Stanley Johnson and Esther McVey, in particular, was a massive loss.
By the end of 2018 May suffered the biggest defeat in political history when her Brexit deal was outvoted 432 to 202. She tried tirelessly to pass her deal, assuring MPs and the public that is was the best deal available. Many MPs didn’t buy it and public unrest grew once more, leaving May dealing with unrepairable internal party conflicts. She announced her resignation on 24 May 2019 in an impassioned speech, saying it had been “the honour of my life” to serve “the country that I love“. May officially resigned as Prime Minister on 7 June 2019.
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