On Friday, May 24, 2019, Prime Minister Theresa May announced that she would stand down as Conservative leader immediately and as Prime Minister once the Conservatives have elected a new leader.

The tension at No. 10 must have been palpable that morning, as the email with the text of her speech had no attachment. ITV’s Robert Peston tweeted:

Nonetheless:

The Guardian, among other media outlets, has the full text of her speech (emphases mine below):

Ever since I first stepped through the door behind me as Prime Minister, I have striven to make the United Kingdom a country that works not just for a privileged few, but for everyone. And to honour the result of the EU referendum. Back in 2016, we gave the British people a choice. Against all predictions, the British people voted to leave the European Union.

I feel as certain today as I did three years ago that in a democracy, if you give people a choice you have a duty to implement what they decide. I have done my best to do that. I negotiated the terms of our exit and a new relationship with our closest neighbours that protects jobs, our security and our Union. I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back that deal. Sadly, I have not been able to do so.

I tried three times. I believe it was right to persevere, even when the odds against success seemed high. But it is now clear to me that it is in the best interests of the country for a new Prime Minister to lead that effort.

So I am today announcing that I will resign as leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party on Friday 7 June so that a successor can be chosen. I have agreed with the Party Chairman and with the Chairman of the 1922 Committee that the process for electing a new leader should begin in the following week. I have kept Her Majesty the Queen fully informed of my intentions, and I will continue to serve as her Prime Minister until the process has concluded.

It is, and will always remain, a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit. It will be for my successor to seek a way forward that honours the result of the referendum. To succeed, he or she will have to find consensus in Parliament where I have not. Such a consensus can only be reached if those on all sides of the debate are willing to compromise.

For many years the great humanitarian Sir Nicholas Winton – who saved the lives of hundreds of children by arranging their evacuation from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia through the Kindertransport – was my constituent in Maidenhead. At another time of political controversy, a few years before his death, he took me to one side at a local event and gave me a piece of advice. He said, ‘Never forget that compromise is not a dirty word. Life depends on compromise.’ He was right.

As we strive to find the compromises we need in our politics – whether to deliver Brexit, or to restore devolved government in Northern Ireland – we must remember what brought us here. Because the referendum was not just a call to leave the EU but for profound change in our country. A call to make the United Kingdom a country that truly works for everyone. I am proud of the progress we have made over the last three years.

We have completed the work that David Cameron and George Osborne started: the deficit is almost eliminated, our national debt is falling and we are bringing an end to austerity. My focus has been on ensuring that the good jobs of the future will be created in communities across the whole country, not just in London and the South East, through our Modern Industrial Strategy.

We have helped more people than ever enjoy the security of a job. We are building more homes and helping first-time buyers onto the housing ladder – so young people can enjoy the opportunities their parents did. And we are protecting the environment, eliminating plastic waste, tackling climate change and improving air quality. This is what a decent, moderate and patriotic Conservative Government, on the common ground of British politics, can achieve – even as we tackle the biggest peacetime challenge any government has faced.

I know that the Conservative Party can renew itself in the years ahead. That we can deliver Brexit and serve the British people with policies inspired by our values. Security; freedom; opportunity. Those values have guided me throughout my career.

But the unique privilege of this office is to use this platform to give a voice to the voiceless, to fight the burning injustices that still scar our society. That is why I put proper funding for mental health at the heart of our NHS long-term plan. It is why I am ending the postcode lottery for survivors of domestic abuse. It is why the Race Disparity Audit and gender pay reporting are shining a light on inequality, so it has nowhere to hide. And that is why I set up the independent public inquiry into the tragedy at Grenfell Tower – to search for the truth, so nothing like it can ever happen again, and so the people who lost their lives that night are never forgotten.

Because this country is a Union. Not just a family of four nations. But a union of people – all of us. Whatever our background, the colour of our skin, or who we love. We stand together. And together we have a great future.

Our politics may be under strain, but there is so much that is good about this country. So much to be proud of. So much to be optimistic about. I will shortly leave the job that it has been the honour of my life to hold – the second female Prime Minister but certainly not the last. I do so with no ill-will, but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love.

When she got to the last five words of her announcement, she choked up and abruptly turned around before re-entering No. 10:

Here is her statement in full (start at 1:28, sorry for the closeup of Peston):

Brexit defeated Theresa May:

The Sun‘s political editor observed:

Peston called it correctly:

This is important to remember over the next several weeks:

The new Prime Minister should be in place by the time Parliament begins its summer recess. The 1922 Committee is comprised of Conservative MPs and will oversee this process:

Then again … please note:

The Guardian has more (emphases in the original, those in purple mine):

Conservative party chairman Brandon Lewis and the vice-chairs of the 1922 Committee, Cheryl Gillan and Charles Walker, have issued a joint statement setting out the process for selecting a successor to Theresa May.

First they thank her for her service to the party as an activist, councillor, MP, a member of the shadow cabinet, party chairman, home secretary and, finally, prime minister.

“She embodies the finest qualities of public service and, with this decision, has once again demonstrated her strong sense of duty and devotion to the national interest,” they say.

They set out the following –

    • The timetable to select a new leader has been decided by the executive of the 1922 committee after consultation with the party board, which includes representatives of the voluntary, parliamentary and professional party.
    • Nominations will close in the week commencing 10 June, before “successive rounds of voting will take place until a final choice of candidates to put to a vote of all party members is determined”.
    • “We expect that process to be concluded by the end of June, allowing for a series of hustings around the UK for members to meet and question the candidates, then cast their votes in time for the result to be announced before Parliament rises for the summer,” they say.

So we should have a new prime minister by mid-July.

They conclude:

We are deeply conscious that the Conservatives are not just selecting the person best placed to become the new leader of our party, but also the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. That is a solemn responsibility, particularly at such an important time for our nation. We will therefore propose that the leadership election and hustings involve opportunities for non-members and people who may not yet vote Conservative to meet the candidates and put their questions to them too.

Peston points out that Graham Brady did not sign the 1922 Committee’s letter, even though he is its chairman. It is possible that Brady wants to throw his hat into the ring as a contender:

I assume the reason the chairman of 1922 committee of Tory MPs Graham Brady hasn’t signed letter setting out timetable for new leader and PM to be in place by 20 July is that he may well be a candidate to replace .

Soon afterwards:

By mid-afternoon:

Jeremy Hunt was the first to formally declare his own candidacy:

I doubt either of these men has a chance. The Conservatives must choose someone who can defeat Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, therefore, I predict Boris Johnson will be the next leader and PM.

May’s predecessor tweeted his appreciation of her service. It did not go down well. One person remembered that he stood down as party leader the morning the referendum results were in — around 9:30 a.m. on Friday, June 24, 2016:

He gave an empathetic interview to the BBC later in the afternoon:

Let us spare a moment to recall Cameron’s jaunty ‘doo-doo-doo-doo-Right!’ tune after he resigned:

Brexit is powerful, although, despite this tweet, not insurmountable:

I hope the new Spanish government’s concerns turn out to be accurate (emphases mine):

The Spanish government has described May’s decision to resign as “bad news”, warning that it significantly raised the prospect of a hard Brexit, reports the Guardian’s Madrid correspondent Sam Jones.

A hard Brexit in these circumstance seems an almost unstoppable reality,” the government’s spokewoman, Isabel Celaá, said at a press conference on Friday afternoon.

Celaá said the announcement would disappoint all those “who want an orderly UK exit from the European Union”. But she said that Spain had contingency measures in place and would do everything possible to “guarantee the best situation” for Spanish citizens and businesses in the UK.

A No Deal Brexit does not mean a disorderly exit from the EU. Plans have been in place for months to implement No Deal processes, as drawn up by civil servants in Whitehall. No Deal was ready for implementation well in advance of Friday, March 29, 2019.

Outside of Brexit, I believe Theresa May was a good prime minister.

As far as Brexit went, however, her downfall started when she presented her deal at Chequers in July 2018. The principal members of her Brexit team at the time resigned. It is rumoured that her ‘deal’ — a treaty — was developed in Berlin by one of her advisers. I have read at least one article about it, but would like to see another source before writing more.

Whoever the next Conservative leader is, I hope he or she is a committed Leaver and will toss the whole of May’s deal into the long grass of history, where it belongs.

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