By Mike Jarvis
Her voice cracking in an uncharacteristic display of emotion, British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday announced her resignation bringing to an end her turbulent Brexit-laden three years in office.
With the pain of defeat etched on her face, despite the stoicism of her departure speech, Mrs May announced that she will resign as leader of the Conservative Party on June 7th.
She will, however, stay on as Prime Minister until such time that her successor is chosen.
It’s clearly a case of Mrs May jumping before she was pushed as she was looking down the barrels of an ultimatum from the powerful 1922 committee of backbenchers for failing to deliver Brexit or some acceptable form of it.
The process to replace her as Conservative Party prime minister will begin the week after she gives up the party’s leadership.
It’s worth pointing out what Mrs May has, in fact, resigned from.
While leader of the Conservative Party is almost inextricably linked to the office of Prime Minister, Mrs May will stay on in the role for however long it takes her party to decide on a leader.
It’s not quite clear how long that would take, nor what decision-making powers Mrs May will continue to hold and wield in the interim.
There are several important ceremonial events coming up over which she will officiate.
The main one is the visit of the President of the United States, Donald Trump and the D-Day commemoration.
The timing of what is essentially the first steps of her own exit coincidentally, or perhaps strategically, allows her to be in office in full, rather than some semblance of a caretaker capacity, to meet the US president on his upcoming state visit to the UK.
But even that could be tricky as Mr Trump, not known for his diplomatic skills, could very well slip into an ‘I-told-you-so’ mode.
He has been a constant critic of Mrs May over her handling of Brexit, which has been her undoing.
The US leader has been an ardent supporter of Mrs May’s arch Brexit rival, Nigel Farage, whose newly formed Brexit Party was expected to trounce both the Conservatives and Labour parties in last week’s European parliament elections.
Mrs May also has other pre-arranged prime-ministerial engagements coming up, including Brexit-related meetings with the EU and meetings in Japan.
THE BREXIT EFFECT
The days leading up to her resignation announcement must have been nerve-racking for the outgoing Prime Minister.
Her practised outward persona - or facade - of being steely, tenacious and determined, seemed to be fraying by Wednesday evening when British media caught her in a vulnerable moment.
A published paparazzi photo (no doubt of high value by now) shows what appeared to be a teary-eyed Mrs May in the back of her official car.
Behind the steely facade, her critics say is a leader at the ends of her political career, doggedly trying and repeatedly failing to orchestrate her legacy.
By Thursday, the European parliamentary election day in the UK - that shouldn’t have been as the UK should have already left the EU - new writings had appeared on the wall. In fact, a series of them.
It was reported that Mrs May was, despite advice against it, going to make a fourth attempt to seek UK parliamentary approval for the deal she has struck with the EU.
She had already brought to the parliament three times before only to have it rejected all three times, one of those by the largest margin said to be in British parliamentary history for a sitting prime minister.
In addition to her attempt to coax or even ram it through parliament, her efforts to seek a politically unorthodox accommodation with the opposition Labour Party, and even take her deal on a glad-handing tour of the UK to directly win over British hearts and minds to it, have all been futile.
By late Thursday came another change that Mrs May had shelved plans for a fourth attempt at getting parliamentary approval for her deal.
By Friday morning, the 37 resignations from her government over Brexit had risen to 38.
It had been hinted that she would make an announcement on Friday morning.
When that announcement came mid-morning Friday, her determined defence of her achievements in office was only overshadowed by the failures she omitted.
Mrs May chose only to admit that she was unable to get parliamentary support for her Brexit deal.
At the end though, the impenetrable wall of stoicism she had built around herself cracked.
Betrayed by her voice and the pain of defeat etched on her face, Mrs May's tough exterior was on the verge of dissolving into tears before a global audience.
It was a touching moment. She stepped back from the podium and took the first steps away from power as she strode back into her office, defeated by Brexit.
The Conservative Party has been in near disarray and much of that blame is placed squarely on the shoulders of Mrs May.
The Labour Party is not doing much better either.
It’s leader Jeremy Corbyn is battling growing doubts about his leadership.
That makes the outcome of the EU parliamentary elections unusually important this time as a gauge of the state of British politics.
It could be an indicator of how the choice will go when the Conservatives set about selecting a replacement for Mrs May.
That person is now expected to be in place by July before parliament goes on summer recess.
One thing is clear, however; internal divisions over Europe have claimed the career of another Conservative Party prime minister.
The key question now becomes what will a new Prime Minister do?
What options would he or she have?
Outgoing Prime Minister May had at one time declared “no deal is better than a bad deal” but had to ditch that mantra under pressure from inside and outside her party, in the face of demands for a better deal.
But “no deal is better than Mrs May’s deal” is known to be an option favoured by at least three of the known contenders for her job.
Whoever wins the leadership vote - whenever that is held - will have until October to try for a better deal than Mrs May’s which will mean attempting to reopen divorce talks with the EU.
If that fails, to borrow from the Atlantic hurricane season limerick it will be ‘October all over and ‘no deal’ will automatically kick in… unless her successor goes for that option earlier.
Until then, anyone of Mrs May’s alternating slogans will still be available to recycle - more in deed and not just mere words:
“Strong and stable leadership”
“Brexit means Brexit”
“No deal is better than a bad deal”
The COVID 19 vaccines have arrived. Will you take the Vaccine?