It has become commonplace for prime ministers to resign after an election but – typically of Theresa May – she has done so after the wrong one.
Mrs May wasn’t even standing in yesterday’s European Parliament elections. There is a certain amount of satisfaction to be gained from the fact that she is leaving after a poll that she never intended to allow.
In typical Tory manner, she has not been removed by public choice, but has instead been backstabbed by her own party – the so-called ‘Men in Grey Suits’, it seems; Mrs May made her announcement after a meeting with 1922 committee chairman Sir Graham Brady, who most likely told her to jump before she is pushed.
She made a speech on the Downing Street steps in which she said she’ll cease to be Tory leader on June 7, but will remain as prime minister until a new leader is elected by the usual cabal of Tories.
And she tried to claim that her government had accomplished things: tackling the deficit (but not the national debt, which has spiralled upwards steeply), reducing unemployment (by including people who work for just a single hour every fortnight in her figures – and productivity has fallen), and providing more funds for mental health (without actually improving the mental health of the nation).
But she said: “It is and will always remain a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit.”
And she had advice for her successor: “Never forget that compromise is not a dirty word. Life depends on compromise.” But this was doubly hypocritical. She was quoting Nicholas Winton, the man who organised the Czech Kindertransport that managed to deliver hundreds of mostly Jewish children out of Nazi Europe before World War Two, but she hasn’t delivered anybody from danger. And of course it is a mark of her own character that Mrs May herself has been unable to compromise on anything – she was, in the end, terminally stubborn.
As I type this, the BBC news is full of toffs in expensive suits doing their best to praise Mrs May.
But The Guardian has, significantly, run an article on the public reaction, headlined Good riddance.
One commenter described her thus: “Author of the hostile environment. Wrongly deported UK citizens to Jamaica. Several of whom were then murdered. Wrongly deported foreign nationals who had not failed English exams. Prevented EU citizens from voting in the EU elections. Sent Go Home vans around minority neighbourhoods. Told that ridiculous lie about the immigrant’s cat. What was that she was saying about ‘burning injustices’? Good riddance.”
Another, referring to her speech, stated: “Those tears at the end … she had none for Windrush.”
A third rightly raised her appalling record of failing to care for UK citizens: “Is anyone keeping score of the deaths and suicides of benefit claimants under her Government, the deaths of deportees under her Government, the wrongful denial of rights to remain, work and study in the UK under her Government, the deaths in custody under her Government, the abuse of care home residents under her Government and anything else that most right minded people would class as burning injustice?
“Don’t let her failure to deliver Brexit overshadow her many other failures.”
One person who certainly won’t allow that to happen is Jeremy Corbyn, who has now seen off two Tory prime ministers. He said: “She has now accepted what the country has known for months: she cannot govern, and nor can her divided and disintegrating party. The Conservative Party has utterly failed the country over Brexit and is unable to improve people’s lives or deal with their most pressing needs.
“The last thing the country needs is weeks of more Conservative infighting followed by yet another unelected Prime Minister. Whoever becomes the new Conservative Leader must let the people decide our country’s future, through an immediate general election.”
Bring it on.