The long goodbye of Theresa May

End of May: Now there will be a leadership election and a new prime minister. © Getty

She was Britain’s second female prime minister. Some called her difficult. Some called her a ‘Maybot’. Some mocked her refusal to budge. But how will history judge her when she has gone?

She was Britain’s second female prime minister.

She accepted the complaint that she was a “bloody difficult woman”, and was proud of it.

As prime minister, she will have served just under three years — not a long term compared to the 11 years of Margaret Thatcher, the 10 years of Tony Blair or the six years of David Cameron.

She did this despite having type one diabetes during a life of back-to-back demands, meals on-the-hoof and meetings.

She loves cooking and claims to own 100 recipe books. She loves walking holidays in Wales with her husband, Philip. She goes to church on Sundays.

She also likes a dance. And she is famous for her love of shoes. As Home Secretary, she was credited with kickstarting a 60% rise in sales of leopard print shoes.

Last year, an article in The Washington Post described her as the world’s most underrated leader. It argued that she would go down in history as one of the greatest prime ministers and the epitome of true conservatism: prudent and cautious, and finding compromises that most people can live with.

Last year, The Financial Times described her as a “serious leader in an age of pygmies”. She faced challenges, yet she just keeps going. “She is the only grown-up who can guide the country through this traumatic time”.

But, today, the mood has turned against her.

She has lost the trust of her Cabinet, her party, and the electorate. The country is barely being governed at all.

Maybot, maybe?

How will history judge her? A “Maybot”? She often seemed to lack wisdom, wit or warmth, operating mechanically, unaware of the bigger picture.

The kinder view is that she was a shy person, who was often awkward. But she was decent and honest. She was dealt an impossible situation. Nobody could have done much better in the circumstances. We will come to love our bloody difficult ex-prime minister one day.

You Decide

  1. Should we admire the achievement of anyone who manages to become prime minister?

Activities

  1. Watch the video in Expert Links. Write a letter to Theresa May, saying how you feel about it.

Some People Say...

“All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs.”

Enoch Powell, Tory MP (1950-1974)

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
As we go to press, we only know for certain that more than two senior Cabinet ministers have told the BBC’s political editor that Theresa May will announce the timetable of her departure later today. We know that she will not leave immediately. We know that there will be an election for the Conservative leadership.
What do we not know?
There are a number of matters that we don’t know, but we strongly suspect. We believe that the 10th of June is likely to be the start of the official leadership contest for a new PM.

Word Watch

Type one diabetes
A disease that stops the body from properly regulating blood sugar levels, causing symptoms such as tiredness during the day.
Meals on-the-hoof
Eating whilst rushing around doing other things.
Epitome
The perfect example of something.
Cabinet
The decision-making body of the Government, that includes the PM and 21 ministers.
Electorate
The voters.

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