The inevitable finally happened – Theresa May announced her resignation as UK prime minister this morning in a statement outside 10 Downing Street. An emotional May said that while she had "done [her] best" to implement the 2016 EU referendum result, "it is and will always remain a matter of deep regret for me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit".
It was therefore, she added, "in the best interests of the country" if she stands down on 7th June, making way for a new PM. She will remain in her post until the end of a Conservative leadership contest for the job.
"I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back that deal. Sadly I have not been able to do so," she admitted. "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."
She tried her best to inject a smidgen of optimism into the current farce that is British politics – "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" – and even shed a tear at the end.
Ok I have mixed emotions about #TheresaMay stepping down now. On a human level, after watching her cry during her speech, I feel for you. You had the hardest job in the country and you tried your best. We now need to fix ourselves and move on. Thank you for your service! #Brexit pic.twitter.com/UX4DAqdBaf— L O U I S A R M S T R O N G (@vidadelouisss) May 24, 2019
While it's hard to deny that she tried her best and has been hounded out of an impossible job, there are several things worth remembering before you start feeling too sorry for Theresa May.
May had one main task and she couldn't deliver
We've said it already but it bears repeating. Brexit was always going to define May's prime ministership – even if she couldn't bring herself to utter the word in her first speech as PM – and as we know all too well, it ended up being the one that defeated her. Her deal failed to receive parliamentary approval three times, the first vote being the worst parliamentary defeat of any British prime minister.
She failed to live up to her earliest promise
In her first speech as PM, May promised to "tackle the “burning injustice” of social stagnation in the UK – that is, to reduce social inequality, but a damning report last month concluded that inequality is “now entrenched from birth to work”, with social mobility now stagnant “at virtually all life stages”. The UN has accused the government of causing a “social calamity” with its unnecessary “austerity experiment”, citing the country's increased poverty rate, record levels of hunger, homelessness, and decreased life expectancy for some.
She leaves UK more divided and unequal but when a dedicated public servant leaves, look at achievements not just failings. Esp when they are a woman in what’s still a man’s world. So I acknowledge PM brought in imp new laws on equ pay, human trafficking & dv.— Harriet Harman (@HarrietHarman) May 24, 2019
Her shockingly misguided decision to call a general election
It was the last thing anyone wanted a year after the EU referendum, and when May called a general election in 2017 her party performed worse than any of her supporters feared, leaving her without a parliamentary majority and reliant on support from the socially conservative DUP. We now know how much more difficult it was for her to gain support for her Brexit deal as a result.
Her response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy
Who could forget her offensively sub-par response to the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017, in which 72 people died? She didn't meet survivors and residents in the immediate aftermath, a shocking move for a sitting PM that was widely interpreted as a lack of empathy. Stormzy called her out at the Brits for her response. May later admitted her mistake, saying she'd "always regret" not meeting survivors.
May spearheaded the government's hostile environment policy, which has made life unbearable for many migrants in the UK and contributed to the national shame that was the Windrush scandal. People have been indefinitely held in detention centres and deported on secret flights. May's now infamous "citizens of nowhere" speech in 2016, in which she asserted that "if you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere," was widely condemned as "evil" and ignoring of people with multiple nationalities, or identities, including immigrants to Britain.
Finally, her departure paves the way for something even worse...
We touched on May's original promise to "fight against the burning injustice" of social inequality, but the current frontrunners in the race to succeed her are the epitome of entrenched class privilege. Boris Johnson, for one, who has already declared his candidacy, along with Andrea Leadsom (awkwardly, they both described May's speech as "very dignified" on Twitter), Dominic Raab, and Esther McVey. Many others including Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid, Amber Rudd and Justine Greening, are also expected to throw their hats in the ring.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn welcomed May's statement and called for an immediate general election. "She has now accepted what the country has known for months: she cannot govern, and nor can her divided and disintegrating party," he said. "The burning injustices she promised to tackle three years ago are even starker today." At this point, it seems anything could happen.