“Pass me the can, lad; there’s an end of May.” A.E. Housman, in a different key, has the right words for a nation celebrating the exit of Theresa May. The impossible dream has come to pass, and the worst Prime Minister in living memory—the competition is stiff, including Edward Heath and John Major—has at last been dislodged from Downing Street. It took a demolition team of Tories to get their message across to the beleaguered leader. I was reminded of the opening scene in Waterloo, when a delegation of Marshals tells Napoleon that he has to abdicate. “France will follow me to the stars!” he cried, pointing upwards to enlighten his audience on the approximate position of the stars. Theresa May, in her farewell address outside Downing Street, entertained us with a melange of her greatest hits, all of which were statements of aspiration. She choked at the end, as was fitting. Now comes the reckoning.
The demolition squad had three great charges to set upon her record.
- She has failed abysmally to leave the European Union on Match 29th, as she had many times promised. There is no deal with the EU in sight.
- Because Britain is still in the EU it has been obliged to hold elections, which took place on May 23rd, for the EU Parliament. The full score will not be known until Monday, but it is clear that the Conservative Party, which gave May everything, has been shattered.
- The EU winner is Nigel Farage, who with his Brexit Party has totally eclipsed the Tories as the repository of the small “c” conservative vote. He has established a bridgehead on the mainland of British politics, and will use it to great effect. The next Tory leader will have to treat with Farage.
It is quite an indictment. In an earlier Civil war, Strafford was impeached and executed for less.
May stands down as leader of the Conservative Party on June 7th. She remains Prime Minister while the Conservatives conduct their election, which will take a few weeks. May will then hand over to the new leader who will become Prime Minister. It will be a fascinating scene for President Trump to contemplate and engage with in his official visit to Britain on June 3rd.