Theresa May had a mission to fight Britain’s “burning injustices” through strong and stable leadership — but her legacy as Prime Minister will be anything but.
The Conservative premier’s turbulent time in office was swamped and ultimately sunk by her legacy-defining battle to secure a Brexit divorce deal.
It eroded her authority and led her to step down as leader, with the keys to Downing Street set to be handed to Boris Johnson.
Ms. May won praise for her determination and ability to survive a rolling three-year political crisis since the referendum vote to leave the EU.
But her approach to the Brexit endgame, refusing to accept MPs’ trenchant opposition to her deal before belatedly opening ultimately futile negotiations with Opposition Labour, left Ms. May politically adrift.
In a forlorn bid in March to appease the most ardent euroscec MPs in her party, Ms. May, 62, offered to resign if they finally approved her deal. But several dozens rebelled anyway, consigning it to a third defeat in Parliament and leaving her premiership mortally weakened.
She was forced by her party to agree to set out a timetable for her departure, but asked for time to give lawmakers a fourth chance to vote on the agreement in early June. However, her own MPs’ patience ran out and she was forced in May to name the date of her departure, triggering the fevered leadership race to replace her.
“She has failed,” said Simon Usherwood, from the University of Surrey’s politics department. “There’s very little to commend her. “She doesn’t really have a legacy”.
Ms. May’s last major act as leader was to welcome U.S. President Donald Trump on a state visit to Britain, but symbolic of their fractious relationship, the two still had time for one last falling out. The President tweeted that Ms. May had made “a mess” of Brexit.
She became Prime Minister in the aftermath of the 2016 Brexit referendum which swept away her predecessor David Cameron. She took office pledging to fight the “burning injustices” in British society, but made little headway as her entire premiership became dominated by the Brexit drama.
Columnist Matthew Parris — a former Conservative MP — called her the “zombie Prime Minister” for her ability to stagger on despite multiple attacks.
She survived a no-confidence vote and the resignations of a string of high-profile Brexit supporters. But ultimately her closed style of leadership and Brexit gridlock in Parliament doomed her premiership.