She was handed the most difficult of tasks and she pursued it for almost three years, but tonight Theresa May has finally declared that time is up on her leadership, and on her personal pursuit of achieving Brexit.
May will step down as leader of the Conservative Party on the 7th June, and with that as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
“I believed it was right to persevere even when the odds against success seemed far, 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 said outside number 10 Downing Street.
“It is and will always remain a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit.”
She said the process can shortly begin on her party selecting a leader, and she will continue to serve as PM until a successor is chosen.
“It is in the best interests of the country for a new prime minister to lead”
UK Prime Minister Theresa May announces she will resign on Friday 7 June
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) May 24, 2019
May took on the leadership following the 2016 Brexit vote, after former Prime Minister David Cameron stepped down in response to the surprise result.
May had voted to ‘remain’ but, as she said in her very first speech as leader, “Brexit is Brexit”. She believed she would make it happen.
After almost three years of intense negotiations and following a 2017 election in which she unsuccessfully tried to secure a stronger mandate to lead, May has finally conceded that Brexit will not be achieved under her leadership.
Ever since taking the top job, May has been considered a key example of the ‘Glass Cliff’ theory: the idea that women ascend to leadership positions when the risk of failure is high.
Now it seems she’s finally fallen off the cliff — although not without a fight.
As we wrote earlier this year, her ability to hang on after suffering humiliating defeats has been remarkable. She has continually refused to back down from her position, even as the chances of success became increasingly slim.
Was it it resilience? Self-belief? Sheer determination to complete what she started?
Political commentators have labelled it everything from absolute tenacity, to possessing a “type of fortitude that borders on the superhuman” with a “capacity for thankless slog”. They’ve said it’s her “bloody-mindedness” and, even (yes, really), the fact she “doesn’t have children” or a social life.
It wasn’t enough. So if May couldn’t do it, who can?