She tried her best to hold it together. But in the end it was all too much. Officially, the Prime Minister resigned yesterday morning at 10.05am.
But those watching her announcement will have realised that it was actually an eviction that had been set in motion many weeks ago.
To many on her own side, she had already long outstayed her welcome. For Theresa May, it was never meant to turn out this way.
In her mind, she wanted to be the person who would unite her party, free Britain from the shackles of Brussels and lead us all into a sparkling future.
Theresa May tried her best to hold it together. But in the end it was all too much. Officially, the Prime Minister resigned Friday morning at 10.05am. Those watching her announcement will have realised that it was actually an eviction that had been set in motion many weeks ago
As her ultra-loyal husband Philip watched nearby, he must have thought back to that July day in 2016 when she stood on the same spot at the start of her premiership. Then, it was a much more euphoric and optimistic day as she spoke about helping families who were ‘just about managing’.
So many ideas and plans she had. All that focus. A lifelong ambition fulfilled.
Yesterday, though, it all ended in tears.
Despite the trauma of that awful confidence vote which could have toppled her in December, all those Commons humiliations and those ultimately pointless trips to Brussels, she has been almost maniacal in her refusal to budge.
Yesterday, it was left to the little-known head of the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs, former London PR man Sir Graham Brady, to go through that world-famous black door with a clear instruction for Mrs May: It was time to go.
Until the tearful finale, 62-year-old Mrs May’s resignation speech had been a mirror image of her term in office. Rigid. Reticent. Unremarkable.
She had allowed herself some rare words of reflection. Suddenly, the realisation kicked in: Her premiership and all those best laid plans had foundered.
‘I will shortly leave the job that it has been the honour of my life to hold…’
To many on her own side, she had already long outstayed her welcome. For Theresa May, it was never meant to turn out this way
Once those words emerged from her mouth, the voice began to judder. She strained her larynx like a rickety fiddle – but the tap had been turned.
‘The second female prime minister. But certainly not the last. I do so with no ill-will, but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I lo-..’
And with that, she temporarily broke down. For those of us standing in front of her, it was an extraordinary – albeit brief – moment.
Since taking the top job, Mrs May has ceded pretty much everything – her privacy, her dignity. But until now, those closely-guarded emotions were never up for negotiation.
Her glacial manner, her obtuseness, her sheer pig-headedness have exasperated many.
But watching as that bottom lip broke out into an uncontrollable convulsion, well, it would have needed a heart of pure granite not to have felt for her.
The setting had been picture-perfect for a more joyful occasion. The No 10 letterbox glistened in the morning sun. Up above, a helicopter with a TV crew hovered, making the air gently quake.
Outside, the Press pack loitered patiently. It was an orderly scene. Respectful. British.
The setting had been picture-perfect for a more joyful occasion. The No 10 letterbox glistened in the morning sun. Up above, a helicopter with a TV crew hovered, making the air gently quake
Just before 10am, Philip May emerged down the street, followed by the PM’s closest aides, Robbie Gibb and Gavin Barwell. Andrew Bowie, her loyal Parliamentary bag-carrier, lagged behind, emotional and forlorn.
Larry the cat, a natural showman, stubbornly lingered on the pavement, waiting for his moment in the limelight. Eventually, a plod scooped him up and carried him away. Spoilsport.
No sooner had Larry left the stage than the door swung open and the Prime Minister strode out purposefully. Click, click, click went her heels. Click, click, click went the cameras.
‘Ever since I first stepped through the door behind me as Prime Minister, I have striven to make the United Kingdom a country that works not just for a privileged few, but for everyone,’ she began. How tiny she suddenly looked up against the lectern. How vulnerable.
In the background, curtains twitched as Downing Street staff bustled for a glimpse of history.
She spoke of her work in putting mental health on to the political agenda and in fighting inequality.
After the past few months here in Westminster, I have witnessed a level of opprobrium towards this decent, though often maddening, woman which has been disturbing at times and, for the most part, undeserved
She referenced one her constituents, Sir Nicholas Winton, who saved the lives of hundreds of children by arranging their evacuation from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia and who advised her: ‘Never forget that compromise is not a dirty word. Life depends on compromise.’
Some in the PM’s own party will say her final doomed offer of a potential second referendum was just a compromise too far.
Were there more tears last night? If so, who can blame her?
After the past few months here in Westminster, I have witnessed a level of opprobrium towards this decent, though often maddening, woman which has been disturbing at times and, for the most part, undeserved.
But the fact remains that on October 31, the United Kingdom is committed to leaving the European Union and the task of steering this journey has repeatedly proved to be beyond Mrs May’s capabilities. We need a pilot not a passenger.
Ah, Downing Street. Setting of so many hopes, so many shattered dreams.