With an unwanted EU election and a fracturing Conservative party forming the backdrop, the stage was set for Theresa May to address the nation one last time.
June really is the end of May
Theresa May announced her resignation in a speech addressing the nation today. In a somewhat fitting end to her premiership, Downing Street sent out an email to journalists titled "PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY STATEMENT" but forgot to include the statement. The podium was placed outside the doors of number 10, the crest was on and the cameras rolled. May announced that she would resign on Friday 7 June, setting out that the process for electing a new Conservative party leader will take place the following week. She will stay on as caretaker prime minister until a successor has been found.
Her speech focused on her regret at failing to get a deal passed on Brexit, however she was defiant and stressed that "compromise is not a dirty word" and that this would be needed to ensure that a deal could be reached in the future. She spoke about her record in office, moving across increased mental health funding, support for the survivors of Grenfell and record employment figures. She finished by saying that she was the "second female prime minister, but certainly not the last." Her voice then cracked, as she expressed that it had been the honour of her life to have the opportunity to serve the country she loves.
This was always an inevitability ever since she lost her majority at the 2017 general election. A recent catalogue of errors, including an ill-judged speech, record numbers of ministerial resignations and the Conservative party plummeting in the polls finally gave Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 Committee the ammunition he needed to force May's hand.
Brexit has now claimed its second prime ministerial victim (the first being David Cameron), and you would not rule out this being the last.
A speech too far
On Tuesday the PM gave a speech at PricewaterhouseCoopers in London, setting out her amended Withdrawal Amendment Bill. The speech, and consequently the deal, included a number of concessions to the Labour party in a bid to woo its MPs. It instead had the opposite effect, uniting the majority of the Commons against her. The worst reaction was from her own MPs, with many who had previously voted for her deal deserting her. Former cabinet minister David Mellor said that he had "never been more embarrassed and humiliated" to be a member of the Conservative party.
Chief among this criticism was May's acceptance of a vote on a second referendum in parliament. While she plainly said that she would vote against it, the damage was already done and Conservative MPs swiftly denounced the deal. By the last count it appeared that she would have been on course for a defeat by a margin of 149.
Resignation for the nation
The 36th Conservative minister to step down under May's leadership was Andrea Leadsom, leader of the House of Commons, handing in her letter of resignation on Wednesday and in true Leadsom style, she signed it in what appeared to be a blue gel pen. This was a clear rebuke of the ten concessions set out by May on Tuesday in her speech, and there was particular anger on a central pledge to offer MPs a vote on holding a second Brexit referendum.
The resignation was a sure sign that Leadsom intends to stand in the leadership race, however she is likely to be joining an extremely packed field. Expect this one to get messy.
EU gotta be joking!
The European elections took place on Thursday, although there will be a brief hiatus with results not announced until Sunday evening. The big winners will be the Brexit party, sitting at 35% in Ipsos MORI's latest poll. This would see the party claiming the most seats in all regions of England and Wales, bar London. The Liberal Democrats have also made inroads in recent weeks, establishing themselves as the largest Remain supporting party with 20% of the vote according to Ipsos. These successes will be at the expense of the two main parties, with the Conservatives and Labour looking set to finish 5th and 3rd respectively.
These elections have been framed as an unofficial EU referendum, however if the results go as expected, they will provide no further clarity on the direction the public wish to take.
The resignation of the PM may signal a new chapter in the Brexit saga, but this story is by no means over, and the country can expect a tumultuous summer as a new prime minister is found and a potential general election looms over the horizon. Meanwhile, the deadline for leaving the EU on the 31 October moves ever closer. Reflecting on where the country currently stands, some words come to mind from Donald Tusk in April. "Please don't waste this time".