Theresa May faced a tough job right from the start of her time as Prime Minister, after David Cameron’s resignation in the summer of 2016. Current PM Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom were just a few of the names in contention to succeed him.
May faced many daunting moments during her premiership; including trying to negotiate a withdrawal deal for the UK with the European Union, as well as suffering a disastrous general election result in 2017.
Let’s take a look at the former Prime Minister’s key moments that arguably led to her resignation.
2017 snap election
Theresa May called a snap election in 2017 to try and increase her Conservative majority from the 331 seats they had in the 2015 election. However, she lost that majority which took the Tories down to 317 seats. This meant that she had to strike a deal with Northern Ireland’s DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) to retain power at Number 10.
It was plausible that May could have resigned there and then after that result. Instead, she carried on admirably and served the country for two more years before her position became untenable a couple of months ago. Her resilience and perseverance have never been under question, but she might have benefited from resigning earlier in the year.
UK terror attacks
The United Kingdom suffered a number of terror attacks during May’s time as Prime Minister. The Westminster attack was the first to take place in March 2017 before a string of incidents in Manchester, London Bridge and Finsbury Park all took place between May and June of the same year.
May had seemingly lost control of the UK, with hostile and vile ideologies decimating London and Manchester. Even though there haven’t been any other major attacks since then, Theresa May will be known as the PM who was in charge during a pretty volatile period in British history.
Grenfell Tower disaster
Disaster struck in mid-June of 2017, when a horrendous fire at a tower block in London broke out in the early hours of the morning. Seventy-two people died that night, with hundreds of others being made homeless as a result of the tragedy.
May was criticised for her unsatisfactory response to the blaze, which resulted in her giving a formal apology in the House of Commons for not reacting quickly and doing enough to reduce the long-term effects. This hesitancy of action contributed to many residents remaining homeless for some time after the fire.
The Brexit plan which was agreed by the cabinet at Chequers in July 2018 was another humiliation for Theresa May. Shortly after this agreement was made, Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson both resigned. It meant that not only had the opposition parties lost confidence in May, but members of her own cabinet weren’t convinced either.
This was arguably the start of the end of May’s tenure as PM, even before Parliament rejected her Brexit deals numerous times. The fact that two of the most prominent Brexiteer MPs in the Vote Leave campaign resigned, was a kick in the teeth for May who needed the support of both Remainers and Brexiteers for her deal.
May faced not one, but two confidence-related votes between late 2018 and early 2019. Her first vote of confidence was triggered by nearly 50 Tory MPs who had lost confidence in her Brexit policy. Although she managed to survive that vote, the 37 per cent of Conservative MPs who voted against her, undoubtedly further weakened her credibility to lead the country.
Shortly after the New Year, she faced a no-confidence vote in the Houses of Commons which she only survived narrowly, by 325 votes to 306. Even though a large number of Tory MPs voted against May in the late 2018 vote, they decided to vote for the Government to prevent a general election from taking place, which might have been detrimental for the Conservative Party.
Brexit vote defeats
Theresa May had three meaningful votes to try and get a deal through the House of Commons. However, she failed to do so on each occasion. In the first vote, she suffered a huge parliamentary defeat by a margin of 230. Despite reducing the margin of defeat down to 58 by the third vote, May accepted the result and resigned on the 24th of May — before a fourth vote could take place.
People will probably judge her time in office more fairly as the years go on. She tried her best and faced a number of formidable obstacles during her time in Number 10; including having to appease staunch Remainers and hard Brexiteers on both sides of the EU debate. She tried, and that’s all we can expect from anyone, really.