IT is over. Theresa May has finally announced the day that she will resign as Tory leader, with a new Prime Minister in place before the end of July.
Despite her best efforts, May leaves behind no legacy.
8 Next Prime Minister needs to know what they want to get out of the EU and how they plan to get it
She’ll be remembered as the Prime Minister who, more than anything else, failed to deliver Brexit.
But the Tory party must learn from her failures.
If it does not, then Jeremy Corbyn will be in Number 10 soon enough.
May’s premiership was crippled by the 2017 General Election. Her loss of the Tory majority robbed her of her authority, boxed her in on Brexit and discredited her domestic policy agenda.
The failure of that campaign carries an important lesson for the Tories — they need a happy warrior.
May looked deeply uncomfortable on the campaign trail, with the result that the more the public saw of her, the less they liked.
This Tory need for a good campaigner is heightened by the fact that their next leader will have to fight on two fronts, against both Jeremy Corbyn and Nigel Farage.
The UK wasted valuable negotiating time and ceded the initiative to the EU in the talks
On Brexit, May’s biggest problem was not knowing what she wanted. She triggered Article 50, the two-year process for leaving the EU that we had to request a humiliating delay to, without a clear idea of the kind of relationship she wanted — and how to get it.
This meant that the UK wasted valuable negotiating time and ceded the initiative to the EU in the talks.
The Tories need a leader with a plan. Whoever succeeds May will have to know what they want to get out of the EU and how they plan to get it. Given Brussels’ intransigence in these talks, they are also going to need Plans B, C and D.
One of May’s other failings was that she didn’t understand one of the key purposes of preparations for No Deal.
It wasn’t because you actually wanted — or thought you would end up with — No Deal. It was meant to secure a better deal.
What next after Theresa May quits?THERESA May’s resignation today kickstarts the Tory leadership election.
The Prime Minister will formally stand down as party leader on June 7 – but will stay in place while the new PM is being chosen, rather than handing over to an interim chief such as David Lidington.
The leadership contest, overseen by party chairman Brandon Lewis, will take around six weeks.
Any Tory MP can enter the race, and the list of contenders is then whittled down by the parliamentary party.
MPs vote in multiple rounds, eliminating one candidate each time until just two are left.
The party’s 120,000 activists then choose behind the final shortlist of two, with the winner declared leader and Prime Minister.
When Mrs May became leader, she didn’t have to submit to a vote of members because Andrea Leadsom pulled out of the race.
So the last time activists have had a say on the leadership was 2005, when David Cameron defeated David Davis.
Theresa May confirms she is standing down as leader of the Conservative Party on Friday 7th June
EXCUSE TO SOFT PEDAL
If the UK had been more visibly prepared to walk away, then the EU would have been more constructive in the negotiations.
The new Prime Minister must spend the summer examining the state of our no-deal preparations.
Absurdly, the Brexit delay has not been used as a chance to improve the UK’s no-deal planning but rather as an excuse to soft pedal. That must change.
May’s other great failure has been failing to build a team or create a sense of collective endeavour.
Both the disastrous 2017 manifesto and her Brexit plan were executed with far too little Cabinet involvement.
She sent civil servants to do the very political job of negotiating. The result was a deal that was, unsurprisingly, politically tone deaf.
May’s successor must appoint a Cabinet of all the Tory talents — and let them do their jobs.
And we need a Brexit Secretary who actually negotiates with Brussels.
The Tories have no perfect candidate for No 10. No one fully fulfils all of these requirements.
But a Prime Minister who could deliver Brexit would give the Tories a fighting chance.
8 Theresa May’s husband Philip watched her overcome with emotion on the steps of Downing StreetCredit: AFP or licensors
8 Theresa May broke down as she announced her resignationCredit: AP:Associated Press
SELECTION NO SHOO-IN FOR BORIS
THE way to think about the Tory leadership contest is that it is like a tournament with two sides of the draw, with each side sending one candidate into the final membership round.
One side of the draw is for full-on Brexiteers.
8 Boris’s advantages over Raab is that he has more reach into the rest of the partyCredit: Darren Fletcher – The Sun
Here Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Andrea Leadsom, Steve Baker and Esther McVey will duke it out.
The other side of the draw features the Cabinet candidates: Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid, Michael Gove, Matt Hancock and Rory Stewart.
Whoever comes out of the Brexit side of the draw will go into the final round as the strong favourite, given how Tory members just want the UK to get out of the EU.
I understand that Boris Johnson has edged ahead of Dominic Raab on this side of the contest.
But he will, in the words of one key MP, need to be “materially ahead” of Raab on the first round.
Why? Because Raab is more likely to pick up support as more hardline Brexiteer candidates such asSteve Baker drop out of the race.
Raab’s pitch will be that the Conservative Party is toast if it cannot deliver Brexit – and that he is the man to do that.
He will argue that other candidates might be better known than him, but Boris’s celebrity won’t save the Tories if they cannot get Brexit done.
But one of Boris’s advantages over Raab is that he has more reach into the rest of the party.
His campaign is beginning to pick up support from former Remainer ministers, who see the former London Mayor as the Tories’ best chance of seeing off the twin threats of Corbyn and Farage.
At the same time, some on the left of the party have decided that stopping Raab – who they see as a down-the-line right-winger – is now their priority, rather than blocking Boris.
WHY HUNT MAY NOT BE ON THE JOB
ON the Cabinet side of the contest, the question is whether Michael Gove can overhaul Jeremy Hunt.
The Foreign Secretary currently has more MPs backing him than anyone else in the Cabinet.
8 Remainer Jemery Hunt will find it very difficult to beat Boris or RaabCredit: 2019 Steve Back
But his campaign has had a bumpy few weeks, and some of his supporters are beginning to peel away.
This, perhaps, explains why Hunt felt the need to confirm that he was standing just hours after Theresa May announced her resignation yesterday.
Part of Hunt’s problem with MPs is that it is very hard to see him beating Boris Johnson or Dominic Raab when it comes to the party members.
Their experience with Theresa May has made the membership very wary of former Remainers.
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AND FOR MY NEXT TRICK…OSBO’S REVENGE
GEORGE Osborne has finally had his revenge on Theresa May.
He sent a text to a slew of Cabinet leadership hopefuls saying that a big prize awaited the minister who went and told May that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill had to be pulled.
8 George Osborne has sent a text to several MPs telling to tell May to pull her dealCredit: Rex Features
Several recipients of this text were amused when Sajid Javid, who was one of Osborne’s junior ministers at the Treasury, then went to demand that May shelve the second referendum part of the bill.
Parliament needs to freshen up
SOME members of the 2015 parliamentary intake are considering running for the leadership.
They should hold their horses – the new leader will need more than four years of parliamentary experience.
But whoever becomes the new PM needs to freshen up the Cabinet, to bring in this new talent.
After nine years in government, there are too many administrators in Cabinet and not enough doers.
It needs an injection of energy and fresh ideas.
James Forsyth is political editor of The Spectator.
Jeremy Hunt pays tribute to outgoing PM May and says that he will announce his candidacy for Tory leadership ‘at the appropriate time’