Theresa May’s final statement in Downing Street before she left for Buckingham Palace was very dignified and generous to her successor. She offered her ‘warm congratulations’ to Boris Johnson and wished him ‘every good fortune in the months and years ahead’. As with her performance at Prime Minister’s Questions, May was keen to emphasise her commitment to continuing in public service, saying:
‘I am about to leave Downing Street but I am proud to continue as the Member of Parliament for Maidenhead. I will continue to do all I can to serve the national interest.’
It was not an emotional statement, nor was it one in which May really sought to justify herself, either by arguing that she had tried her best to get MPs to sign up to a Brexit deal, or by listing her achievements in office in the hope that someone might remember them. Instead, it was focused on thanking those she had worked with and the voters ‘for putting your faith in me and giving me the chance to serve’, and striking an optimistic note about the potential for the next Tory administration under Boris Johnson to enjoy ‘many successes’.
As an illustration of the political scene that she has found herself mired in, May’s statement was interrupted by a protester bellowing ‘STOP BREXIT!’ from the gates to Downing Street. It came just as the outgoing Prime Minister was thanking her husband Philip for being ‘my greatest supporter and my closest companion’. Mr May joked that ‘that wasn’t me’, and the statement continued. But May departs knowing that the culture in Westminster right now is one of chaos and a lack of trust between factions. It’s now Boris Johnson’s job to try top deal with that.