Theresa May becomes new British Prime Minister
[Breaking news update posted at 1:13 p.m. ET]
Theresa May struck a populist tone in her first remarks as Prime Minister on Wednesday, saying that she planned to continue predecessor David Cameron’s “true legacy” of social justice. She spoke directly to the United Kingdom’s poor, black and white working-class residents, as well as women, the youth and those with mental health issues, saying, “The government I lead will be driven not by the interests of a privileged few, but by yours.”
[Breaking news update posted at 12:53 p.m. ET]
Theresa May is officially the Prime Minister of Britain, according to Buckingham Palace. May met with Queen Elizabeth II, who invited her to form a new government.
[Original story published at 12:35 p.m. ET]
In his final appearance in Parliament as British Prime Minister, David Cameron opened with the quip that “apart from one meeting in the afternoon with the Queen, my diary is remarkably light.”
It was Cameron’s last Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, ahead of giving his resignation to Queen Elizabeth II.
Buckingham Palace announced Wednesday evening that Cameron had officially delivered his resignation to the queen, which she accepted. His successor, Conservative Party leader Theresa May, was headed to the palace to meet with the queen.
Before officially resigning, Cameron delivered remarks outside 10 Downing Street, saying, “It’s not been an easy journey, and of course we’ve not got every decision right, but I do believe that today our country is much stronger.”
He wished May the best, especially as she negotiates the country’s “Brexit” from the European Union. If he were granted one wish, he said, it would be the “continued success of this great country that I love so very much.”
Earlier Wednesday, Cameron appeared to be in a jovial mood as he told members of Parliament: “I have addressed 5,500 questions from this dispatch box — I’ll leave it to others to decide how many I’ve answered.”
He also held up a photo of himself with Larry the Downing Street cat, saying he loved the “chief mouser” and was sad to be leaving him behind.
On a more serious note, Cameron said he cared passionately about the UK, adding that “we need to make sure as we leave the EU, how we keep the benefits of the common travel area.”
Gesturing across the room and up to his wife, Samantha, watching from the gallery, he said: “I will miss the roar of the crowd, I will miss the barbs from the opposition, but I will be willing you on.
“Nothing is really impossible if you put your mind to it. After all, as I once said, I was the future once.”
How did we get here?
Cameron announced his resignation last month, following the UK’s shock referendum result to leave the EU.
He will be replaced by May, the outgoing home secretary who became Conservative leader on Monday after her sole contender for the job — Andrea Leadsom — dropped out of the race.
May will be Britain’s second female prime minister after Margaret Thatcher, who held office from 1979 to 1990.
The last few weeks have been dramatic ones in British politics, with Brexit setting off a domino effect of politicians falling by the wayside — Cameron resigned, allies stabbed likely successor Boris Johnson “in the back,” and leadership contender Leadsom threw in the towel amid controversial motherhood comments.
May faces a daunting job as prime minister, facing pressure from the EU to start Brexit negotiations, salvage a plummeting economy and unite a divided nation.
How does the handover work?
Cameron was expected to recommend to the queen that May be invited to form a government. During this brief changeover period, Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood will run the UK.
May was headed to Buckingham Palace to make the job title official.
The Prime Minister will then arrive at her new home at 10 Downing Street — freshly vacated by Cameron.
What lies ahead for May?
May will need to form a Cabinet — speculated to include many female ministers and a designated Brexit minister.
She is also expected to meet Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in the coming days, with Sturgeon telling a press conference Wednesday that Brexit “does not apply to Scotland, as Scotland voted differently in the referendum.”
Scotland bucked the national trend for the referendum, with 62% voting to remain.
Along with overseeing EU negotiations, May will need to unite a nation deeply divided over the referendum where 52% voted to leave and 48% to remain.
Not to mention a Conservative Party whose infighting over Europe prompted Cameron to call a referendum in the first place — much to his spectacular downfall.