“I will shortly leave the job it has been the honour of my life to hold. The second female Prime Minister, but certainly not the last. I do so with no ill will, but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love.”
Those were the final words of Theresa May in a statement delivered this morning, outside Downing Street. As expected, she has announced her departure date as leader of the Conservative Party will be 7 June. She will remain as a caretaker Prime Minister until the next leader is appointed.
Watching a Prime Minister depart is always brutal. Mrs May’s voice broke at the end and it was clear to everyone how much this whole debacle has cost her personally. It’s easy to criticise and find fault and the history books will record the failures of the Prime Minister in lavish detail. But actually, the first thing we should do as Christians today is to pray for Mrs May and for those closest to her. It’s easy to look at someone with her strength of character, her resilience and determination and imagine that she will be fine. But adjusting to life after holding the highest office in the land will be immensely difficult.
She will also leave office with a crushing sense of personal disappointment. When David Cameron announced he was resigning, she launched her leadership bid by saying that she believed she was the best person to deliver Brexit. From the early days of the Lancaster House Speech, she was clear about what Brexit meant. But soon enough she ran up against a total lack of willingness in the House of Commons to compromise and find a way forward. Unfortunately, her response was to shut out opposition and try and push ahead, hoping the House would eventually move in her direction. It never did. Three votes later, Parliament remains as divided as ever.
It was always going to be difficult to get Brexit done, especially when 75% of MPs voted Remain, not Leave. Mrs May tried, but in the end, it was not enough. She will always be known as the ‘Brexit Prime Minister’ with no real domestic legacy to speak of. She failed to find a compromise and even the half-hearted talks with Labour seemed to be a box-ticking exercise at best. Disagreeing well is hard, but not impossible. Sadly, there has been a Westminster-wide failure to do this over the last few years. Our politics has suffered much as a result.
Perhaps we all expected too much from Mrs May. I think there is a tendency within Christian circles to hold our political leaders to a Messianic-like standard. We demand great things from them. We criticise them immediately if they fail to match up to the standards, we have set them. But the truth is that even the best of people are but people at best.
Thankfully, there is a ruler who does match up to those Messianic standards because he is the Messiah. Psalm 2 speaks about the nations raging and the peoples plotting in vain. We are then told that God laughs because he has already confounded his enemies by appointing his son as king. Jesus is the perfect king and perfect ruler, the one who never makes a mistake and whose judgement in all things is spot on in every respect. We cannot, even if we wanted to, find any fault. He’s kind, honest, compassionate and committed to the truth. What an honour to serve such a king and leader.
Today, apart from praying for Mrs May and her husband, think too of all the staff who will now likely lose their jobs. For some, there will be the uncertainty of not knowing what happens next. We should also pray for the future of our nation. We need strong leadership and for God to give us the leaders of his grace, not the ones we deserve.
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