(From Desmond Davies, London Bureau Chief)
London, July 14, GNA – Theresa May, British Home Secretary (Internal Affairs Minister) for the last six years, on Wednesday became the country’s second female Prime Minister – following Margaret Thatcher in 1979 – to replace David Cameron who resigned after his defeat in the European Union (EU) referendum on June 23.
After six years and 62 days in office, Mr Cameron at 49 became the youngest British Prime Minister to leave office in over 100 years when he went to Buckingham Palace to inform the Queen that he was stepping down.
He is expected to sit on the backbenches as an ordinary MP on a salary of £75,000 – half of what he was earning as Prime Minister.
Mrs May, 59, won the leadership of the Conservative Party after her final rival, Andrea Leadsom, dropped out of the race, which many were expecting to last until September but was surprisingly shortened as candidate after candidate pulled out in a series of political back-stabbings.
A major casualty was former London Mayor Boris Johnson who had been one of the leaders of the campaign for Britain’s exit (Brexit) from the EU.
Having promised Mr Cameron that he would support the former Prime Minister’s Remain campaign, Mr Johnson switched to the Leave team in the hope that the move would put him in pole position for the premiership.
However, once the Leave campaign won, Mr Johnson’s ally, former Justice Secretary Michael Gove, stabbed him in the back by announcing that he would stand for the party leadership, arguing that Mr Johnson would not be up to the job as Prime Minister.
Mr Johnson’s allies then stuck the knife in Mr Gove’s back and he too dropped out of the race.
Now Mrs May has stunned the political establishment by appointing Mr Johnson as Foreign Secretary.
During the referendum campaign, Mr Johnson, in his newspaper column in the Conservative Party-leaning Daily Telegraph newspaper, antagonised world leaders who spoke in favour of the UK remaining the EU.
He poured scorn on European leaders as well as US President Barack Obama, who particularly warned that the UK risked going ‘to the back of the queue’ in trade negotiations.
Writing for another right-wing newspaper, The Sun, Mr Johnson claimed that because Mr Obama’s father was Kenyan, he had a particular loathing of Britain because of its colonial past in Kenya.
He described the US president as ‘part-Kenyan’ and therefore had an ‘ancestral dislike’ of Britain.
The former London Mayor argued that as a result of this, President Obama had removed a bust of former British wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill from the Oval Office at the White House.
After repeating the canard a number of times, the White House politely pointed out that because the Oval Office was cluttered the bust was outside the Treaty Room, which the president saw every day.
‘I love Churchill,’ President Obama told a joint press conference in London with Mr Cameroon earlier this year.
He went on to explain that he had a bust of the late civil rights leader, Dr Martin Luther King, in the Oval Office because as the first African American president, the bust would ‘remind me of the people who helped get me here’.
After Mr Johnson was appointed Foreign Secretary, the leader of the Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems), Tim Farron, tweeted: ‘Boris Johnson will spend more time apologising to nations he’s offended.’
Labour MP, Chuka Umunna, also tweeted: ‘Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s first official meeting with President Obama will be interesting.
‘Suggest it starts with the word ‘sorry’.’
The divisions in British society created by the June 23 referendum were a culmination of years of a growing gap between rich and poor, and North and South.
The referendum itself was a result of the in-fighting within the Conservative Party – between hardliners who felt Mr Cameron was too liberal for their liking.
In his first term as Prime Minister, Mr Cameron was in charge of a coalition government with the Lib Dems, whose Cabinet members reined in Conservative ministers who wanted to take decisions that the Lib Dems felt would be unpopular with the electorate.
Three years ago, while still heading the coalition government, Mr Cameron bowed to pressure from members of his party and promised that if the Conservatives had an outright victory in the 2015 General Election he would hold a referendum within the five-year term of his government.
He must have been listening to election experts, including those at the influential Chatham House think tank, who speculated that the next few elections in the UK would see hung parliaments and coalition governments.
But the electorate acted otherwise and gave the Conservatives a 12-seat majority in Parliament, thus ruling out a coalition government that would have put paid to any referendum plans.
So Mr Cameron was forced to hold the referendum earlier than he wanted and his gamble failed, although by resigning he wrong-footed his opponents – thus throwing the Brexit camp into disarray.
Now Mrs May, who was in the Remain camp, has assured the British public: ‘Brexit means Brexit.’
She has appointed Brexiteers in her Cabinet, including one who will be Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.
Mrs May has also promised make ‘Britain a country that works for all’.
After being asked by the Queen to form a government, Mrs May said in her inaugural speech that she wanted a fairer society.
‘That means fighting against the burning injustice that if you’re born poor you will die on average nine years earlier than others.
‘If you’re black you are treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you’re white.
‘If you’re a white working-class boy you’re less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university.
‘If you’re at state school you’re less likely to reach the top professions than if you’re educated privately.
‘If you’re a woman you will earn less than a man.’
Mrs May went on: ‘But the mission to make Britain a country that works for everyone means more than fighting these injustices.
‘The government I will lead will be driven not by the interests of the privileged few, but by yours.
‘We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives.
‘When we take the big calls we will think not of the powerful but you,’ she added.
On the issue of the huge gap between rich and poor in the country, Mrs May said: ‘When we pass new laws we will listen not to the mighty but you.