THE new Prime Minister, Theresa May, has said that her Government will give back control to the poor, the stigmatised, and the vulnerable in the UK, and will be driven by the interests of the people.
Speaking outside 10 Downing Street on Wednesday evening, Mrs May praised Mr Cameron’s “one-nation Government” and said that she would work towards the union, “not just of the nations of the United Kingdom, but of citizens, wherever we are or whatever we’re from”.
The Government would not just be led by the “privileged few”, but for every one of us, she said: “Together we will build a better Britain.”
After her last rival for the leadership, Andrea Leadsom MP, dropped out of the race on Monday, Mrs May said that she was “honoured and humbled” to have been chosen by the Party. She promised “strong, proven leadership” in negotiating the best deal for the UK outside the European Union.
Mr Cameron spoke outside 10 Downing Street for the last time after Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday. He said that, though “he had not got every decision right” he felt that he had left the UK “much stronger” than when he took over six years ago. He also thanked his family and supporters, and wished "continued success for this great country that I love so very much".
Mr Cameron went on to Buckingham Palace to tender his resignation formally, accompanied by his wife, Samantha, and three children. Mrs May then held a private audience with the Queen, before being welcomed as the new occupant of 10 Downing Street.
Mrs May is a regular worshipper at St Andrew’s, Sonning, her parish church. The Vicar, the Revd Jamie Taylor, said that the church was “something of a sanctuary” for Mrs May, whom he praised as a “hard-working and highly respected” member of the church family, and MP for Maidenhead, since 1997.
She and her husband, Philip May, are joint patrons of the parish-hall fund-raising appeal, and she also acts as patron of the Friends of St. Andrew’s.
On behalf of the parish community, the Vicar congratulated Mrs May, “as she prepares to take up the daunting responsibilities before her”. He said: “I believe she is well-placed to lead our nation and to deliver a successful negotiation as we leave the European Union. We pray weekly for Her Majesty and those set in authority under her, and that prayer will take on a little more significance for us at St Andrew’s in the years ahead.”
Mrs May grew up in an Oxfordshire vicarage: her father was the Revd Hubert Brasier, a priest who trained at Mirfield and was Chaplain of All Saints’ Hospital, Eastbourne, when she was born, and subsequently Vicar of Enstone with Heythrop, and then Wheatley (News, 8 July). On launching her leadership bid, she said: “I grew up the daughter of a local vicar and the granddaughter of a regimental sergeant major. Public service has been a part of who I am for as long as I can remember.”
The Acting Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Colin Fletcher, also extended his congratulations and prayers to Mrs May “at such a critical time” for the UK, on Wednesday.
The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Caroline Spelman, who is the Conservative MP for Meriden and a member of the group Christians in Parliament, said that Mrs May “has spoken about how her faith shapes her personal and political outlook and I hope this continues to stand as a source of strength for her as she takes on the immense challenges ahead.
“I am sure that the Church of England will be reassured by the fact that the new Prime Minister, whose father was a vicar, has a good understanding of how the church works and who will be able to use this experience to enhance people’s life chances and unify the country.
“She needs our prayers at this time, as do all in Government and politics.”
The executive director of the Conservative Christian Fellowship, Gareth Wallace, congratulated Mrs May on Wednesday, and said that she had “never shouted” about her Christian faith. “She wanted no public credit for attending a local church congregation, and stayed the length of the service, despite not having any speaking role.”
In an interview with the magazine Third Way in 2003, Mrs May said that her upbringing had taught her “the value of service to others . . . to make a difference in their lives.” She also said that her faith was “part of the background” of her politics.
“To me, the Christian faith is not just about the moral issues but about enabling people to be individuals, while recognising that ‘no man is an island.’ We are interlinked with others and have a role to play in giving service to others and improving (if you like) the common good by what we do.”
She was also supportive of church schools, which she said were popular, not only because they achieved “very good results”, but also because “there’s something else they offer children, which is an ethos for living, a belief in service to others, a way of life.”
The charity World Vision UK urged the new Prime Minister to continue supporting children in as many ways as possible — “whether that’s championing the Sustainable Development Goals, committing to 0.7 [foreign aid target], rallying global support for Syria, or pressing for an end to child marriage”.
The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, also thanked Mrs May for her “remarkable” work in combating human trafficking, while offering his personal support and congratulations, in a letter on Tuesday.
Pointing to her previous work with the Catholic campaigners against modern slavery, Santa Marta Group, he wrote: “This is a clear indication . . . of your determination to use high political office for the protection of some of the world’s most vulnerable people. I appreciate the maturity of judgement, the steely resolve, the sense of justice and the personal integrity and warmth you have always shown.”
But the new Prime Minister has also faced criticism for her strong stance on immigration, as Home Secretary, and for her more recent refusal to say whether EU citizens would have the right to remain in the UK after Brexit.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, warned Mrs May not to “play politics” with the lives of EU nationals as he hosted a Brexit crisis summit with European diplomats in London on Tuesday.
The Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, describing Mrs May’s rapid progression to No. 10 as a “Tory stitch-up”, called for an early general election. “The Conservatives must not be allowed to ignore the electorate. Their mandate is shattered and lies in ruins,” he said.