Return to Transcripts main page


CNN Internatioanl: British Prime Minister Theresa May Resigns; Interview with Lord Kenneth Baker, Former Conservative MP, on the Future of British Politics. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired May 24, 2019 - 05:00   ET



JOEY JONES, FORMER MAY SPOKESPERSON: It is highly likely whoever comes in next will find it just as challenging as she has. That's not always the way that it has felt like in Westminster over the past few months. And it certainly won't during a leadership campaign.

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Joey. We'll be back with you in about five seconds.


NOBILO: Continuing our breaking news. I'm Bianca Nobilo in London. This is CNN NEWSROOM.

We begin with breaking news here in London. The end may be near for the British prime minister Theresa May. She is meeting with the chair of the Conservative 1922 Committee of influential backbenchers who may well determine her fate.

In the last hour, the prime minister has arrived at Downing Street by the back entrance with her husband. Now we will speak to Joey Jones, who is the former spokesperson for the prime minister, who has the best idea out of anybody that we can speak to about what could be going through her mind, as she has these moments to herself before she comes out and makes some kind of speech.

From what we know and what we heard with the facts as they are, what do you think she is going to say?

JONES: She has to say or lay out the timetable for resignation. If she doesn't, there will be uproar, absolute chaos within her party and within Westminster. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that is the case because to provoke that sort of scenario would be really damaging for the party and the country.

NOBILO: How exposed do you think she has been to the calls for her to do that?

I know when we talk about how the prime minister has handled her premiership, it is often a closeted one. She doesn't really listen to backbenchers or they don't feel listened to.

To what extent do you think she fully appreciates the volume of the calls for her to go?

JONES: There have been moments where I felt the message from Parliament has not got through to the prime minister. That is partly because some have wished to protect her from a painful reality. At times she thought she would get through the withdrawal agreement the first time around, when there wasn't a hope of it at all.

I would be amazed if the message about the mood and the party and the country hasn't got through this time. I hadn't ever been with her or a prime minister confronted with something of this personal and national magnitude.

But I have been there for big, big statements and in the final moments or seconds before, the best thing to do is to leave her with her speech and with her own thoughts to get in the zone and in the moment.

I hope that's what is happening at the moment. I hope she is not surrounded by a cluster of advisers and noise and chat and second guessing and all the rest of it. That would make what is an incredibly difficult moment all the more challenging.

NOBILO: Is that how she would prepare when you were working with her, by herself with her notes?

JONES: At the end, yes. Some of us, if we were preparing to make a speech or something like that, we will march up and down and speak aloud. She just goes very quiet. She reads it and soaks it up. She'll be making little changes in pen on the script to make something that will be her but somebody else will have contributed or largely sketched out to make it her own.

Then she will come out to confront an absolute mass ranks of cameras and photographers and the nation and the world's eyes on her. It's very intimidating in its own right. Even setting aside the magnitude of this is her basically saying I failed.

NOBILO: Who is there to support her?

We had another resignation of one of the vice chairmen this morning.

JONES: I was sitting with her in her kitchen when David Cameron came out of the door and resigned. We both sort of -- there was a sharp intake of breath when we saw Samantha Cameron come out the door as well. It might be in the same way when we see or if we see Philip May along with the prime minister, we will know, to be honest. On that occasion, we didn't expect David Cameron to resign immediately --


NOBILO: The prime minister is coming, Joey. Let's take a listen.

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Ever since I first stepped through the door behind me as prime minister, I have striven to make the United Kingdom a country that works not just for a --

[05:05:00] MAY: -- privileged few but for everyone. And to honor the result of the E.U. referendum.

Back in 2016, we gave the British people a choice. Against all predictions, the British people voted to leave the European Union. I feel as certain today as I did three years ago that in a democracy, if you give people a choice you have a duty to implement what they decide.

I have done my best to do that. I negotiated the terms of our exit and a new relationship with our closest neighbors that protects jobs, our security and our Union. I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back that deal. Sadly, I have not been able to do so. I tried three times. I believe it was right to persevere, even when the odds against success seemed high.

But it is now clear to me that it is in the best interests of the country for a new prime minister to lead that effort. So I am today announcing that I will resign as leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party on Friday 7 June so that a successor can be chosen.

I have agreed with the party chairman and with the chairman of the 1922 Committee that the process for electing a new leader should begin in the following week. I have kept Her Majesty the Queen fully informed of my intentions and I will continue to serve as her prime minister until the process has concluded.

It is and will always remain, a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit. It will be for my successor to seek a way forward that honors the result of the referendum. To succeed, he or she will have to find consensus in Parliament where I have not. Such a consensus can only be reached if those on all sides of the debate are willing to compromise.

For many years the great humanitarian Sir Nicholas Winton -- who saved the lives of hundreds of children by arranging their evacuation from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia through the Kindertransport -- was my constituent in Maidenhead.

At another time of political controversy, a few years before his death, he took me to one side at a local event and gave me a piece of advice. He said: "Never forget that compromise is not a dirty word. Life depends on compromise."

He was right. As we strive to find the compromises we need in our politics -- whether to deliver Brexit or to restore devolved government in Northern Ireland -- we must remember what brought us here. Because the referendum was not just a call to leave the E.U. but for profound change in our country. A call to make the United Kingdom a country that truly works for everyone.

I am proud of the progress we have made over the last three years. We have completed the work that David Cameron and George Osborne started: the deficit is almost eliminated, our national debt is falling and we are bringing an end to austerity. My focus has been on ensuring that the good jobs of the future will be

created in communities across the whole country, not just in London and the southeast, through our modern industrial strategy.

We have helped more people than ever enjoy the security of a job. We are building more homes and helping first-time buyers on to the housing ladder -- so young people can enjoy the opportunities their parents did. And we are protecting the environment, eliminating plastic waste, tackling climate change and improving air quality.

This is what a decent, moderate and patriotic Conservative government, on the common ground of British politics, can achieve -- even as we tackle the biggest peacetime challenge any government has faced.

I know that the Conservative Party can renew itself in the years ahead. That we can deliver Brexit and serve the British people with policies inspired by our values. Security; freedom; opportunity. Those values have guided me throughout my career.

But the unique privilege of this office is to use this platform to give a voice to the voiceless, to fight the burning injustices that still scar our society. That is why I put proper funding for mental health at the heart of our NHS long-term plan.

It is why I am ending the postcode lottery for survivors of domestic abuse. It is why the Race Disparity Audit and gender pay reporting are shining a light --


MAY: -- on inequality, so it has nowhere to hide.

And that is why I set up the independent public inquiry into the tragedy at Grenfell Tower -- to search for the truth, so nothing like it can ever happen again and so the people who lost their lives that night are never forgotten. Because this country is a Union. Not just a family of four nations. But a union of people -- all of us.

Whatever our background, the color of our skin or who we love. We stand together. And together we have a great future. Our politics may be under strain but there is so much that is good about this country. So much to be proud of. So much to be optimistic about.

I will shortly leave the job that it has been the honor 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.

NOBILO: We just heard from prime minister Theresa May, announcing the date for her departure. She will resign on the 7th of June. The Conservative Party leadership contest for the next leader and prime minister will begin the following week, starting the 10th of June.

In what was a completely out of character, emotional address from the prime minister, where she had a very powerful signoff, she declared what she thought would be her legacy and gave her remarks for how the future of Brexit should be handled. Let's bring in Phil Black outside 10 Downing Street.

Phil, people have been asking will she resign or when will she resign. Now we have our answers.

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed. You saw there an emotional Theresa May, discussing that it has been the honor of her life as prime minister and a job she must leave.

Through the course of that speech, she tried to frame what she hopes will be her legacy. But the important stuff was at the beginning. It was her job to deliver on the Brexit referendum and that, despite giving it everything she felt she could, she was unable to do so.

She said that will be always a matter of profound regret to her. So it was a prime minister that tried to talk about the importance of compromise, something of a last minute lesson to the nation. I think the issues surrounding Brexit and the challenges and problems and divisions, they don't go away when this prime minister leaves office.

They will remain and will be inherited by her successor, who will also inherit the same government and European Union that says it is given the best possible offer at this stage.

The challenge is in the same environment to try to find a way forward. But this was a historic moment. We witnessed the resignation of the prime minister, one whose premiership has been defined by struggle, I think you could kindly say.

Others would say failure and blunder and none greater than her decision to call an unnecessary election in 2017, which saw her government lose its majority in Parliament and then, as a result, all of those other problems, particularly pertaining to Brexit, simply became bigger and bigger and bigger to the point where there simply was no breakthrough possible.

The prime minister ran out of road. That is what she conceded here today. As you heard her say, she steps down on June 7th. That will then allow a leadership contest to take place within the Conservative Party. And it means that Britain will have a new prime minister, potentially by some time in July -- Bianca.

NOBILO: Phil, for a moment, it seemed a long time coming and much awaited by members of her own party. It still feels like something of a shock because it has been so long and she has been on borrowed time since she lost seats in the election in 2017.

It seems we also saw a side to the prime minister that most people don't see. She was deeply emotional and she made a personal remark about a constituent of hers in Maidenhead. That was a side the prime minister was pushing for in the election campaign and afterwards. It seems she is showing us the emotional and conciliatory side now.


BLACK: Yes, it is an often repeated criticism of the prime minister. She hasn't really been able to express a human side, to show a human touch. That was pertinent during the 2017 general election campaign. It was a very presidential style campaign but it showed she simply didn't have the ability or was not willing to meet people on that very human level.

People who know her and know her away from cameras and know her away from politics say she is someone who cares deeply and has a genuine sense of duty. She is deeply human in all of the levels you would expect. She simply has been unable to express it or express it convincingly.

There is that reticence throughout. Increasingly that lack, important in moments where the country has really been crying for leadership, that has again and again continued to count against her. It is one of the many factors that, over time and over the three years of the premiership, has eroded her authority before her broader electorate and her party as well.

NOBILO: Phil, I remember when David Cameron resigned after the results of the E.U. referendum. People remarked he was whistling when he went back into 10 Downing Street. I don't know if that is true or not. He certainly seemed to have a spring in his step as if a weight has been lifted.

What we saw from the prime minister today was the reverse. She has been struggling, as you say, over the last three years to try to deliver on the outcome of the referendum.

What does this move mean for Brexit, do you think?

I would imagine that the firing of the starting gun of the Tory leadership contest, although not official, it has really happened just now.

BLACK: Indeed. We have seen jostling among the people who would like to consider themselves contenders. That will intensify from here on. The expectation, of course, is that the successor is likely to be someone who takes a much harder line on Brexit and all of the issues, someone who the party hopes will take a tougher line with Europe and someone that will ultimately be prepared to walk away from the European Union without a deal in place.

That much discussed, much feared by many a no-deal scenario. Theresa May, in the early days of the negotiations with the European Union, would say no deal is better than a bad deal. When it came down to it, though, the prime minister was unable or unwilling to pursue that as an option.

She was keen to keep it on the table for leverage purposes. But never did she truly seem prepared to walk away from those talks and commit Britain to that great unknown.

The idea of detaching itself from the European Union without any organization in place, the reason for that is the predictions widely say that would be deeply traumatic to Britain on an economic level and many others as well. Yet, within her party, there has always been the very solid wing that

says that must be an option. If it is not an ideal option, it is still preferable to pursuing a Brexit that did not represent a true, clean, sufficient break from the European Union.

So it is very likely that, as this leadership contest unfolds in the coming weeks, it is going to be a case of various leadership contenders, trying to prove that they were toughest and strongest and carry the biggest stick, if you like, in their willingness to deal with the European Union and ultimately, if necessary, walk away from any negotiations and take Britain out of the European Union without a deal in place.

That may be their intention or campaign line. But whoever becomes leader, inherits the realities. The realities are a divided Parliament and minority government, a Parliament that expressed a majority on only one thing when it comes to Brexit. It doesn't want a no-deal scenario.

Whether or not that Parliament could, in fact, block the efforts of the new prime minister to pursue that line, there is something a discussion on that in Westminster as we speak. That will be determined, I guess, as events unfold.

But even when we get a new prime minister, it means greater uncertainty with British politics and certainly a more intense degree of conflict within British politics as well in the months ahead -- Bianca.

NOBILO: Phil Black, thank you. We'll come back to you shortly. Standing just --


NOBILO: -- a few steps in front of where the prime minister delivered her resignation speech.

I would like to speak to Joey one more time.

Now we have heard what the prime minister was expected to say, you worked with her. You were her spokesperson after she became prime minister.

What do you make of that?

JONES: On a human level, I'm relieved she got through it OK and I imagine most people would feel that as well. It was quite wrenching to see the emotion flood uncontrollably at the end.

We have seen her do speeches in the past, where she struggled to get through them, like the conference speech where her voice gave way. I think that it was very emotional at the end, which demonstrated how tough it was for her.

Apparently her husband was just up the street watching, came out of the other door along with the rest of the team to see her make the statement. I think it may be cruel but politics is a cruel game.

All of the stuff about her legacy, nobody is going to be talking about that tomorrow. They will talk about Brexit and the fact she has come up short there. The most personal anecdote is where she talked about how her constituent, Nicholas Winton (ph), the hero of the Kindertransport, took her aside at an event in Maidenhead and said to her, "Remember compromise is not a dirty word."

I think that was obviously meant as a strong message for her successor and for the party and Parliament more broadly. I would just gently point out, compromise was not a word that passed her lips often in the first year or so of her premiership. It was only when it was forced upon her as a necessary route through Parliament, given that she did not have majority in the House of Commons, that she started bending and asking others to do the same.

NOBILO: She acknowledged that politics in the U.K. is under strain and sounded particularly emotional when you mentioned that wrenching component of the speech at the end, when she talked about being the second female prime minister but won't be the last. That's really what's heard so often with the burst of emotion. So it is an issue.


JONES: It was nice to see that flash of steel and defiance there just for a second. And before that, particularly the parts about essentially trying to justify what she had managed to do to live up to the lofty aims she set out in her original speech on Downing Street when she became prime minister, that passage was a rather regimented part of the speech. But at the end, a real flash of steel and moment of emotion.

NOBILO: I suppose, simply her being there might ultimately be the biggest statement of her premiership. She wasn't able to deliver on those issues that she wanted to rectify in society, Brexit remains where it is, in a messy state. Nobody knows how it will be resolved.

But the fact she was a strong leader in the early stages, which was welcomed back in 2016 by the Conservative Party, that may end up being a key legacy for trying to champion more women in politics.

JONES: Certainly but I think you're being perhaps more generous than many of the political commentators and historians will be. In this job, you are judged by results.

What results are there on Brexit?

Nothing. It may well be that whoever comes in next finds it just as difficult. She, for all -- and, again, it was a powerful touch she said she was leaving with no ill will.

NOBILO: Do you think it's true?

JONES: We have to take her at her word. We know she has been frustrated at the inability of others or unwillingness of others to compromise and what she would see as a degree of game playing by those who made life difficult for her in her own party and opposition parties as well.

But within her party, it is highly likely one of the people that's been a thorn in her side will be the next prime minister. It is interesting to see if that goodwill lasts through that time when she has to watch maybe Boris Johnson or someone else walk through the famous black door.

NOBILO: Who do you think would be her worst-case scenario successor in the prime minister's eyes?


JONES: Well, I think she would find it difficult to accept that Boris Johnson could do a better job than her. She's worked with him as foreign secretary. He resigned. I think she would feel or her advisers and friends would feel he made a bit of a fool of himself in terms of the way in which he tried to justify what he had done during his period as foreign secretary and then to oppose the government at the same time.

Having said that, you know, in the long run, if she is to have a more positive legacy than it looks right now, it actually will probably depend on her successor doing worse than she has done, which is possible.

NOBILO: And her successor will be plagued with the same issues. Phil Black mentioned the reality that Parliament and Brexit hasn't changed. Because Brexit will be her chief legacy, do you think she ever did have a plan?

Most people feel she didn't. But she triggered Article 50 and she didn't know how to go about it and then it fell apart.

JONES: I think she had a plan to build up her authority through a general election. That went wrong. Once she had no leverage over Brussels, in essence it was to browbeat Brussels, to go to Michel Barnier and to Jean-Claude Juncker and say, look, do you not get it?

You see the result of the referendum. Now you see it reinforced by my victory in a general election. You have to give me the things I laid out here, the red lines and all of the rest of it, despite they viewed some of it as contradictory.

Once that did not work out, she had nowhere left to go. From that moment, she never got ahead of the game, always playing catch-up. That really has been a disaster over the past year.

NOBILO: It seems so. Now it's over or shortly will be. Joey Jones, thank you for being with us.

We'll take a short break now. Join us in a few moments for more CNN NEWSROOM, where we will give you the latest after the announcement that the prime minister will be stepping down in just a week or so, starting a new leadership contest for the next leader of the Conservative Party and the next prime minister of the United Kingdom.




NOBILO: You are watching CNN's special coverage of breaking news out of London. British Prime minister Theresa May will resign on June 7th. In a speech on the steps of Downing Street, Ms. May said she tried and failed to pass her Brexit deal through Parliament three times and said the time is right for a new prime minister to take over.

Theresa May spoke about 30 minutes ago and made the announcement really everybody had been anticipating.

Let's bring in political analyst Carole Walker from Abingdon Green.

Carole, you have been watching this speech or listening to it.

What are the biggest takeaways?

Anything that surprised you?

This resignation has been a long time coming.


CAROLE WALKER, POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. She was dignified but the composure cracked at the end when she could not hide her emotion, as she said she had been the second woman prime minister of the country and hoped she would not be the last.

She talked about having to give up the honor of her life as prime minister. She talked of her deep regret at her failure to deliver Brexit.

It was interesting to hear the prime minister try to go back to the themes she outlined when she walked into Downing Street as a new prime minister, when she first took on the role. She talked about her desire to tackle the burning injustices, to help those who are struggling.

But the reality is, as you discussed with Joey Jones there, she failed to deliver that. I think she does feel a deep sense of regret and frustration at that.

The key thing, of course, is Brexit. She's always talked about feeling it was her duty to deliver Brexit, her duty to put in place the vote of the British people. You know, many of those really ardent Brexiteers felt her approach was managing a problem rather than seeing it as a positive process which the U.K. could benefit from.

She talked about the importance of compromise, saying she had that conversation with one of her constituents, who was key in bringing refugees to the U.K. after the Second World War. And he said compromise is not a dirty word. I think the problem with the prime minister is she left it too late to

compromise. She didn't try to bring people on at the start of the process. She waited until people had become entrenched in their positions.

The other key point she made, which is the reality which many MPs and all those who are going to be vying to succeed her will have to face up to, is how to find the consensus in the Houses of Parliament and try to get Brexit delivered.

She talked about how she tried and failed three times to get her deal through. But she simply could not find that consensus. It was interesting she talked about compromise. The problem is that the prime minister throughout this had tried to keep both sides on board. It was a compromise that never worked.

She succeeded in annoying too many people on both sides of the argument. That really will go down as a failure on her part. And I think she in her heart of hearts knows that. That's why she talked about her deep regret and failure to deliver Brexit and the attempts she tried to do so.

NOBILO: Thanks, Carole.

Let's listen to what the prime minister had to say touching on the aspects of compromise and how emotional she was. Let's listen.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back that deal. Sadly, I have not been able to do so. I tried three times. I believe it was right to persevere, even when the odds against success seemed high.

But it is now clear to me that it is in the best interests of the country for a new prime minister to lead that effort. So I am today announcing that I will resign as leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party on Friday 7 June so that a successor can be chosen.


NOBILO: The prime minister there about a half hour ago. Let's see how the British pound is reacting to the news. Anna Stewart is joining me from London.

What is the sterling doing in reaction of the resignation?

ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We had a small spike as she was speaking but it has come back down. It's trading pretty flat. We can bring up a chart for you now. It has been days of a pretty miserable performance for the pound.

Ever since talks broke down with the Labour Party and the Conservative Party, the pound has dropped. It's been there ever since.

I think what's interesting in terms of the pound now is what could happen next to bring it up or down?

They need something to happen. I think the leadership contest will be interesting.

NOBILO: That would be my next question.

Does it make markets nervous that it could be a Brexiteer that succeeds Theresa May, like Boris Johnson or a Dominic Raab, which would tend to make financial markets slightly uneasy?

STEWART: Well, as you know --


STEWART: -- financial markets hate any kind of uncertainty. They have hated Brexit since 2016.

But you are right. I think the idea of a Brexiteer leader like a Boris Johnson type will worry markets. That raises risk of a much harder Brexit or a no deal Brexit. That brings into question tariffs and customs and more costs to businesses. That will likely bring the pound down further.

It is interesting, also, of course, markets react one way and businesses react in another. Today they are in tandem. Businesses are just concerned about how long the process could be. I'll read you the quick statement from BCC. They represent businesses around the U.K.

"Businesses must be reassured that a change at the top of Downing Street does not simply usher in a longer period of posturing and jester politics."



STEWART: Exactly, we've got weeks of this to come. And I think this is the big concern. While the politics is exciting and there's a lot of emotion with Brexit, particularly from voters, for businesses, it is about money and not been able to make investments.

It is weeks and months and years now of this and it really is taking a big hit on the economy in terms of consumer spending and business investment and growth. So they want a quick resolution, ideally a softer Brexit. But as a captain of economics just spoke to me on the phone, he said this actually raises the prospect of a no-deal Brexit and no Brexit at all. So investors have to brace for both.

NOBILO: We remain in very uncertain times. Anna Stewart, thank you.

Theresa May spoke 30 minutes ago and made the announcement almost everybody has been anticipating for some time. Phil Black is outside 10 Downing Street and was there when the prime minister was speaking.

Phil, what is the reaction of the media, the mood of the country and from the prime minister's government?

BLACK: I think much of the country is digesting what turned out to be an emotional farewell message by prime minister Theresa May.

We have seen this coming for a long time now, something which has been so often predicted and yet she has been a prime minister with resilience, who insisted on persevering, regardless of the circumstances, the opposition, the criticism and the harsh language used to describe her at various stages of the three years she held power here.

She said being prime minister is the greatest honor of her life. She tried to frame her legacy in terms of economic achievements and desire to deal with what she has referred to famously as the burning injustices within British society.

But as we know, she will be defined and remembered as the Brexit prime minister who ultimately was not able to deliver the result of that referendum. She said that will be a source of deep regret for her.

She spoke about the importance of compromise in a slightly more reflective way than we hear from her, its importance in public life in the country, its importance on securing any major decision because it has been simply an inability to find compromise within Parliament which has led her to this position and led her to the point where she simply ran out of road with no further options.

She was forced to come out here today and make what ultimately was a very emotional and touching and very human farewell to the country, declaring her intention to step aside, remain prime minister for a time while the Conservative Party selects its new leader.

And on that point, Bianca, I've lost audio. Back to you in the studio.

NOBILO: Phil Black, reporting outside Downing Street.

The prime minister was uncharacteristically, but perhaps not surprisingly, very emotional during her speech. Let's take a listen.


MAY: I will shortly leave the job that it has been the honor 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.


NOBILO: The prime minister, who has been much lambasted for handling of Brexit and style in dealing with her government and party, supposedly not listening and uncompromising, made overtures also to the importance of compromise in politics.

[05:40:00] NOBILO: She was clearly emotional and showed that side of herself that those who knew her best described, her sense of duty and doing what is best for the national interest.

We will have more for you on the resignation of prime minister Theresa May right after this short break.




NOBILO: Welcome back. You are watching CNN's special coverage of breaking news out of London.

Prime Minister Theresa May's premiership is now officially in its final phase. She's just announced her departure date. After three years of being dominated by Brexit, in an emotional speech on the steps of Downing Street, Ms. May confirmed she will step aside on the 7th of June after failing three times to get Brexit through Parliament.

That will usher in a leadership contest which will decide Britain's next prime minister.

Theresa May spoke about 30 minutes ago and made the announcement most everybody had been anticipating.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back that deal. Sadly, I have not been able to do so. I tried three times. I believe it was right to persevere, even when the odds against success seemed high.

But it is now clear to me that it is in the best interests of the country for a new prime minister to lead that effort. So I am today announcing that I will resign as leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party on Friday 7 June so that a successor can be chosen.


NOBILO: Let's bring in political analyst Carole Walker now from Abingdon Green.

Carole, I've been watching some reaction from the prime minister's own party. Andrea Leadsom, who resigned the other day, adding more momentum to her impending resignation.

The prime minister said a very dignified speech and illustration of her total commitment to country and duty. She did her utmost and I wish her all the very best.

Dr. Liam Fox, still in cabinet, made a similar remark, saying the prime minister acted with dignity and honor. Truly, Carole, what will the party be feeling at this point?

Slightly wistful and sad or just sheer relief?

WALKER: It is fascinating, Bianca. Now that the prime minister --


WALKER: -- has said she is standing down. Many of those working alongside her and many of those who have been very unhappy with her leadership are full of tributes.

You mentioned a couple; Michael Gove, a very leading Brexiteer, said it was a moving speech from the prime minister, who deserves our respect and gratitude.

We had similar remarks from around the world. Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, paying tribute to her dignity and commitment to her country and to duty.

Fascinating to hear from Anna Soubry, who was a Conservative minister, resigned from the party and is now in one the smaller parties which has been formed, Change U.K. Said, the prime minister talking about compromise, "Compromise came too late. In any event, it applied to everyone else but her. Very sad."

I think inevitably today is going to be a day of a lot of tributes to a prime minister, someone who no one doubts her commitment or sincerity or sense of duty and her really sincere efforts to try to find a deal.

But I think there has been a sense of inevitability in recent weeks and days and I think that speech now ushers in a new era. In the second week of June, the leadership contest begins for who replaces her.

I'm joined now by Lord Baker. He is a very senior Conservative grandee. He was here when Margaret Thatcher had to step down.

Do step this way, sir.

What did you make of that speech from Theresa May?

LORD KENNETH BAKER, FORMER CONSERVATIVE MP: It was very moving and rather sad but inevitable. She had an impossible problem. I think history will be kind to Theresa May in the present commentators because, from 2017, she didn't have a majority in the House of Commons.

That means she could not really control the House of Commons and her party or indeed the cabinet. And when you have a hung government, which is what we have, you get instability. And that was the real problem that she had.

Anybody who had difficulty, quite frankly. But I think she had to go because the deal that she had developed was simply not going to pass. WALKER: You said you think history will be kind to her. But she said herself with her own deep regret, she failed to deliver Brexit. That was the overriding priority for her government.

BAKER: Yes. I think she obviously said she learned a lot by being home secretary for six years. That's a very strange job. In America it's equivalent to attorney general. It's not really a political job. And her political antennae were not developed very strongly because the whole thing broke down over the backstop of the Northern Ireland border.

As soon as that proposal was made, she should have said shut up, this cannot be settled between these people. I cannot let the taoiseach of Ireland determine the trading policy of Great Britain. That's the tail wagging the dog.

(INAUDIBLE) reaction but she tried to work around it. And the backstop was essentially a device designed by administrators and not politicians. That was the root cause of why she could not get this through.

I think the new leader of the Conservative Party has got to now make quite sure that we do leave Europe on October the 31st. And certainly he's got to win back from Nigel Farage all those Conservatives voters (INAUDIBLE) in the parliamentary elections of Europe. And I think that can be done.

WALKER: Your party is deeply divided, though. That is part of the reason why Theresa May struggled and ultimately failed in government, failed to deliver Brexit.

Do you think that a new leader will be able to heal some of those wounds?

They go back to the time when you were in power and in government.

BAKER: Yes. Europe has always been a deeply divisive issue for the Conservative Party. No question about that at all. In fact, Europe is a bit like the Bermuda Triangle. When Conservative politicians sail into it, they disappear without a trace and they sink.

But I think now the overwhelming view of the Conservative Party and the country is we should leave Europe. I think the next leader, when this election process is finished -- unless we speed it up; we must have a new leader by the end July because August in Europe is a dead month. And September is a half-dead month. And we have to decide by October the 31st. And I think that is quite possible.

WALKER: So that requires a leader, who is prepared to take the U.K. out of the E.U. without a deal if necessary?

BAKER: That's possible. I think the elections in Europe that have just taken place are going to change --

[05:50:00] BAKER: -- Europe fundamentally. The old Europe was the people we negotiated with. The new Europe will have a large number of populist politicians, objecting to the powers of Brussels right across Europe. That will happen, when the figures are announced Sunday night. That will change the nature of Europe fundamentally.

I think someone like Macron, for example, who wants to concentrate more power into the center of Brussels with the common finance minister and common budget and common army, will actually want Britain out as quickly as possible. He doesn't want awkward Britain being there. You know, just say no, we don't agree. And so we have an ally in leaving with him.

WALKER: You were a key minister in Margaret Thatcher's government. When you saw that speech from Theresa May, her voice breaking with emotion at the end, did it take you back to those final days, at the end of Margaret Thatcher's --


BAKER: -- final day. Yes, I was with her all that day when she eventually decided not to stand and not to go ahead in the election. And it was very, very moving. The day she actually left Downing -- she was in tears that day.

When she left in her car right a fortnight later, she was very moved. She had been there over 10 years. Theresa May was moved by her having to leave. I think you must pay tribute to her sheer resilience. I know no prime minister or any politician that has been subject to such virulent attacks, such demeaning attacks, such dismissals day after day after day. And she managed to come through that smiling.

WALKER: You look at your party now and it is facing huge difficulties. We are awaiting the results of the European elections, which will be pretty dire for the Conservative Party.

Who do you think is the leader who can take over from Theresa May and deliver the Brexit which you say is so important?

BAKER: Well, we will have to do that; or rather the parliamentary party will have to do that because the process is they have to select two people. I think seven or eight might put up. So there's --

WALKER: If not more.

BAKER: I mean, somebody said 23. But that'll be a lot. And it will come down to two. Then they will have to go out to the subscribing members of the Conservative Party, 120,000 people. That has to be done as quickly as possible. We must have an acting prime minister replacing Theresa May as soon as possible.

WALKER: Do you have a favorite candidate?

BAKER: I await to see the manifestos.

WALKER: Lord Baker, thank you very much indeed for joining us. Some thoughts there from Lord Baker, who was alongside Margaret

Thatcher as she finally left Downing Street, drawing comparisons with Theresa May today, composed for much of her speech.

But of course, then the emotion and her voice breaking at the end there as she said she had been honored to be the second female prime minister of the country but believed she would not be the last.

Bianca, while today everyone is focusing on looking back at her premiership and what she achieved and what she failed to achieve, many thoughts will be turning to the leadership contest to succeed her.

NOBILO: Thanks, Carole.

I think we can check out pictures of the prime minister on her way to meet Her Majesty the Queen on this day, where she announced her resignation. We are now getting tributes in from the prime minister's government and members of her cabinet, saying she served with a sense of duty and acknowledging all she has done.

These being some of the very same people who added to the momentum which led to the prime minister giving the speech today and announcing a date for departure and the beginning of the Conservative leadership contest.

Stay with us. We'll be right back with more breaking news on the prime minister's resignation.





NOBILO: You are looking at live pictures of prime minister Theresa May on her way to visit the queen after giving a speech outside the steps of Downing Street, announcing a date for departure, which is the 7th of June. And the following week is the Conservative leadership contest, where the members will decide on the next leader and next prime minister of the United Kingdom, a day which has been eagerly awaited by members of the prime minister's own party.

She has given the date that so many who worked with her and for her party have been pushing her to do for so long. We will have more reaction to Theresa May's resignation coming up on a full hour of "CNN TALK." Log onto to have your say. That's "CNN TALK," starting at 12:00 pm here in London and 7:00 pm in Hong Kong.

I'm Bianca Nobilo. Thank you very much for being with me over the breaking news over the last few hours. More coming from London after this quick break.