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    Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks at Chatham House in London on July 17, 2019

    Life After Downing Street: What Sort of Ex-Prime Minister Will Theresa May Become?

    © AFP 2019 / HENRY NICHOLLS
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    Theresa May is spending her last full day as UK Prime Minister. On Tuesday 23 July she will be replaced by either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt as leader of the ruling Conservative Party.

    When Theresa May walks out of 10 Downing Street this week she will go to a chorus of derision and jokes at her expense after a tenure which has been nothing less than disastrous.

    But she has already said that, unlike her predecessor David Cameron - who quit as Conservative MP for Witney at the first opportunity - she will be staying on in her Maidenhead constituency.

    So what sort of ex-Prime Minister will she be?

    The Incredible Sulk: Edward Heath

    In 1975 former Prime Minister Edward “Ted” Heath was defeated by Margaret Thatcher in a contest for leader of the Conservative Party.

    Heath, a bachelor with no children and - apart from yachting - few interests outside of Parliament, stayed on as a backbench MP for another quarter of a century, becoming Father of the House.

    He loathed his successor- especially when she overlooked him for the post of Foreign Secretary in 1979 - and criticised her whenever possible but as her popularity grew among Conservative Party members in the 1980s he tailored his remarks so as not to get deselected.

    shares a joke with her predecessor Edward Heath (left) and Lord Carrington at the Conservative Party conference in 1978
    © AP Photo / Anonymous
    Margaret Thatcher and Edward Heath

    Heath, who was dubbed The Incredible Sulk by journalists, finally stepped down as MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup in 2001, and died four years later, aged 89.

    Heath once said: “Do you know what Margaret Thatcher did in her first Budget? Introduced VAT on yachts! It somewhat ruined my retirement.”

    After his death allegations emerged suggesting he was part of a VIP paedophile ring but Carl Beech, the man whose accusations were at the heart of a police inquiry costing £2 million, was later charged with perverting the course of justice and is currently on trial.

    The Backseat Driver: Tony Blair

    Tony Blair won a landslide general election in 1997 and was the Labour Prime Minister for a decade, with his trusty Chancellor, Gordon Brown, at his side.

    Blair and Brown had reportedly made a gentleman’s agreement - the so-called Granita deal - in 1994 that Brown would not challenge Blair for the leadership and in return Blair would hand over to Brown after two terms.

    Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrives at the presidential palace for a meeting with Cyprus' President Nicos Anastasiades in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Wednesday, April 4, 2018.
    © AP Photo / Petros Karadjias
    Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrives at the presidential palace for a meeting with Cyprus' President Nicos Anastasiades in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Wednesday, April 4, 2018.

    Brown eventually took over in 2007 and lost power three years later.

    After leaving office Blair, who was only 54, made a fortune on the after-dinner speaker circuit and spent eight years as Middle East envoy, but achieved nothing.

    He gave evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry, into the reasons for the war in Iraq, and when the report was published he came out all guns blazing.

    ​Blair said: “Whether people agree or disagree with my decision to take military action against Saddam Hussein; I took it in good faith and in what I believed to be the best interests of the country. ... I will take full responsibility for any mistakes without exception or excuse. I will at the same time say why, nonetheless, I believe that it was better to remove Saddam Hussein and why I do not believe this is the cause of the terrorism we see today whether in the Middle East or elsewhere in the world."

    Blair, a vocal Remainer, has repeatedly criticised Brexit and called for a second referendum.

    ​​Last month Blair said: “Britain has two strong alliances, it has a great alliance with America and it's part of the European Union, which is the biggest political union in the world and largest commercial market in the world. What on Earth would induce you to think that you're going to gain by giving up that relationship. It's an unbelievable act of self-denial. For me, it's just a very simple thing, power is power.”

    He has also criticised Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn ever since he was elected, and in December 2015 said it was a "tragedy" Labour had been reduced it to just a "fringe protest movement."

    The Baleful Presence: Margaret Thatcher

    Margaret Thatcher was unceremoniously dumped by the Conservative Party in 1990 when she had become a political liability.

    Her successor, John Major, massaged her wounded ego while adroitly abolishing her beloved Poll Tax and adroitly moving the Tories away from the more hardline Thatcherite policies.

    It worked and, against the odds, he won the 1992 general election, only to be wiped out by the Labour landslide five years later.

    In a Friday, July 17, 1987 file photo, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom, left, makes remarks after visiting United States President Ronald Reagan, right, at the White House in Washington, D.C.
    © AP Photo / DPA, Howard L. Sachs
    In a Friday, July 17, 1987 file photo, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom, left, makes remarks after visiting United States President Ronald Reagan, right, at the White House in Washington, D.C.

    Thatcher stepped down as an MP at the 1992 election but continued to snipe from the sidelines, especially on the issue of Europe.

    She described Maastricht as “a treaty too far" and said she would never have signed it if she was Prime Minister.

    In 1998 she also put her foot in it when she tried to intervene on behalf of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, who was arrested during a visit to the UK on a warrant from Spain, who wanted to try him for human rights abuses.

    ​Thatcher lobbied for Pinochet - who had helped Britain win the Falklands War in 1982 - and he was eventually released on medical grounds in 2000.

    Lady Thatcher began suffering from dementia in 2005 and she died eight years later, after suffering a stroke.

    News of her death was greeted with delight in many parts of the UK - especially in former mining villages in the north of England where she was loathed because of her opposition to the 1984/5 miners’ strike.

    The Jovial Old Uncle: Harold Wilson

    Harold Wilson surprised political correspondents in 1976 when he suddenly announced he was stepping down as Prime Minister and handing over to Jim Callaghan, who stayed in Downing Street until a Tory landslide in the 1979 general election.

    Wilson, always an avuncular figure with his pipe and northern homilies, stayed on in the House of Commons until 1983.

    WILSON BREZHNEV GROMYKO
    © RIA Novosti . V. Malyshev
    Harold Wilson on visit to the USSR

    But he rarely sought to second-guess Callaghan or Michael Foot, who succeeded him as leader of the Labour Party, and simply enjoyed the glow of fame and celebrity.

    Wilson - who was frequently parodied by TV impressionists - appeared as himself on the hugely popular Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special on in 1978 and was on the show again two years later.  

    He also joined the board of trustees of the D’Oyly Carte Trust, a gift considering his lifelong love of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas.

    The Doddering Old War Hero: Winston Churchill

    Winston Churchill stepped down as Prime Minister for the second and final time in 1955.

    By the time he handed over to his Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, the 80-year-old former wartime leader was in the words of Labour politician Roy Jenkins “gloriously unfit for office.”

    The Queen offered to create a hereditary peerage, which would have made Churchill the Duke of London, but he turned it down because his son Randolph did not want to inherit the title.

    He stayed on as Conservative MP for Woodford - an affluent constituency in east London - until the 1964 general election, when he was 89, but was rarely seen at the House of Commons and was suffering from Alzheimer’s.

    Churchill rarely criticised conservative prime ministers Eden, Harold Macmillan or Alec Douglas-Home in public but was said to be privately furious at Eden’s bungling of the 1956 Suez crisis, which he claimed had undone his years of massaging Anglo-American relations.

    Churchill died in 1965 and was granted a state funeral because of his role as Britain’s wartime leader.

    Tags:
    Winston Churchill, Tony Blair, Jeremy Hunt, Boris Johnson, Theresa May
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