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CNN International: British Prime Minister Theresa May Resigns. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired May 24, 2019 - 07:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN HOST (voice-over): Welcome to CNN TALK as we have a breaking news special after the prime minister has given a statement on the steps of Downing Street, announcing that she will be resigning on the 7th of June, precipitating a Conservative leadership contest, which will decide the new leader of the Tory Party and the new leader of Britain.

In order to get into all the details, I'm joined by a fantastic panel today. We have Liam Halligan, Ayesha Hazarika and Iain Martin.

Thanks all for being with us.

First, let's set the scene and have a look at what happened earlier today.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I will resign as leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party on Friday the 7th of June.

Back in 2016, we gave the British people a choice. Against all predictions, the British people voted to leave the European Union.

In a democracy, if you give people a choice, you have a duty to implement what they decide.

Sadly, I have not been able to do so.

NOBILO: After almost three years of a premiership marred, dominated and destroyed by Brexit.

MAY: The only way to avoid no deal is to agree a deal.

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNNMONEY EUROPE EDITOR: She was planning to try to offer MPs the chance of voting on whether or not there should be a second referendum. All of this stirs the ire of those Brexiteer voices.

MAY: I will shortly leave the job that it has been the honor of my life to hold. 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: An emotional out there from prime minister Theresa May. We want to know what you think in response to our question today, which is not really so much a question but just a call for your thoughts.

The U.K. prime minister Theresa May resigns, your reaction.

And for more reaction I'm joined by that wonderful panel I mentioned earlier.

We knew this was a long time coming. Some people thought it was going to happen after she lost seats in the election back in 2017. But it happened today.

Immediate reaction, Liam?

LIAM HALLIGAN, "THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH": It wasn't surprising but it's still shocking when you see it in the raw. I must admit, I've been a very stern critic of Theresa May on this show and in my various newspaper columns and so on. But did I find her speech moving and dignified.

Has she been stubborn?


Has she shown a real lack of political judgment?


Has she been secretive?

Has she transgressed normal political protocol?

All those things, you can throw all that criticism at her.

But when you see a woman who loves her country, you know, breaking up, cracking up in front of the world's press, if you're not moved by that, I think you have a heart of stone.

NOBILO: Ayesha, I know you have a heart of stone --



AYESHA HAZARIKA, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's a wee bit hardened heart. I think that crack in her voice at the end was very moving because we typify, she's called the Maybot in this country because people think she's so lacking in emotion she's actually a robot.

That has been the kind of critique of her. However, where I sort of disagree from Liam, I thought the beginning of it was a good speech, the end was very moving but she had a bizarre roll call of her greatest hits, which are not greatest hits whatsoever.


HAZARIKA: She also kind of recalled a very emotional conversation she had had with somebody who helped Nazi children escape the Nazis, which one of her most stinky parts of her legacy is going to be not helping refugees and the Windrush generation and the hostile environment to immigrants. I just thought it was a very kind of weird speech.

But, Liam is right. That crack at the end in her voice was a powerful moment. My tragedy, I'm afraid it doesn't lie with her but it does lie with this country, it is in a real mess at the moment in terms of politically and goodness knows where we're going to go next.

NOBILO: Iain, your thoughts.

IAIN MARTIN, "THE TIMES": I think it is, of course, really difficult to avoid feeling human sympathy there. I've been a critic of May, been writing that she must go for almost as long as she's been prime minister.

But still there's a human being there and someone who's clearly gone through a very traumatic experience.

But still having said all that, I still think ultimately, while you can feel sympathy for the human being and hope that she goes off into the sunset and has a profitable and relaxing retirement, it has -- ultimately, it's a dignified end to what has been, really, in my view, a pretty disgraceful and discredited premiership of three years with a very short list of achievements --


MARTIN: -- and not entirely her fault but she -- nobody forced her to do the job. Prime minister's a big gig; she took it on willingly and she made a series of strategic errors, which this country and the wider European Union will be living with for many years to come. And that is -- I'm afraid that's -- that's at her door.

NOBILO: We'll get on to that are the fact that she loves the job but she seemed very uncomfortable doing it. Let's go to Phil Black who is standing outside Number 10 Downing Street.

Phil, you were there when the prime minister delivered this speech and all the buildup to it.

What stood out to you and now practically what's next?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's difficult to avoid that word dignified, I think, when you talk about Theresa May's performance here today. It was clear, it was essentially attempting to justify a premiership defined by failure while also trying to outline some achievements and establish something of a positive legacy.

And also it was an effort there to teach the country a bit of a lesson, where she was more reflective on the issue of compromise and its importance. And as you've touched on, there was that emotional moment tend, which did kind of surprise people here, I think, because the emotion had clearly been building underneath but she kept it in control. And then right at the very end, there was that sudden swell.

And it was touching to watch but it also was difficult to watch. Essentially it was a speech by a prime minister who is being forced out of office because of failure. She's failed repeatedly in really big ways.

But the message of the speech is, she meant well, she tried her best. And that really is the image of the prime minister that, I think, many people across this country do have. On one hand they don't necessarily agree with her mistakes or what she's done or the direction she's taken.

But at the same time there is inevitably some sense of respect for the resilience and perseverance and the desire to do what she believed was right.

In terms of what happens now, well, she stays in office, technically entitled, if not with authority and she'll be here when President Trump visits in early June. And then beyond that, she'll hold on to the office as the Conservative Party begins what is sure to be a very hotly contested internal fight for the leadership of the party.

NOBILO: Phil Black outside Downing Street. Thank you.

Now we have got comments coming in already.

Elena Carmen saying absolutely positively wonderful. Clearly overjoyed at the news.

Lynn Noreen McNama (ph) says she was a decent, good person.

But others not really sharing the sympathy. But there is a lot of people saying this was a poisoned chalice from the very beginning yet she decided to take on the role. Nobody forced her to do it, you were just saying that.

A few days ago she said she was giving up a job that she loved earlier than she wanted to. And then again today she repeated it was the greatest honor of her life to be prime minister.

So why did she seem so uncomfortable, whether it was consulting with ministers, working rooms or addressing the media?

MARTIN: I think the answer is a real -- it's a really good question but the answer lies in the basis in which she became the leader of the Conservative Party three years ago, is that it was a bunch of squabbling boys who had just delivered this shock win in the Brexit referendum, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson.

And she seemed like the only grownup left standing. She seemed like the sensible woman who was going to sort things out and find some way through the compromise through to some sort of successful compromise. I think underneath it all is a problem that she seemed to be this

enigmatic figure and we all assumed or many assumed and many of her cabinet colleagues assumed that behind the enigmatic mask there was some great worrying political intelligence or brilliant brain.

And the answer it turned out was that that wasn't there and that she is a very hardworking, senior bureaucrat, someone who lacks political imagination, someone who lacks the ability to persuade. And that's shown in how she handled her deal, even when she got her deal. It's almost as if she went out into the country and tried to persuade people about its merits and compromise.

She's also quite a shy person as well. Now it seems odd to say that.

Why on Earth would someone put themselves into that position, where they then have to soak up that sort of punishment and no prime minister has had more abuse and criticism than Theresa May.

But she is -- she is -- she was ambitious but she's really quite a closed, shy person, who -- and I think that's why the voice cracks at the end -- who has just been through something very traumatic, which is all of her hopes and ambitions have come crashing down.

NOBILO: Now viewers might not be able to see this as well as I can but Ayesha has been raising her eyebrows quite a lot through that statement. Tell us why.

HAZARIKA: I do agree with what Iain said.


HAZARIKA: I've written a column today saying she should never have been prime minister. She does not have the -- actually, she shouldn't have been a politician. What she should have been is a civil servant.

She is diligent. She's discreet. She is risk averse. She is cautious but she is dutiful. I think if she had been a civil servant she could have risen up quite high.


HAZARIKA: But she was absolutely -- I tell a story about how I actually -- because she used to shadow my old boss so I had a lot of dealings with her. One day we turned up wearing the same shoes.

She's got great taste, what I can say?

Don't sue me. Normally that would be, you'd make a bit of small talk. I was like, oh, did your get yours full price?

Nothing. And basically she's not a people person. And to be prime minister you do have to be a people person.

NOBILO: Especially in the minority government.


HAZARIKA: Absolutely.


HAZARIKA: -- slightly with the narrative that she had a poisoned chalice, yes, she did. But all prime ministers have a tough job do. When Brian become prime minister, he was hit straightaway with counterterrorism and agricultural disease, a global financial crisis, bad things happen to you when you're prime minister, that is the gig.

And in some ways what prime ministers struggle to define when they first start is what will be their mission?

What will be the thing that will define their premiership?

In a way she had that gift. It wasn't an easy deal. If she had reached out to people from day one, if she had tried to court Donald Trump, ironically, the art of the deal is bringing people with you and making them feel like they have ownership of the process.

But what this did she do?

She went into a bunker with her closest advisers. She didn't consult her cabinet, she didn't reach out to the leader of the opposition, she didn't reach out to Scotland or the nations or business or the trade unions. She thought she could fix it all by herself in a room full of four people and then present, here's all her hard work. Politics does not work like that.

HALLIGAN: We've all met Theresa May over the years and, you know, she is not your typical politician. She doesn't have a huge amount of charisma. I remember talking to Iain the day she became prime minister, we had a conversation. She is the grownup in the room, isn't it great, here we are in this crisis, the country reaches for its second female prime minister, I thought that was a real positive.

She said today, I am the second female prime minister and I won't be the last. I thought that was one of the nice parts of her speech.

But there will inevitably be contrasts drawn between her and between her female predecessor, Margaret Thatcher. And I think she deliberately tried to distinguish herself from Thatcher in her speech in the following way. She talked about the importance of compromise and the need for the U.K.'s compromise.

Now there's a famous quote by Margaret Thatcher; she said no great cause was ever won under the banner of compromise. Compromise happens when you abandon all values and beliefs, agree on something with which no one agrees but to which no one objects.

This contrast will be there. I personally think this is a time for the U.K. to compromise to some degree. But I have to say, Bianca, we will not return to normal politics in this country until we leave the European Union, in my view. NOBILO: And it does seem that the Conservative Party itself is in this state of disrepair over the issue of Europe because we knew that these tensions were always there. But now they're all wide open. And the leadership contest is going to expose that further.

But you mentioned that really emotional moment which Theresa May had right after she referenced being the second female prime minister. 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.


HAZARIKA: So obviously that was moving, as both Michael and Liam said. I want to put this into perspective. I was heartened to see a female prime minister, I'm distraught that that my own party, the Labour Party, cannot produce a female leader. And she wore a T-shirt before she came in that said, "This is what feminist looks like."

It's not just about advancing your own political ambitions. It's not saying ha, ha, I got the top job. It's what you do for other women. I'm afraid her record on that is pretty poor.

We had a big emotional debate about what's happening in Alabama with the abortion stuff. We have just as draconian if not more happening in Northern Ireland. She did nothing. She didn't lift a finger to help those women. If you look at where austerity has fallen, it has hit women --


HAZARIKA: -- particularly hard. For a lot of people, the female thing, yes, of course, it was great to see a female prime minister, it's great we have a female first minister in Scotland.

But the thing about being a female leader, it's not just about you getting power and acquiring power for your own self, it's what you do at the end of it. And that bit at the end, I love my job, of course, she must love her job. Everyone gets into politics to get that top job.

But you don't have the God-given right to just be prime minister forever. You are there to serve the people. You are there to do things, not for yourself but for other people. By the way, two days ago, the jobs of up to 25,000 people hang in the balance. British steel, one of our biggest manufacturing bases, is on the brink of collapse.

NOBILO: Yes, it's a bit tone deaf.

HAZARIKA: It's a little bit tone deaf when you think we're all upset you're losing your job but what are thousands of people around the country that are set to lose their jobs particularly if this chaotic Brexit continues?

NOBILO: On the issue of female leaders, last time around, when Theresa May did end up becoming prime minister in what was an unusual final round, because Andrea Leadsom dropped out of this controversy where she implied that because Theresa May didn't have children she didn't have a strong stake in the future of Britain.

That brings us to the leadership contest we know is coming now. Andrea is likely to put herself forward again.


NOBILO: But it's going to define all of those issues that you're mentioning, the problems that people are struggling with in Britain, the jobs being lost, the uncertainty over Brexit.

Who is best placed to take the helm after May?

MARTIN: The dynamics of the leadership race have really been altered quite substantially by what's happened with the rise of the Brexit Party in the U.K., which is a party which didn't even exist in February. It's come from absolutely nowhere.

And it is terrifying for Tories. So if you'd asked conventional wisdom on cabinet members or Tories at Westminster that 3-4 months ago, that Boris Johnson was probably out of the running and, in this bizarre process, that's about to happen, where the MPs whittle it down from a Grand National style, chaotic 25 down to two --

HALLIGAN: Wacky races --


MARTIN: -- or the Indy 500 or whatever it is -- and it then goes out to the membership, who choose from the final two. A lot of people would have said Boris Johnson is probably not going to get to the final two.

But the shock that's driven by the rise of the Brexit Party and the Tories fear that they're now facing an existential crisis, means that they're coming to the conclusion in the last couple weeks that they need the biggest piece possible. They need someone really famous, as famous as Farage, someone that can take him on at his own game.

That comes with all sorts of complications and problems for the Tories about what they do beyond Brexit. And if they become identified as too much of a right-wing party they won't win in the center ground.

But for the reasons that I described, Boris Johnson is now back being essentially the favorite. It's not impossible that he be defeated; crazy things happen in Tory leadership races. Very often the front- runner --

(CROSSTALK) MARTIN: Sane things rarely do.

And one of the contenders at the moment is now with the bookies, that say it's sort of 25:1, might do something extraordinary, make a particularly brilliant speech or demolish someone in a TV debate or the front-runners might be exposed to scandal or controversy. We don't know.

But as it stands at the moment, the broad Tory tribe has decided that Johnson is the front-runner --


NOBILO: And we'll get into the Tory leadership contest a little more after the break. Just before we have a few moments, I'd like to read out some more comments. We've got a lot of positive comments about the prime minister, mainly sympathetic, which is unusual towards a political leader.

Jason Lundly (ph) says what a strong woman. Farewell and all the best.

Austin Kenny Okawondo (ph) says she tried her best but failed. I still see her as an iron lady.

Diane Baracovic (ph) said she did the right thing, it was time. Pass the torch.

I'm sure there will be plenty of comments on the other end of the --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pass the brandy.

NOBILO: -- when we come back. See you in a few.





NOBILO: Welcome back to CNN TALK. Today it's all about Theresa May setting a date for her resignation and who might follow her.

And we're talking on the break about the potential candidates. Let's take a look at the betting odds as they stand in the U.K. I'll bring that up on the screen behind us if I can.

Do they mirror what you all are thinking?

HALLIGAN: Yes, I think so. I'm surprised that the one at the bottom, who is the son of a Pakistani bus driver, sort of a blue collar background, he was the front-runner a couple months ago and now he's down there at 25:1.

It is going to be the Grand National, the Kentucky Derby, maybe a bit like the chariot scene in "Ben Hur."


HALLIGAN: There are going to be lots of black arts and smear campaigns being planned as we speak and even in operation. And I think Ayesha's right, it is going to be all about Brexit.

We should explain to our international viewers, in our U.K. system with our constitution, you vote for a party, not for a president. So because the Conservative Party are in power, they have the right to appoint the next prime minister from their own party membership, which, as Iain said, it's only 100,000-120,000 people.

That sort of seems a little bit illegitimate, even though it's happened in recent past with other parties, too. But my view is that the current Parliament is not going to pass any kind of withdrawal agreement. Everyone's hunkered down and entrenched. I don't think -- I mean I sit here with two proper political professional analysts, I'm more of sort of the economics nerd, who freelances on politics.

But I can't see Brexit happening without another general election. So I think if Boris Johnson does get this -- and stranger things have happened -- but he probably should get it, it's his to lose, I think, unless he's probably stitched up in Parliament. Because the parliamentarians and Conservative Party present the party membership outside with two candidates.

I think, quite soon after getting the Tory leadership, he will call a general election.

Yes, as Brendan from Bristol said, what?

Another one?

Yes, there will be another one. And I think after -- I know we're not allowed to talk about the European elections because the, you know, voters in Langley are still hanging on my every word.

Liam, tell me which way to vote.

So we're not allowed to talk about it.



HALLIGAN: I think it is pretty clear we can say without prejudice that the Brexit Party is going to do well. And I think in the end, to get Brexit over the line, to do well enough in the general election that will come, to get a more Brexity Parliament, which I think you'll need to reflect the electorate more, the Tories and the Brexit Party are going to have to do some kind of deal, which is an absolutely astonishing development.

NOBILO: What's interesting about who succeeds as prime minister, if we look at May and Cameron, the reason that May was appealing to so many people, she seemed like the antithesis of a slick media operator, which was something that some didn't like about Cameron and the grassroots, the fact that she did show some semblance of frailty at the beginning.

I was talking to Joey Jones earlier, who was a spokesperson for her, and she was very unlike him in a lot of ways. So it does make you wonder whether or not whoever succeeds her may well be somebody as populist-like, as colorful as Boris Johnson because it's the opposite of --


MARTIN: It's a Trumpian moment now, whether that ends well for the Conservative Party and for the U.K. and for Europe or it ends up as a spectacular disaster, all will be revealed in the next six months to a year.

But it does feel to them, I think, as though they need a moment which is historically incredibly difficult, they need a big beast, a huge figure, who can hopefully change the narrative.

But I think Liam is absolutely right. I think that there is -- I think there is going to be an election because the reality is that, whoever wins this contest, the act of them winning --



MARTIN: -- it doesn't change the arithmetic in Parliament. And the reality is, is that the government at the moment, it shouldn't be forgotten, that the real reason underlying Theresa May going is not that she can't get Brexit over the line, the government is not doing anything in the U.K.

Parliament is not voting on anything meaningful. There's no legislation planned. There can't be what they call the queen's speech, where the queen comes to Parliament and says my government will do the following things in the next year because there isn't a majority for any of those bills. So it's total gridlock.

The government has a notional majority of only three at the moment, depends how you count. That's including the DUP party from Northern Ireland, who are propping up the Conservatives. Pretty soon that majority is going to be in negative terms because simply the race of attrition, maybe few more defections.

So the new leader of the Conservative Party faces the problem of having no majority at all, cannot get Brexit through, is going to be rebuffed by the European Union almost certainly when they say make this a whiz-bang agreement and just withdraw the backstop and everything will be fine and the E.U. will say no.

So the new prime minister, I think, faces a pretty stark, difficult choice. And there are no good choices, either for an early election or it's destroyed by Parliament within six weeks. HALLIGAN: I agree with that.

NOBILO: I think it's hard to argue with the points that you've made. There will be other forces acting on this Conservative leadership campaign, people who aren't standing to be prime minister but who are really influential and Jacob Rees-Moog is one of them. He's just tweeted, "Nothing in office became her like the leaving it," from Shakespeare. "An unquestionably dutiful person left with dignity and the Conservatives must now get on and deliver Brexit."

HAZARIKA: Do me a favor. This is literally --


HAZARIKA: -- dancing on the grave, basically, the corpse is not even yet cold.

MARTIN: No one does shamelessness quite like the Tory Party.


HAZARIKA: But on Iain's point, one of the other things which is going to be very -- if you look back in our recent political history, two, arguably the worst and they had the most difficult time in politics, were prime ministers that got anointed by their party and then they never went to the public. By the time they went to the public, it was too late, Gordon Brown and Theresa May.

I think it's one of the reasons there is this deep distrust in British politics. There's this disconnect between the elite in Westminster and everybody else. And this kind of stuff does not help at all. If you think about what an important job the prime minister has, yet the country thinks what?

Will this be the third time in kind of relatively recent history in 10 years that we've been given a prime minister that we've got no say over?

So I think there has to be another democratic kind of intervention. Whether it's the general election or whether it's a second referendum. The other thing that's interesting is quite a few commentators are writing up that what Boris Johnson could -- let's assume it is Boris Johnson, because it does look like that. Liam said it's his to lose.

One of the other interesting things is he could instead of having -- because things are very fraught at the moment. A lot of people think if there's a general election that could bring in Jeremy Corbyn, maybe not with a majority but doing a deal with the Scottish National Party up in Scotland.

And the price for that deal would be a second referendum on Scottish independence. So the stakes are incredibly high. There's a lot of people who really love Jeremy Corbyn, there's a lot of people who really hate Jeremy Corbyn.

HALLIGAN: He's divisive within his own party. HAZARIKA: And fear what that could mean in terms of -- so the stakes are incredibly high. One of the ideas that's being promulgated is maybe Boris Johnson might say here's a second referendum but put a kind of a Brexit that maybe you guys would advocate more instead of the deal, he could put Remain, WTO, Brexit on the ballot paper and that could win. That could win.

NOBILO: We're going to take a short break but we need to come back to that because of the repercussions of what's happened today are massive. As we go into the break I want to read a few more comments from viewers.

Risa Hindley (ph) has a good one, "Now Theresa May can focus on her dance career."

She'll be doing that later today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She moonwalked back into Number 10.

HALLIGAN: Could you imagine if she had done that, moonwalked away from the lectern?



NOBILO: Others being more forgiving, Jenna Sims (ph) saying, "Brexit is the disaster, not Ms. May."

We'll be back with more comments from you and discussion with our panel. See you in a bit.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

NOBILO: Welcome back to CNN TALK. We're discussing the breaking news this morning that Theresa May has put forward a date for her resignation on the 7th of June. And has announced that her Conservative Party leadership contest will start shortly after that. In an emotional address on the steps of Downing Street, the prime minister said that her successor should compromise and that British politics was under strain. 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 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 --


MAY: -- 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.


NOBILO: Max Foster is standing just a few feet away from where the prime minister was speaking earlier today.

And, Max, are you with us?

I'd like to ask you your thoughts.


NOBILO: Having covered this. You have talked about this almost possibly more than me. But definitely equally as much as me for so long now, how long will the prime minister be able to hang on?

When will she resign?

Who will replace her?

What's your reaction to the fact that we finally have that speech today declaring that the prime minister is going to go?

FOSTER: Well, you know, we can look at the ins and outs of it and talk about the politics and the reactions today. But ultimately what we've got is a situation, where nearly three years ago, Brits voted to leave the European Union and they haven't left yet. Britain hasn't left yet.

And we're effectively back to square one because Theresa May's whole career was pegged to this Brexit deal. She couldn't get through, it was clear this week that it died and so did her prime ministerial career as a result.

Now they have to get a replacement in office. But it's not going to happen until probably mid-July. We're meant to be leaving by the end of October and you're going have someone coming in with a very different view of Brexit and effectively starting the process all over again.

So away from the ins and outs of what's happened, I think ultimately just shows that British politics is an utter mess, is broken and whoever comes in, Boris Johnson or whoever it is, is going to struggle in many of the ways that Theresa May did. There's a fundamental problem with the politics right now.

NOBILO: Max Foster outside Downing Street. Thank you.

And Max will be back in the chair that I'm sitting in for you later in the week.

It's confusing, I suppose, for people, given that the Conservative Party has been talking for so long about wanting to replace Theresa May and then going from different front-runner to different front- runner -- Jeremy Hunt, Boris Johnson.

Do you think the main reason that Boris has emerged in the front is mainly in reaction to this populist wave in the U.K., the popularity of Farage, the possibility of a general election, where they need a force to be reckoned with that can fight against what some people call populism (INAUDIBLE) Farage?

HAZARIKA: I think it's a combination of things. I think they -- you said earlier about how Theresa May was attractive because she was so different to what went before, David Cameron, which is a bit of a show pony. I think Liam and I want someone completely different to Theresa May. They want a very, very big character, they want a strong leader. Look, I am no fan of Boris Johnson, I have written many columns about him. I think he's a real sort of charlatan. I think he says one thing to one group of people, another thing to another.


HAZARIKA: What I will say is he is popular out there. So I am a typical leftie London metropolitan elite --


HAZARIKA: However, he has won twice in London.


HAZARIKA: And another thing is when he was going around the country for the E.U. election, the referendum, a lot of people think Nigel Farage won that. Absolutely Farage put in the stage work. But the person who set that campaign alive was Boris Johnson.

A photographer friend of mine says he has photographed everyone in the business in politics for the last 20 years. He has not seen a reaction to anybody like Boris Johnson got around the country.

Coupled with that, people want a strong leaders, people think can he beat Jeremy Corbyn. There was a recent poll of Labour Party members, 45 percent think he could beat Jeremy Corbyn.

And then there is Brexit. And there's no doubt that the country -- when I was outdoor knocking for these European elections, it wasn't a question of whether you were Labour or Tory. It wasn't a question of whether you were right or left, it was whether you were Leave or Remain. That's the new fault line in British politics.

And he has nailed his colors to the mast. He said I'm a true Brexiteer. He has needled Theresa May on Brexit and I think people think this is who we want. A lot of people --


HAZARIKA: -- said to me on the doorstep, we want a true contest in British politics. We want a red Socialist in the Labour Party and we want a true blue Conservative. And that's the competition that a lot of people like.

Do I like that?

Not particularly.

Do I think that would be great for British politics?

Probably not. But I think that's the route we're going down.

NOBILO: Boris is a singular figure back in politics. I remember back when I worked in politics seeing all those badges in campaign offices, saying I heart Boris. And it's hard to think of any politician, apart from maybe Corbyn, that you would even have that kind of merchandise about.

I mean, I heart Javad or Hunt is a bit of a stretch. There are lots of people that also don't heart Boris but I think he's --


NOBILO: -- that's what everybody says


NOBILO: -- you love him or you hate him.

HALLIGAN: He's a divisive character, but as Ayesha says, it was generous of you and it's true, for a Conservative, a true blue, posh boy Conservative, let's not beat around the bush here, it's a win in London which is a pretty Labour gritty city, is amazing. To win twice is even more amazing.

So he is seen as a winner. Look, class has always got a long way from the surface in Britain. But I think there's a lot of blue collar Conservatives and ordinary people that don't really care if somebody is a toff, as long as they're seen as a decent person.

Now a lot of the media and political class will say Boris isn't a decent person, he's a charlatan and all the rest of it.

HAZARIKA: And they're right.

HALLIGAN: But he's a great communicator and I would say, from talking to him a lot over the years, whatever his background, I actually think he has got more of a grip on what ordinary people think than a lot of other people in the House of Commons, who claim to be, you know, closest to the electorate.

He will rile a lot of people in his own party and in Parliament. The way he's going to be stopped, if he is going to be stopped, is that the Conservative Party in Parliament won't make him one of the two figures that goes forward to the party membership.

But I think if they didn't, then a lot of those people would have a real problem on their hands from their constituency.


MARTIN: The attempts to block Boris, this Anyone but Boris campaign that's been running in Parliament, which looked credible 3-4 months ago, I think even the leaders of that, when I was there the other day, you talk to MPs, they realize that that game is up.


HAZARIKA: A statement's just come out talking about how the leadership contest might look and they've been quite -- they've not said two names on the ballot paper. So people are speculating that they could change the rules to allow a slightly broader, which might be quite sensible to do actually.


NOBILO: Can I just pause for a second, because we've just had more reaction from the chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, who says, "I would like to express my full respect for Theresa May and for her determination as prime minister in working toward the U.K.'s orderly withdrawal from the E.U."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And thanks for making my job really easy.


NOBILO: We've had some reactions as well from other political figure. Let's pull some of those up.

We have Jeremy Corbyn, who was not particularly kind about what he said about the prime minister.

"Theresa May is right to resign. She's now accepted what the country's known for months. She can't govern and nor can her divided and disintegrating party. Whoever becomes the new Tory leader must let the people decide our country's future through an immediate general election."


HAZARIKA: There's nothing you can disagree with that. It's harsh but fair.

NOBILO: Also the fact that you mentioned --


HAZARIKA: He's got one condition for second referendum, over my dead body.


NOBILO: The other tweets we've had from political fixtures, we've had Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the House we were referring to earlier in the program.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leadership candidate.

NOBILO: Leadership candidate who says, "A very dignified speech by Theresa May, an illustration of her total commitment to country and duty. She did her utmost and I wish her all the very best."

I'm sure that she does now (INAUDIBLE).


NOBILO: Boris Johnson, seeing as we were just speaking about him.

HAZARIKA: Oh, this the worst one.

NOBILO: Says, "A very dignified statement from Theresa May. Thank you for your stoical service to our country and the Conservative Party. It is now time to follow her urgings to come together and deliver Brexit."

HAZARIKA: Postscript: party time.


NOBILO: In an attempt to sound prime ministerial, perhaps.


MARTIN: Boris did not write that.


MARTIN: I used to be an editor at "The Telegraph" 10 years ago and that is not written as Boris would write it. Boris is a natural with the English language. To follow her urgings." So he's already got --



MARTIN: -- trying to mimic Boris --

HALLIGAN: -- after the 2016 referendum, June 2016, which Ayesha is right, he was the Leave campaign on that. Farage got the referendum but I think Farage's campaign --


HALLIGAN: -- and I've said this to Farage's face -- he actually subtracted from the support for Brexit during the campaign because he turned off a lot of people who were swing voters and everyone who likes him would have voted for Leave anyway.

So Boris was the pivotal figure. It's when Boris entered the race on the side of Brexit the polls started to shift. So you know, he has to be -- he has to be part of this, it seems to me.

And when -- in 2016 he was going to put himself forward and then he was stitched up by his own campaign manager, Michael Gove, who is now a leadership candidate. But he was so surprised that he won he didn't have that media machine around him. He didn't have those advisers around him and he didn't have any infrastructure.

This time he has some infrastructure.

NOBILO: Having worked in Parliament myself, it's something which staffers closely guard the passwords to the social media because certain members of Parliament --


NOBILO: -- have the ability just to on a whim say --



HAZARIKA: We had that a lot when I was working for Ed Miliband. We had to stop living in fear (ph). But then he started tweeting himself and he was way funnier than any of us. We should have let him tweet the whole time. But just going back to one of the things I think is really important,

Liam mentioned it, this is really important, class is also a really big issue in this country. Brexit is a defining thing but class war is also a really big thing.

NOBILO: And they're so intertwined.

HAZARIKA: You can understand why people feel like that. It's very much the haves and have nots. People outside London and even within London, people having a hard time. Ten years on from financial crisis. They don't feel like -- we all watched "The Big Short." It's like we don't feel like anyone's got their justice yet. So I think class is going to be important in this.

And that's why this contest, if it does come to pass between Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson, is going to be quite electrifying as well because all these issues are going to be clear, bright lights (ph).

You're going to have Jeremy Corbyn saying I am for the many, not the few. And, you know, here's all the stuff about austerity and poverty. You've had the U.N. doing an excoriating report about poverty.

Then Boris Johnson, another guy who went to Eton, another guy who -- you kind of say that a lot of people don't mind toffs but actually that's not a great narrative for the Tory Party.

The one good thing about Theresa May, she didn't come from that background. She wasn't from than unbelievably -- that golden -- that golden --


HAZARIKA: I'm not sure that she was. She wasn't part of that club. One of the reasons she felt ostracized from Cameron and Osborne was she wasn't part of that gilded elite. She didn't fit in in the same way that they did. But I think that is going to --


HAZARIKA: But that's a long time ago.


MARTIN: This is a great test for Boris because he breaks a lot of rules. He's been around, this big famous figure in the U.K. now for more than 15 years.

NOBILO: And people only usually get 10 at the forefront of politics.

MARTIN: Gordon Brown's rule was the seven-year rule and after seven years people are sick of you. Boris has been around for a long time. We don't know --

HALLIGAN: This is his last chance.

MARTIN: -- whether he's going to be popular for one month or six months or whether --


NOBILO: -- with our CNN TALK viewers, we're going to take a quick break but we have Megan Baldwin (ph) saying, "No, not Boris Johnson. He's a buffoon with no credibility, certainly not at an international level."

Caputo (ph) says, "Please not Boris, please," and then a variety of emojis to that effect.


NOBILO: Amido Ismail (ph) says, "Lots of sharks around her, Brexit will bring still more falls. Keep Boris out."

Stay with us, we'll be back in a few minutes' time.





NOBILO: Welcome back to CNN TALK. Today we're discussing prime minister Theresa May setting a date for her resignation, the 7th of June, and the Tory leadership contest that will follow. Boris Johnson being one of the names that is constantly mentioned as a front-runner in that contest.

Before we start talking about all of the people who are up for the job next, let's take a look back on the career of Theresa May as prime minister.


MAY: So I am today announcing that I will resign as leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party on Friday, the 7th of June, so that a successor can be chosen.

BLACK (voice-over): A moment so often predicted had finally come. Theresa May acknowledged she must step down.

MAY: We will lead --

BLACK (voice-over): It marks the end of a prime minister notable for defiantly holding onto power, notorious for embracing short, repetitive slogans.

MAY: The strong and stable leadership --

-- strong and stable leadership --

-- the strong and stable leadership -- -- and the strong and stable government.

BLACK (voice-over): Both marked and grudgingly admired for displaying a baffling willingness to dance terribly in public.

The self-styled dancing queen of British politics is leaving the stage. Theresa May rose to become prime minister after her predecessor, David Cameron, found himself on the wrong side of the Brexit referendum result.

DAVID CAMERON, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I think the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction.

BLACK (voice-over): May, too, had wanted Britain to remain in the European Union but promised to deliver the people's verdict.

MAY: Brexit means Brexit and we are going to make a success of it.

BLACK (voice-over): But what followed were stumbles and mistakes, none bigger than May's decision to call an unnecessary election in 2017. The result was disastrous. May lost her party's parliamentary majority.

Suddenly everything, especially Brexit, became much harder. The Conservative Party kept to its leader because there was no obvious alternative and a contrite May was determined to carry on.

MAY: I hold my hands up for that. I take responsibility. I led the campaign and I am sorry.

BLACK (voice-over): But it was during that same speech that things began to fall apart, literally.

After being interrupted by a protester and struggling through a coughing fit, the letters behind her started to drop off one by one. At the time, many saw it as a powerful metaphor for her struggling leadership.

May clung on by promising all sides she could deliver a Brexit that would somehow keep everyone happy. But her tactical contradictions were exposed in a crunch cabinet meeting at the prime minister's country residence, Chequers.

There she tried muscling senior ministers into backing her preferred Brexit plan. But two of her government's most prominent, hardline Brexiteers announced they couldn't stomach it and resigned. Among them was Boris Johnson, who quit as foreign secretary, embracing a new role as the prime minister's chief critic on all things Brexit.

BORIS JOHNSON, FORMER BRITISH FOREIGN MINISTER: Self-governing Britain that is generally open to the world, not the miserable permanent limbo of Chequers.

BLACK (voice-over): May also had to deal with difficult Brexit advice from America's president, who even backed Johnson as a potential successor. DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Boris Johnson, I think, would be a great prime minister.

BLACK (voice-over): Still May persisted, as key deadlines in the Brexit negotiations loomed.

MAY: 95 percent of withdrawal agreement, as I said, has been agreed.

BLACK (voice-over): But the stickiest issue in the divorce settlement never changed, guaranteeing the Irish border stays open while also ensuring the U.K.'s sovereignty over its own territory. Ultimately, May's attempts to sell this and other Brexit puzzles failed to earn necessary support in order to pass an agreement with the E.U.

JEREMY CORBYN, LEADER, U.K. LABOUR PARTY: After two big rejections by the House, she must have noticed there isn't much support for the deal that she negotiated.

BLACK (voice-over): Brexit has forced out two Conservative prime ministers; someone else must now try to steer the country through the most important and divisive political challenge in recent British history.

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.

BLACK (voice-over): Phil Black, CNN, London.


NOBILO: Are you still finding that moving?

Let's have your final thoughts.

HALLIGAN: I am finding it moving. And I think it's also worth saying to --


HALLIGAN: -- our North American friends in the audience that if Boris does become prime minister, this is a U.K. prime minister born in New York. He's no longer an American citizen.

But I think he's going to be facing west toward America across the Atlantic. He's going to be the Atlanticist prime minister, if he does become prime minister. And I think the special relationship we heard from Trump in that film there is likely to get stronger.

NOBILO: Iain, you were mentioning the fact that Britain, particularly the Conservative Party are hungry for democracy because the last time they had the opportunity to vote on a leader was back in 2005.

MARTIN: Yes. NOBILO: And that might even be some of the reason that parties like the Brexit Party are being fueled, going on this democracy message. They're now being very single issue. They're just talking about democracy, not talking about immigration.


NOBILO: So talk to me about how you think that's going to impact what comes next.

MARTIN: Well, there's many problems of the Conservative Party. But after the farce of the last six months or so, where it's looked like a bunch of people at Westminster squabbling, failing to compromise, endless Muppetry, the Tory Party cannot -- or is very foolish if it attempts to follow that with some kind of stitch-up in which the various contenders drop out and they anoint Boris and there isn't a debate out in the country about -- remember, it shouldn't be about personality, it should be about the future of the country.


MARTIN: There are serious challenges mounting up for Britain, serious things that are not being dealt with because of the farce of the last few years.

I have to say, I do feel the human sympathy, I agree with Liam. However, in that rather brilliant package before -- and it was contrasted with what is really -- when you see it laid out like that, it is very stark. It is a catastrophic premiership.


NOBILO: Final thoughts from you?

HAZARIKA: Worst prime minister in living memory, I think we can agree on. If you again, just watching that package was so stark. It has just been a fiesta of disaster. That conference was like a festival of carnage on every single thing. We were in Manchester when that speech happened.


HAZARIKA: But look, I think we've got pivot out into the bigger thing for the country. My great danger for the country is we're going to see -- this country's already incredibly divided.

And I think if we do get Boris Johnson, the country is going to become even more polarized. The Labour Party is going to the left, the Conservative Party is going to the right. And I fear this Brexit and this personality contest in the Conservative Party is going to again dominate the bandwidth when there's so many other things going wrong in this country.

NOBILO: And on that rather somber note, we'll say goodbye here from CNN TALK. I'll leave you with a final quote from Jimmy (ph) who said, "Theresa May fought a good fight but, unfortunately, Brexit is a savage beast."

Thank you for watching and thank you very much to our panel, Liam, Iain and Ayesha. Thank you so much and goodbye.