British PM Cameron bows out joking as he makes way for May

FINAL FORMALITIES::David Cameron was due to present his resignation to the queen at 5pm, before Theresa May was to make her own visit to the palace

Reuters, LONDON

Thu, Jul 14, 2016 - Page 1

British Prime Minister David Cameron entertained parliament with a series of farewell quips yesterday in his last appearance as prime minister before making way for British Home Secretary Theresa May to lead the monumental task of extricating Britain from the EU.

“This morning, I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. Other than one meeting this afternoon with Her Majesty the Queen, the diary for the rest of my day is remarkably light,” Cameron said to roars of laughter in a packed House of Commons in London.

He was due to present his resignation to the queen at Buckingham Palace at about 5pm. Then May would pay her own visit to the monarch to be formally entrusted with the job, before entering 10 Downing Street to become Britain’s second female prime minister after Margaret Thatcher.

Cameron stepped down after Britons rejected his entreaties and voted in a June 23 referendum to quit the EU, creating huge economic uncertainty because of the likely damage to trade and investment.

Apart from the task of executing “Brexit,” May must try to unite a divided party and a nation in which many, on the evidence of the vote, feel angry with the political elite and left behind by the forces of globalization.

Despite the serious backdrop, there was an atmosphere of hilarity in parliament as Cameron traded humorous jabs with beleaguered opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

“I’m beginning to admire his tenacity. He is reminding me of the black knight in Monty Python’s Holy Grail. He’s been kicked so many times, but he says: ‘Keep going, it’s only a flesh wound.’ I admire that,” said Cameron, who departed to an ovation from his own and some Labour lawmakers.

He took the opportunity to trumpet his government’s achievements in generating one of the fastest growth rates among Western economies, chopping the budget deficit, creating 2.5 million jobs and legalizing gay marriage.

Yet his legacy will be overshadowed by his failed referendum gamble.

May is seen by her supporters as a safe pair of hands to steer Britain through the Brexit process.

“I think around the Cabinet table yesterday the feeling was that we have our [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel,” British Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said.