After becoming Prime Minister in 2016, Theresa May made her rival and successor Boris Johnson Foreign Secretary thinking she could handle him. However, Sir Anthony Seldon, who has written a new biography of her time in power, May at 10, has revealed what their relationship during this period was really like.
Speaking exclusively with Express.co.uk, the historian said: “She thought she could manage Boris and she made him Foreign Secretary hoping she’d have a star player; a charismatic player.
“She rapidly became disappointed by him, his gaffes and by reports coming back to No 10 that he wasn’t impressing allies as Foreign Secretary.
“So she began to have second thoughts about him, but she knew that she wasn’t strong enough to get rid of him.
Of course, in the end, Boris resigned from her Cabinet and eventually went on to succeed her in the top job. But had he been Prime Minister in 2016, Sir Anthony thinks Brexit could have happened by now.
He said: “I think the biggest criticism of Mrs May is that neither Farage or Boris were calling for a hard Brexit in the referendum –the remainers knew that they had lost and Brexit had to come.
“She could have had a pragmatic Brexit that would have got the support of the whole country, a majority of it.
“But she didn’t do that. She played her cards very close to her chest.
“She didn’t even consult her Chancellor, let alone other key members of her cabinet, her parliamentary party or parliament.”
In the introduction to May at 10, the author assessed that she had many qualities to be a good Prime Minister.
However, he said: “[They] were not the qualities that were needed in 2016 when Brexit was the prime responsibility.”
But will May’s premiership be better remembered with hindsight?
Apparently it depends entirely on what happens next.
Sir Anthony added: “Boris hasn’t found it so easy to get a Brexit.
“If our Brexit looks substantially like the Brexit she tried to achieve, then she will be recognised for that positively.
“If no Brexit happens, and there’s a real chance there will be no Brexit, then she’ll be remembered as the person who blew Brexit.”
May at 10 by Sir Anthony Seldon with Raymond Newell is out now.