Community tributes to Theresa May as she announces she’s stepping down
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Community tributes to Theresa May as she announces she’s stepping down

Confirming she'll stand down on Friday 7 June, prime minister recalls words of 'British Schindler' in reference to her failed Brexit negotiations: “Compromise is not a dirty word”

Prime Minister Theresa May announced she is standing down as Tory party leader (Yui Mok/PA Wire)
Prime Minister Theresa May announced she is standing down as Tory party leader (Yui Mok/PA Wire)

The Jewish community has paid tribute to Theresa May, who announced that her turbulent time in Number 10 will end next month, paving the way for a new prime minister to lead the Brexit process.

A tearful Prime Minister said she had “done my best” to get her Withdrawal Agreement through Parliament and take the UK out of the European Union but acknowledged she had failed.

She also movingly recalled meeting former Maidenhead constituent Sir Nicholas Winton, the British humanitarian who organised the rescue of 669 children, most of them Jewish, from Nazi-occupied Europe on the eve on the Kindertransport. He told her: “Compromise is not a dirty word”.

“It is and will always remain a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit,” she added on the steps of Downing Street.

Theresa May holding up a special edition stamp in honour of Sir Nicolas Winston in 2016

On May’s reference to Winton, Alex Sobel MP wrote: “Theresa May cited advice [sic] from Nicholas Winton to compromise.

“It took her nearly 3 years to even consider compromising and seek consensus she then did it in a cack handed way! Her legacy won’t be the way she’s framing it!”

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis wrote on social media: “The Jewish community will look back on the premiership of Theresa May with deep gratitude for her friendship – in particular, her commitment to challenging antisemitism wherever it is found, Holocaust memorial and the physical protection of our community.

“She has always been and will forever remain a true ‘ohevet Yisrael’. May she know only blessing and success in the future.”

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In a statement, the Board of Deputies of British Jews thanked May for “being a true friend to the Jewish community”, citing the government’s adoption of the IHRA definition, funding boost to the CST, and the Holocaust memorial, among her contributions.

Board President Marie van der Zyl added: “We will also never forget May’s powerful speech to the Board of Deputies following the terrorist massacres in Paris in 2015, when she said ‘without its Jews Britain would not be Britain’ and held up a sign saying “Je Suis Juif”.

“We will always appreciate her friendship and support.”

JLC Chair Jonathan Goldstein added: “We thank the Prime Minister for her service to this country as well as her long-term support for the Jewish community.

“From her action against antisemitism as Home Secretary to her Government’s protection of faith schools, the proscription of Hizballah and the strengthening of ties with Israel, the Prime Minister has been a true friend.

“We wish her the very best for the future.”

Sir Eric Pickles, vice-president of Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, wrote on social media: “Theresa May’s sense of public duty is the dominant feature of her public life.

“She should be thanked for working hard for her country. I wish her and Philip personal happiness for their future.”

Conservative Friends of Israel thanked Prime Minister Theresa May for her “invaluable support” during her time in office, heralding her “steadfast” and “invaluable” backing for the Jewish state.

CFI’s Parliamentary Chairmen and Directors said she had been a “champion of the UK’s Jewish community.”

“Theresa May has fiercely fought anti-Jewish racism and it is thanks to her that the community has received record levels of financial support for its security at this difficult time. Under her leadership, the UK-Israel relationship has gone from strength to strength with record bilateral trade, the much anticipated first ever official visit to Israel by a member of the Royal Family took place, and the Hezbollah terror group was proscribed. CFI would like to thank her for her invaluable support”.

Watched by husband Philip and her closest aides, an emotional May said it was in the “best interests of the country for a new prime minister to lead that effort”.

Announcing her departure from a job she loved, May said: “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.”

Concluding her resignation statement, May broke down as she said it had been “the honour of my life” to serve “the country that I love”.

Earlier, in a sign that the leadership race to replace May is already under way, Helen Grant quit as Conservative vice chair for communities to “actively and openly” support Dominic Raab.

She quit her Tory party role to avoid any “perception of a conflict” between Raab’s campaign and Conservative HQ”.

Ms Grant said the former Brexit secretary “has an inspiring vision for a fairer Britain and I think he is undoubtedly the best person to unite the Conservative Party and our country”.

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