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Theresa May quits: PM's most memorable moments

By Richard Morris
BBC News

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  • Brexit
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Friday 7 June sees the end of Theresa May's leadership of the Conservative Party.

During her three years in office, there have been plenty of ups and downs. Ahead of Mrs May standing down as prime minister in late July, we chart some of the most memorable moments.

The dancing

media captionMoves like May: The prime minister's dances

One of the more unusual aspects of Mrs May's tenure has been her willingness to dance in public - and despite mixed reviews, to seemingly enjoy herself while doing it.

After clips of her dancing with school children during a visit to South Africa attracted attention, she sashayed onto the stage to deliver her September 2018 Conservative Party Conference speech.

The track of choice? Dancing Queen by ABBA, of course.

Conference horribilis

media captionTheresa May struggles with her cough

Last year was certainly a more enjoyable conference experience for the prime minster than 2017, when things - to say the least - didn't go well.

Then the prime minister had to battle against a bad cough and failing voice that severely hampered her keynote speech to MPs and party members.

She got through it - at one point being handed a throat sweet by the chancellor - but as BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said at the time, it was deeply unfortunate that a speech that was meant to be about restoring the PM's authority ended up further denting it.

media captionA prankster interrupted the prime minister during her speech

To compound her problems, in the same speech, Mrs May was interrupted by a comedian who managed to make it to the podium to hand her a fake P45 - or redundancy notice.

Some of the letters even fell off the conference stage backdrop as she spoke - by the end it read: "Building a country that works or everyon."

'Brexit means Brexit'

media captionTory leadership candidate Theresa May said there would be no second EU referendum.

Mrs May might have wanted to forget that 2017 conference speech, but in her pitch for the Tory leadership in 2016 she coined a phrase that's stuck firmly in the public consciousness.

"Brexit means Brexit" started as a slogan and became a mantra.

Exactly what she meant by it was never entirely clear, but it was often repeated in an attempt to dispel doubts that she could deliver on the referendum result.

'Burning injustices'

media captionPrime Minister Theresa May said she wanted to "build a better Britain"

Soon after coining her Brexit catchphrase, Theresa May delivered a speech with another buzz phrase.

As she entered Downing Street for the first time, she pledged to solve the "burning injustices" in British society which affect those from poorer backgrounds.

She referred again to injustices in her resignation speech, and here BBC Reality Check looks at whether she addressed any of them in the intervening period.

'Nothing has changed'

Nothing has changed!

"Nothing has changed!". Theresa May is grilled by the press about revisions to the Conservatives' social care funding plans. #GE17

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The 2017 general election campaign started well for Mrs May, with the focus on her "strong and stable" personal leadership given priority ahead of her party.

However, everything changed when her flagship manifesto vision on social care was very poorly received and rapidly branded the "dementia tax" by the media.

A few days later, a press conference took place, in which there appeared to be something of a climbdown.

Mrs May insisted "nothing had changed", but most commentators spotted a significant U-turn.

The fields of wheat

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Elsewhere during the 2017 election campaign, an interview with ITV's Julie Etchingham attracted headlines.

Mrs May was clearly flummoxed by a question on the "naughtiest thing" she had ever done, saying: "Oh goodness me. Um. Well, I suppose - gosh. Do you know, I'm not quite sure."

After a few moments of trying to search for an answer, the prime minister told Ms Etchingham that she used to "run through the fields of wheat" and "the farmers weren't too pleased about that".

'Boy jobs and girl jobs'

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In another attempt to connect with ordinary voters during the 2017 general election, Mrs May and husband Philip appeared on The One Show sofa.

Asked about their home life, she discussed the idea of "boy jobs and girl jobs" - taking out the bins being an example of the former, she said.

Some criticised the remarks as outdated and somewhat sexist, including then leader of Scottish Labour, Kezia Dugdale, who tweeted: "I despair."

Hand holding

media captionDo Trump and May hold hands every time?

Theresa May's time in office ended with a state visit from Donald Trump. His time in the White House began with a visit from her.

Trump described the American/British relationship as the "highest level of special", and clearly, that extended to holding Theresa May's hand while they were out and about.

The PM later told the BBC it was a "moment of assistance".

A 'bloody difficult woman'

media captionMay on being "bloody difficult" and "Brussels gossip"

During the 2016 leadership race, Ken Clarke was recorded by Sky News saying that Theresa May was a "bloody difficult woman".

Far from being offended, Mrs May took ownership of the phrase and went on to use it herself on a number of occasions.

In May 2017, she told MPs she would be a "bloody difficult woman" towards European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Later, she discussed that vow with the BBC's political editor.

The 'nebulous' confrontation

media captionA quiet word in your ear...but what did Theresa May say to EU's Juncker?

Mrs May got the chance to demonstrate her strength to Mr Juncker in December that year. The European Commission president was said to have called her Brexit position "nebulous and imprecise" - something she wasn't happy about.

In a now infamous clip, Mrs May appeared to challenge him over the remarks - some saw it as "a quiet word", others "a confrontation" - before an EU meeting.

Later, Mr Juncker would clarify that he was saying Britain's debate and conversations over Brexit were "nebulous" - not the PM herself.

Mrs May described the exchange as a "robust discussion".

Salisbury poisoning

media captionTheresa May gave a statement at Prime Minister's Questions

Mrs May's response to the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Salisbury is viewed by many a high point of her time in office.

She garnered international support for Britain's strong stance against Russia, and She also visited Salisbury to speak to those dealing with the nerve agent attack.

She also made a series of forceful speeches in the Commons in the aftermath of the incident.

A record defeat

media captionMPs reject Brexit deal in historic defeat

From a high of statesmanship to a low. On the evening of 15 January 2019, Theresa May suffered the largest defeat for any sitting government in history.

Her Brexit deal - reached with Brussels at the end of nearly two years of negotiations - only got the backing of 202 MPs. A whopping 432 voted against it.

Some 118 Conservative MPs - from both the Leave and Remain wings of her party - were among those to reject it.

'Remind him of anybody?'

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There was humour in the Commons too, though. In Mrs May's first Prime Minister's Questions, she answered a question on job security in the UK with a jibe at divisions Jeremy Corbyn was facing in his own party at the time.

"I suspect that there are many members of the opposition benches who might be familiar with an unscrupulous boss," she told the Labour leader.

"Remind him of anybody?" she added, voice dripping with sarcasm.

Many political commentators likened the delivery to that of Margaret Thatcher - others, though, said the association was only being made because they were both women.

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An interesting laugh

media captionTheresa May laughs off claims of a Surrey council tax deal

In March 2017, during a question from Jeremy Corbyn on a Surrey council tax deal, Mrs May laughed it off.

However, the footage of her shoulders moving, head thrown back, led some to call the chuckle "villainous".

A tearful farewell

media captionThe prime minister said the failure to deliver Brexit was a matter of "deep regret"

Less than three years after a confident and optimistic entry to Downing Street, Theresa May announced she was leaving office on 24 May.

It was a tearful affair as she told the country her failure to deliver Brexit was a matter of "deep regret".

Her voice cracked at the end as she said would take with her "enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love".

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