Britain Conservatives Labour Politics

From chat show hosts to cricket presidents: Prime Ministers post-Downing Street

By Oliver Pridmore

“I will shortly leave the job that it has been the honour 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.”

Those were the words of Theresa May on 24 May, as she tearfully announced that she would resign as leader of the Conservative Party and, eventually, as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

As Mrs May strutted back towards the door of Number 10 following an emotional speech, the question on everyone’s lips was: what next?

Or, more specifically, who? The race for the next leader of the Conservative Party got into full swing on Sunday night with a Channel 4 debate that was both robust and, at times, rancorous – despite the absence of Boris Johnson.

But whilst the arguments over who will be the next Conservative leader, and consequentially what comes next for the country, have rightly dominated the news agenda, a more niche question, perhaps better suited to us political junkies, is what comes next for Theresa May?

Past prime ministers have left Downing Street and proceeded to take up a whole host of varied careers including university chancellors, authors and briefly, in the case of Harold Wilson, the host of a TV chat show.

So, in assessing what might be next for Theresa May, let’s take a look at what all of the living former Prime Ministers did after leaving Downing Street:

Sir John Major (Prime Minister 1990-1997)

Sir John Major lost the election to Labour’s Tony Blair at the 1997 General Election. After briefly continuing to serve as Leader of the Opposition whilst the leadership race took place, eventually culminating in the selection of William Hague, Sir Major went on to continue as the MP for his constituency of Huntingdon.

Sir Major announced in 2000 that he would stand down as an MP at the 2001 General Election, and soon after indulged his love of cricket by becoming President of Surrey County Cricket Club, a role in which he served until 2002.

Since then, Sir Major has taken up a number of chairmanship and presidency roles including: the President of Asthma UK, Chairman of the International Advisory Board of the National Bank of Kuwait and Chairman of the Advisory Board of Global Infrastructure Partners.

Sir Major still serves as the President of the Chatham House think tank, the Vice-President of SeeAbility, a disability charity; and is an adviser to Credit Suisse, a Swiss investment bank.

Sir John has also penned three books including an autobiography and histories of cricket and music halls.

In terms of politics, Sir Major has been vocal over numerous recent political issues, particularly on Brexit, being an advocate of a second referendum.

Tony Blair (Prime Minister 1997-2007)

Tony Blair resigned as Prime Minister in 2007, handing over the premiership to his Chancellor, Gordon Brown, as part of a pact between the two before Mr Blair was first elected.

Although initially saying that he would remain as an MP, Mr Blair soon stood down from the House of Commons after being confirmed as the Middle East envoy on behalf of the UN, UK, US and Russia. He remained in this role until 2015.

After being chosen as the Middle East envoy, Blair went on to undertake a range of other roles including: an adviser to JPMorgan Chase, an adviser to Zurich Financial Services and teaching a course on faith at Yale University.

In 2008, Mr Blair established Tony Blair Associates to provide strategic advice on political trends and governmental reform, with the umbrella group closing in 2016.

Mr Blair has also established a number of charitable foundations including: the Tony Blair Sports Foundation, the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative and the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change – with the latter two being the only ones still running.

Mr Blair was a frequent book writer whilst in office, and has continued this trend since leaving Number 10, including the publication of his memoirs.

In terms of politics, Mr Blair came back under public scrutiny in 2016 after the conclusion of the Chilcot Inquiry into the 2003 Iraq War. He has also been vocal in his criticism of Jeremy Corbyn as the leader of the Labour Party, as well as the government’s handling of Brexit, also being an advocate of a second referendum.

Gordon Brown (Prime Minister 2007-2010)

Gordon Brown lost the 2010 General Election, which eventually produced a coalition government between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

Mr Brown stayed on as an MP for his constituency of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath until standing down at the 2015 General Election.

His other appointments since leaving Number 10 have included: an adviser to the World Economic Forum, a ‘distinguished leader in residence’ at New York University and the UN’s Special Envoy on Global Education.

One paid job Mr Brown has taken on has been as an adviser to PIMCO, an American investment management firm, but says his fee for this job goes to the Gordon and Sarah Brown Foundation – a charity he established with his wife that works on projects such as globalisation and child poverty.

In 2015, he published his memoirs and in terms of politics, Mr Brown played a big role in campaigning during both the 2014 Scottish Independence referendum and the 2016 EU referendum, and continues to be an outspoken supporter of a second referendum.

David Cameron (Prime Minister 2010-2016)

Following the result of the 2016 EU referendum, David Cameron resigned in the June of that year.

He initially said he would remain as an MP for his constituency of Witney, but resigned from the House of Commons in September.

In the October of that year, Mr Cameron became Chairman of the National Citizen Service Patrons and the next January, he was appointed President of Alzheimer’s Research UK.

As well as these roles, Mr Cameron’s other post-Downing Street ventures have included: being a consultant for Illumina, an American genetics company; Director of the ONE Campaign, a non-profit organisation fighting extreme poverty; a consultant for the First Data Corp, a US financial services company; and leading a £750m investment fund between Britain and China.

His most recent appointment was as the leader of the advisory board for Afiniti, a US artificial intelligence company.

It was recently announced that Mr Cameron’s memoir, entitled For the Record, will be published on September 19 this year.

In terms of politics, Mr Cameron has kept a very low profile, other than saying that he didn’t regret calling the referendum and saying that he felt “desperately sorry” for Theresa May after she announced her resignation.

Theresa May (Prime Minister 2016-2019)

So, for Theresa May? At Prime Minister’s Questions last week, she confirmed that she would stay on as the MP for her Maidenhead constituency after leaving office. Nevertheless, this was also something said by both Tony Blair and David Cameron, but neither hung around the House of Commons for long.

Meanwhile, the rest of the country remains in the Brexit deadlock.

Perhaps presidency roles, advisory positions and, undoubtedly, a political memoir all beckon.

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