LONDON – David Cameron made his final appearance in Parliament as Britain’s leader on Wednesday, turning the normally raucous prime minister’s questions session into a time for praise, thanks, gentle ribbing, cheers – all spiced with a sprinkle of criticism.
The warmth culminated in a standing ovation for Cameron, 49, who is leaving office after voters rejected his advice and decided to leave the European Union. He will now formally tender his resignation to Queen Elizabeth II later in the day and hand over to his successor, Theresa May.
“I will miss the roar of the crowd. I will miss the barbs of the opposition,” Cameron said, promising to watch future exchanges as a regular Conservative Party lawmaker on the back benches.
He even poked fun at himself, reminding lawmakers of a barb he had directed at former Prime Minister Tony Blair of the Labour Party as he was leaving office.
“As I once said, I was the future once,” Cameron said.
One of the more cheerful exchanges took place between Cameron and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Cameron poked fun at the leadership turmoil going on in the Labour Party, telling Corbyn that the Tories have had “resignation, nomination, competition and coronation” while Labour is still working out its leadership rules.
Cameron also took a moment to discuss the Downing Street cat, Larry, who is being left behind to keep working as the resident mouse-catcher. Cameron says he wanted to scotch “the rumor that somehow I don’t love Larry. I do!”
After Cameron formally resigns, the 59-year-old May will later visit the palace, where the queen will ask her to form a new government.
The new leader, Britain’s Home Secretary – in charge of immigration and law and order – for the past six years, has the tough task of calming the country, and the financial markets, after the massive upheaval that has followed the June 23 referendum.
She is expected to quickly unveil a new Cabinet lineup, including a minister in charge of implementing Brexit, a British exit from the EU.
May, who backed remaining in the EU, will also be expected to reward prominent campaigners for a “leave” vote with key jobs. Observers are keen to see if she appoints former London Mayor Boris Johnson and Justice Secretary Michael Gove, onetime Conservative leadership contenders who jointly headed the “leave” campaign but then turned on one another.
There is also speculation that May, Britain’s second female prime minister – after Margaret Thatcher – will boost the number of women in top posts.
Cameron told The Daily Telegraph it had been “a privilege to serve the country I love.”
He said he hoped he was leaving “a stronger country, a thriving economy and more chances to get on in life.”
Newspapers offered harsher judgments of a politician toppled by his decision to call a referendum on EU membership – which he then lost. The Sun said Cameron had been “undone by his Olympian overconfidence,” while the Guardian called him a “prime minister of broken promises.”
But Cameron drew praise from an old adversary, with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker saying he would miss the British leader.
Cameron once derided Juncker as a Brussels backroom bureaucrat and tried to block him from becoming commission president. But Juncker told reporters in Beijing that he had “no beef” with Cameron.
“I have experienced a man who is serious, who is a fan of no-nonsense policy and who was delivering at each and every moment when things started to become serious,” Juncker said.
By Jill Lawless and Danica Kirka – Associated Press
Associated Press Writer Louise Watt in Beijing contributed to this story.
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