Theresa May has hit out at those who mocked her tears on the steps of Number 10, saying if a male prime minister wept they would be hailed a patriot.

The outgoing PM was tearful as she announced in May that she would stand down when her successor – either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt – is chosen.

In her address, she described the job as “the honour of my life to hold – the second female prime minister but certainly not the last.” Mrs May said she was leaving with “enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love.”

Discussing the moment she crumbled saying those words on the steps of 10 Downing Street, Mrs May told the Mail: “If a male Prime Minister’s voice had broken up, it would have been said ‘what great patriotism, they really love their country’. But if a female Prime Minister does it, it is ‘why is she crying?’.”

Mrs May re-enters Number 10 after announcing she would step down as PM (Yui Mok/PA)

Mrs May said she “did everything” she could to get Brexit “over the line”. She pointed to her willingness to work with Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn and ultimately to lose her position as leader as evidence of the lengths she was willing to go.

“People have asked me: ‘Why didn’t you tip the table over?’ But if you do that constantly, it’s like the little girl crying wolf – it ceases to have an effect,” Mrs May said.

The new Tory leader will be announced on July 23 following a ballot of Conservative members and will take over as prime minister the following day.

Mrs May did not name either candidate in her interview, but seemingly alluded to the necessity of character in the UK’s top job.

She said being Prime Minister is not about power but about service to the public.

“All too often those who see it as a position of power see it as about themselves and not about the people they are serving. There is a real difference.”

Theresa May bursts into tears as she announces her resignation

She considered her inability to deliver Brexit and her reaction to the Grenfell tower disaster as the low points of her time in Downing Street, and listed changes to unemployment levels, wage rises outstripping inflation and increased employment of women among her achievements.

It is unlikely that her successor will negotiate further concessions from the bloc, she said, adding that the next significant challenges lie ahead within Westminster.

“I had assumed mistakenly that the tough bit of the negotiation was with the EU, that Parliament would accept the vote of the British people and just want to get it done, that people who’d spent their lives campaigning for Brexit would vote to get us out on March 29 and May 27. But they didn’t.”

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