U.K.’s next prime minister, Theresa May, formidable like ‘Iron Lady’ Thatcher
The United Kingdom is about to usher in a leader who is every bit as formidable and steady as the last woman who ran the country: Margaret Thatcher.
Like the “Iron Lady,” who served as prime minister from 1979 to 1990, Home Secretary Theresa Mayhas a reputation for steely determination and a willingness to stand up to the men who traditionally dominate British politics.
May, 59, emerged as the leader of the U.K. Monday when her only rival for Conservative Party leader, Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom, 53, dropped out of the race. Prime Minister David Cameron, who announced he would resign after coming up on the losing side in the June 23 Brexit referendum, will step down by Wednesday.
Britain’s Conservative Party confirmed May has been elected party leader “with immediate effect” and will become the country’s next prime minister.
May is known to have a rigorous grasp of policy detail and a restrained political style that has allowed her to emerge relatively unscathed from the country’s controversial vote to leave the European Union. She sided with the “remain” camp as a loyal supporter of Cameron.
During the four-month, acrimonious referendum campaign, May kept a low profile and avoided the heated rhetoric leaders of both campaigns unleashed against one another. She has said she would honor the referendum but hasn’t spelled out details of how quickly she would move to separate Britain from the EU.
“I know I’m not a showy politician,” May said last month. “I don’t tour the television studios. I don’t gossip about people over lunch. I don’t go drinking in Parliament’s bars.”
Like Thatcher, who died in 2013, May is a Conservative Party veteran with a strong, pro-market stance. Both have expressed skepticism about growing integration of the EU at the expense of national sovereignty.
Thatcher favored power suits and puffy blouses, often accompanied by a pearl necklace. May is also known for her style, especially her leopard-print shoes.
May is an Oxford graduate with a degree in geography who once worked for theBank of England and is regarded as the the most experienced and qualified candidate to take over from Cameron. She was first elected to Parliament in 1997.
The daughter of a vicar, May grew up in Eastbourne, on Britain’s southern coast.
On defense, foreign policy and the economy, her record suggests that like Cameron she would be pragmatic, although she has gone further right than Cameron in calling for the abolition of Britain’s membership of the European Court of Human Rights. May has argued that the court hinders policing and security efforts and does little to advance protections against discrimination that are guaranteed under British law. Since becoming a candidate for prime minister she has dropped the proposal.
May served as Cameron’s home secretary, a cabinet-level position widely acknowledged to be one of the most challenging jobs in government, involving immigration, national security and crime. She has held the position since 2010 — longer than any other politician in more than 50 years.
May is suffering from Type 1 diabetes, a condition that requires four insulin injections per day, but she said she has not let it hold her back.
“I just get on and deal with it,” she said. “I go to a lot of functions where I am eating and I speak at dinners, so that brings an added complication. When I’m going to do a debate or speaking at a conference, I have to make sure that I’ve tested and know where I am, so I can adjust as necessary.”