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Theresa May

Theresa May became Prime Minister on 13 July 2016. Theresa served as Home Secretary from May 2010 until July 2016. She was elected Conservative MP for Maidenhead in May 1997. Without Brexit, Theresa May might never have occupied 10 Downing Street. It let her in, chewed her up with help from all sides and spat her out.

Britain made a historic decision 23 June 2016 to leave the European Union in a referendum that stoked passions on issues of immigration and sovereignty, and prompted the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron. The British people have made a very clear decision to take a different path and as such I think the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction, Cameron told reporters outside 10 Downing Street. Cameron said that transition should happen in October.

Graham Sharpe, a spokesman for William Hill, said in early July 2016 that customers were going all-out with bets on the Home Secretary: "Theresa May is cruising to victory in the race to become the next Prime Minister. Punters have now forced the Home Secretary's odds down from 1/3 (75% chance) to 1/5 (83%) to win the current Tory leadership contest."

British Prime Minister David Cameron said he would officially resign on 13 July 2016, allowing Interior Minister Theresa May to become the country's next leader. "She is strong, she is competent, she is more than able to provide the leadership that our country is going to need in the years ahead and she will have my full support," Cameron said in comments to reporters. Cameron said that he would attend the House of Commons for prime minister's questions. "After that I expect to go to the Palace and offer my resignation, so we will have a new prime minister in that building behind me by Wednesday evening," he said.

Theresa May was appointed Home Secretary in May 2010. She was elected Conservative MP for Maidenhead in May 1997. The leading candidates to replace David Cameron as leader of the ruling Conservatives and the countrys prime minister were both women the countrys tough-minded Interior Minister Theresa May, and Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom, a less experienced politician.

Commentators and Tory lawmakers drew parallels between the Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher and May, in particular. Like Thatcher, May, 59, is seen as unclubbable and aloof. May touched on this herself in a speech last week when she launched her leadership bid, saying: I dont gossip about people over lunch. I dont go drinking in Parliaments bars. I dont often wear my heart on my sleeve. I just get on with the job in front of me. She also unlike most British lawmakers avoids socializing with political journalists.

Some describe her as an Ice Queen, but like Thatcher also a woman not good at small talk she is said by colleagues to be warm and generous-minded in private. Also like Thatcher, she maintains a ferocious work schedule, focusing on detail and working through government papers until 2 or 3 in the morning. But unlike Thatcher, May does not have any explicit program. Thatcher had a very clear ideological and tactical program for further achievements and targets. Thatcher pursued an ideology of a certain type of capitalism.

A former top policeman, Peter Fahy, who clashed with her over police reform, told The Times: Shes politically astute, totally professional and very good on detail, which might come in useful when it comes to negotiating with Europe.

May garnered support not just from Tory lawmakers who backed the Remain camp in the Brexit referendum, but also from some who want to leave the EU but who see her as the best unity candidate as well as the contender best equipped to handle what will be fraught and prolonged negotiations with the EU. There were signs that May as prime minister might agree to modified freedom of movement in return for a trade deal with the EU. All the remaining 27 EU member states are insisting any trade deal would have to include the right of EU citizens to live and work in Britain, with Britons accorded the same opportunity in EU states.

Theresa had a varied education, spanning both the state and private sectors and attending both grammar school and comprehensive school. She studied geography at St Hughs College, Oxford University. After starting her career at the Bank of England, Theresa went on to the Association for Payment Clearing Services, first as Head of the European affairs unit from 1989 to 1996 and then as Senior Adviser on international affairs from 1996 to 1997.

Theresa has been involved in politics at all levels for many years, beginning by stuffing envelopes at her local Conservative association before going on to be a councillor in the London borough of Merton from 1986 to 1994. During her time at Merton, Theresa was Chair of Education from 1988 to 1990 and Deputy Group Leader and Housing Spokesperson from 1992 to 1994.

Theresa was elected MP for Maidenhead in May 1997, after which she held several shadow positions, including:

  • Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Employment 1999 to 2001
  • Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions 2001 to 2002
  • Shadow Secretary of State for the Family 2004 to 2005
  • Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport 2005
  • Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 2005 to 2009
  • Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Women and Equalities 2010 to 2012

Britain's Home Secretary is responsible for the Home Office, which manages the internal affairs of England and Wales, as well as immigration and citizenship for the United Kingdom. It oversees security-related issues such as drugs, counter-terrorism, and ID cards. It is analogous to the interior ministries of many countries and shares characteristics with the US Department of Homeland Security.

On 25 April 2016 she said " I think we should stay inside the EU not because I think were too small to prosper in the world, not because I am pessimistic about Britains ability to get things done on the international stage. I think its right for us to remain precisely because I believe in Britains strength, in our economic, diplomatic and military clout, because I am optimistic about our future, because I believe in our ability to lead and not just follow.

May is a familiar face among the small group of powerful women in the Conservative Party and is widely reported to have always been politically ambitious. She grew up a firm member of Britains middle-class, attending St. Hughs College at Oxford. In 1997, May became a Member of Parliament for Maidenhead, and has already made history by becoming the second longest serving Home Secretary, having held the post since May 2010.

May is widely known as tough and unflappable and somewhat lacking in charisma. That may be just what Britons are looking for after the June vote to leave the European Union unleashed political and economic turmoil inside the ruling Conservative Party and across world markets.

May had been dogged by criticism and predictions of doom since she became prime minister in July 2016 after her Conservative predecessor, David Cameron, quit in the wake of the Brexit referendum. But even her friends acknowledge her tenure has been hapless. She needlessly called an early snap parliamentary election in a bid to expand her party's Commons majority, only to suffer reversal after running what the media described as a desultory and robotic campaign. She fought the most unimpressive election campaign any sitting prime minister has ever fought. That left her heading a minority government dependent on the votes of a small Northern Ireland party.

May would in normal circumstances have gone the morning after she lost her partys Parliamentary majority, but the Establishments fear of Jeremy Corbyn kept her hanging on for two more excruciating years. Critics said May has struggled to define exactly what she stands for, and what she has to offer. She tried to distinguish herself by offering a social mobility agenda, but that effort collapsed when the entire board of a high-powered Social Mobility Commission resigned in protest at the lack of government action, claiming they were being used as window-dressing.

Party members clashed over whether Britain should crash out of the European Union without a deal, secure a Canada-like trade agreement or follow the Norwegian example and exit the political institutions of the bloc, Britain's largest trading partner, but retain membership in the Single Market and the customs union.

There was relief in London and Brussels December 08, 2017 after Britain clinched an initial agreement on its terms of divorce from the European Union, opening the way for the next and even harder phase of negotiations over the country's future trade relations with the economic bloc. But many of the red lines she had laid down previously were crossed to pull off the breakthrough. And to the anger of Brexiters, May also agreed that Britain will maintain regulatory alignment with the EU to ensure there doesnt have to be a hard border or regulatory barriers between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. That suggested to them that Britain is likely heading for a so-called soft Brexit, whereby it remains entangled with the EU.

In December 2017 her attempt to mold a more friendly Cabinet in a reorganization failed calamitously and revealed her weakness when some senior ministers refused to be moved or sacked. One minister told the Spectator magazine's James Forsyth, "She's like the Wizard of Oz - there's nothing there when you pull back the curtain." But behind the curtain is a raging battle within the British establishment over Brexit, one seamed with personal rivalries and ambition. And that, according to a Conservative minister, is "sucking the oxygen from the government." He added, "We are unable to agree on what Brexit should mean, unable to address other pressing matters, including the awful state of the national health service, and that issue alone could lose us the next general election, and when it comes to important foreign issues, we are just missing in action."

May, who had struggled to unite her Conservative Party over Brexit, said Britain will leave the European Union's single market and customs union after it quits the bloc March 2019 so that London can forge its own free trade deals. Traditionally, the Conservatives are unsentimental when it comes to ditching their leaders, and far more so than the main opposition party, Labour, which has often retained leaders long after they should have been dumped. And internecine warfare in Britain's Conservative party can be especially fratricidal: most of the key players tend to have grown up together in college, where they waged youthful ideological battles or competed to run student societies and debating clubs. The bruising rivalries of the past often remain unforgiven.

But few of May's senior party foes had the political courage to condemn her openly. That was left to lawmaker allies who don't have government positions or to ideological friends in the country's top newspapers, mostly Conservative. In a January 2018 column headlined "Will Someone Rid Us of This Appalling PM?" The Times columnist Iain Martin accused May of overseeing "one of the most spineless, depressed and depressing administrations in living memory." He remarked she appears "temperamentally incapable" of getting things done, "with a zero capacity for initiative."

By a vote of 348 to 225, on April 18, 2018 the Lords supported an amendment to her Brexit blueprint, the EU withdrawal bill, requiring ministers to report what efforts they had made to secure a customs union by the end of October 2018.

Conservative insiders said May had survived because senior members on either side of the party's Brexit divide fear the consequences of a leadership challenge. Neither side can guarantee one of their champions would replace May. Others worried that trying to topple May now will lead to an early election, one that Labour is in a strong position to win.

In October 2018 May declared austerity is over, but the situation on the ground was very different. May posed as a moderate to contrast herself both from her own right-wing and Jeremy Corbyns left-wing extremism but there was, in truth, nothing moderate about her or her policies. Under her watch the gradual privatization of the NHS has continued. In March it was reported that the number waiting more than 18 weeks for operations had tripled in five years. Drug trade-fuelled knife crime spiralled horrifically following cuts to frontline police services which began in 2010 when one Theresa May was Home Secretary. Hundreds of local libraries, the hallmark of a civilized society, have closed during Mays period in power. In December 2018 it was reported that almost 130 of Britains public libraries had closed during the previous year.

Theresa May survived an effort 12 December 2018 to oust her as head of Britain's ruling Conservative Party, leaving her standing but wounded as her government scrambled to negotiate Brexit just months before the UK was due to leave the European Union. May faced a no-confidence vote from Conservative lawmakers who were angry about the withdrawal deal she had agreed to with the European Union. The prime minister has told hostile Conservative MPs that she was seeking significant changes to the Brexit deal and will stand down before the next election in 2022 in an attempt to win their support.

The House of Commons said 12 December 2018 that the 15-percent threshold necessary for the no-confidence ballot had been exceeded. The voting took place later between 18:00 and 20:00 GMT. A comfortable victory would give the prime minister a much-needed boost, but a narrow win would put pressure on her to resign.

If the UK PM lost, she must resign and a party leadership contest would be held in which she is forbidden to run again. All other Conservative lawmakers can run. May had secured the support of at least 158 of her Conservative Party lawmakers, which would be enough to guarantee she wins a confidence vote later in the day, based on statements the lawmakers have made to the media and on social media.

While 200 Conservative lawmakers voted in support of May as leader, 117 dissented, indicating opposition not only from several dozen supporters of a hard Brexit but also from many more pragmatic lawmakers - and signalling that she was no nearer to passing her EU divorce agreement.

The European Research Group (ERG), a growing faction within the Conservative Party, voted against their party leader's agreement with Brussels three times in the House of Commons. The ERG represented one half of May's Brexit headache in Parliament those arguing that she was keeping Britain too close to the EU. The other, larger group of naysayers (including a handful of Conservatives, former Conservatives, and the vast majority of opposition MPs) objected to the deal she struck with the EU for precisely the opposite reason. May tried to frighten each faction into compliance with an "it's my way or the abyss" ultimatum.

Theresa May formally resigned as leader of her Conservative Party on 06 June 2019. The biggest surprise of May's tenure was that she managed to hang on this long. The Conservative implosion in the European elections and the rise of the Brexit Party and the Liberal Democrats nailed the coffin shut. But May's card had been marked since she called a snap general election in 2017, with the Tories riding high in the polls, only to end up losing the party's wafer-thin majority and compromise her parliamentary position even further. In hindsight, pitting the competent but charmless May against the fiery career campaigner Jeremy Corbyn at a time of severe national upheaval was asking for trouble. May survived because the Conservatives wanted someone to complete the first stage of Brexit, and appreciated that whoever did so would forever be tarnished by it.

Besides failing to deliver Brexit, she's liable to be remembered for little more than poor dancing, ill-timed coughing fits, a tearful farewell and being awkward with light banter some may recall her inability to remember any "naughty" childhood anecdotes besides running through fields of wheat in Surrey.

May delivered a short resignation speech 24 July 2019 alongside her husband, in which she thanked her colleagues, public servants, staff, the British people and her husband. She gave special mention, as during her final appearance in parliament, to the importance of women in power. "This is a country of aspiration and opportunity and I hope that every young girl who has seen a woman prime minister now knows for sure there are no limits to what they can achieve." She repeated her intention to stay on as a backbencher and said she would continue to serve in the national interest.

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Page last modified: 28-07-2019 19:00:25 ZULU