July 12: After the sudden exit of Britain from the European Union and also that of David Cameron in its wake, the power vacuum left in one of world’s most powerful countries, is set to be filled by Theresa May (59), a Conservative party member and a member of the Parliament, as well as the current Home Secretary. May will only be the second British Prime Minister after Margaret Thatcher, who was also a Conservative. May was in favour of Remain- which means in the favour of Britain staying with the European Union, but she did not campaign for the same.
May will succeed Cameron, who had announced his resignation immediately after the EU referendum decidedly made Britain an ex-member of the most powerful supranational group in the world. She will take oath of office on Wednesday, after her only contender Andrea Leadsom dropped out of the Prime Ministerial race. ALSO READ: David Cameron to resign as Prime Minister of UK by July 13; Theresa May to be next PM
Here is all you need to know about the presumptive PM of Britain:
Theresa May was born Theresa Brasier in the southern English seaside town of Eastbourne in 1956, in an Anglican clergyman’s house. This fact has lead to parallels being drawn between her and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. May was educated at a series of little known private and state schools, unlike Cameron, who is an alumni of the prestigious English boarding school, Eton. However, just like Cameron, she attended Oxford University, but maintained a low profile all throughout.
Theresa is married to Philip John May, a banker, whom she met while in college. Interestingly, the couple were reportedly introduced to each other by the late Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto, at a Tory disco at Oxford University. They got married in 1980, but were unable to have any kids. Leadsom opted out of the Prime Ministerial race, after she made a controversial remark saying that May was lesser qualified than her to become the PM, because of her inability to have children.
May, who is known to maintain a fiercely private and steely image, has had a very successful career as a politician. She is Britain’s longest serving Home Secretary and has been in the office for the past six years. She has been known for her tough stance on controlling drugs and drafting a tough anti-drug policy, as well as reforming the police services. She has also strengthened surveillance measures via the so-called ‘snooper’s charter’.
May, above all, has come to be known in the recent past to have a tough approach to immigration. She has drafted the toughest and most rigid immigration policies the country has seen. This year, she even introduced a policy limiting the number of non-EU citizens who would be allowed to live as well as work in the UK. However, she had vouched to Remain with the European Union, much like her colleague David Cameron. Although, she had showed only moderate support to the campaign.
May has had a mixed record as a Member of the Parliament. She had voted to repeal the Human Rights Act and also voted to support the war in Iraq. She has even spoken out about leaving the European Convention of Human Rights, sparking criticism from within her party, despite the massive support they have shown her. However, she has also been known to have a socialistic outlook, which was evident from her outspoken concern towards the ‘unhealthy and growing gap’ between ‘bosses’ and ‘workers’.
May has been known to practice what is known as Conservative feminism. She vouched for austerity economics and cuts in welfare benefits, even though these hurt women. However, she has shown vociferous support for flexible working hours for women and doing away with pay parity between the two sexes. She has even implemented women-friendly measures in her workplace. She has legislated against human trafficking, Female Genital Mutilation and the and so-called “coerceive control” or emotional abuse within relationships. She has also championed gay marriage.
Brexit- an uphill battle
Despite being openly pro-Remain, May promised that Britain will make “no attempts to remain inside the EU” nor “attempts to rejoin it by the backdoor.” However, she understands that she is assuming office at a difficult time and therefore, is in no hurry to trigger Article 50, as soon as she takes up the job of the PM. She is in the favour of negotiating terms of exit with the EU and wants Britain to at least wait till the end of the year. This, she believes will allow Britain to access European markets, while checking immigration too. She is now faced with the ginormous task of convincing the EU heads to agree to her own pace of exit. This is unlikely to happen (given that the EU is not very happy with Britain) and May might have to exhaust her diplomatic powers to broker such an impossible deal with EU.
(Image: Theresa May, after attending David Cameron’s last Cabinet meeting/Getty Images)