We Yanks might need to get used to the name of
The Oxford-educated British home secretary is likely
to be chosen as the next UK prime minister to succeed
David Cameron in October. As one of the few women
ever to occupy one of the four top jobs in the British
cabinet, and with a tough law-and-order reputation, she
will be likened by many to Margaret Thatcher, the “iron
lady” of UK politics, but she might be better described
as an English Angela Merkel.
The job of home secretary is one of the most challenging
in the cabinet because this is the office which oversees
civil disturbances, immigration controversies and overall
UK homeland security. Mrs. May has been in her present
post since 2010, and a member of parliament since 1997.
She has therefore been at the center of some of the most
contentious issues in the UK, and it is a testament to her
official performance and public image that she led by a
large margin on the first ballot of Conservative (Tory)
Party M.P.s following Mr, Cameron’s resignation. She is
also the clear favorite in most UK public opinion polls.
She is expected to win the premiership outright in a final
ballot, although one rival, Energy Minister Andrea
Leadsom, remains in the race after a second ballot. Mrs.
Leadsom was an outspoken proponent of Brexit, and has
the support of prominent euroskeptics. (No matter who
wins, the next UK prime minister will be a woman.)
All the more remarkable, perhaps, was that May opposed
the Brexit vote, allying herself with the prime minster and
most of the cabinet. She has stated emphatically, however,
that the British voters have voted clearly to withdraw from
the European Union (EU), and there is no going back. She
is committed to the formal break within two years, as the
EU treaty specifies.
Like Mrs. Thatcher, Theresa May is no Tory aristocrat. She
is 59, the daughter of a local Anglican vicar in Sussex, and
until entering Oxford did not attend the private schools of
the British elite, as have so many British prime ministers in
the past (including Mr. Cameron). She is married to a lawyer.
They have no children. She won her seat to parliament after
losing twice, and has been re-elected easily ever since. Before
being named home secretary, she served in several “shadow”
cabinets under a number of Tory leaders when her party was
not in power. In 2002, she was named the first woman to be
chair of the Conservative Party, and served for one year.
British politics are often confusing to Americans, especially
because of the British parliamentary system. Under President
Obama, the U.S. relationship with our oldest ally (and former
colonial master) has been up and down. Mr. Obama formally
declared his opposition to Brexit. The next British prime
minister will be perhaps all the more important to Americans
as the next U.S. president navigates not only a post-Brexit
world, but also the extraordinary challenges in a quickly
changing global economy, as well as the increasing
dangers from threats from throughout the entire planet.
Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.