Will the United Kingdom soon have its second female Prime Minister?
That’s the big question hanging in the London air following another crazy political week that has seen hot Prime Minister favorite quit the race.
The new contender for the title? Theresa May, 59, Member of Parliament for the sleepy rural constituency of Maidenhead in Royal Berkshire – and just about the toughest, most no-nonsense politician in Britain.
“I know I’m not a showy politician,” May said at her campaign launch on Thursday. “I don’t tour the television studios. I don’t gossip about people over lunch. I don’t go drinking in Parliament’s bars. I don’t often wear my heart on my sleeve. I just get on with the job in front of me.”
She added that she would honor last week’s vote to Brexit the European Union, while addressing the underlying issues that led to the vote in the first place.
“If you’re from an ordinary, working-class family, life is just much harder than many people in politics realize,” May said. “You have a job, but you don’t always have job security. You have your own home, but you worry about mortgage rates going up. You can just about manage, but you worry about the cost of living and the quality of the local school, because there’s no other choice for you.
“Frankly, not everybody in Westminster understands what it’s like to live like this. And some need to be told that what the Government does isn’t a game, it’s a serious business that has real consequences for people’s lives. I will set out more detailed proposals in the coming weeks, but for today I want to be clear: under my leadership, the motives of the Conservative Party will never be in any doubt. And our actions will be bold.”
Before she becomes Prime Minister of the U.K., however, the 19-year political veteran first has to win a majority of support from the 150,000 Conservative Party members dotted across Britain. Unlike in the United States, the British elect a political party – rather than an individual – into power. So whoever becomes leader of Conservative Party automatically inherits David Cameron’s seat at No. 10.
If all goes to plan (an unlikely prospect in Britain right now), then by Sept. 9, May – who lives in the same Berkshire village as George and Amal Clooney – could be in charge of the U.K. by the end of the summer.
But just who is Theresa May – and is she likely to be as hard-nosed and cozy with the U.S. as Britain’s first female PM, Margaret Thatcher? To help you find out, here are five things you need to know about the new favorite to lead Britain to the Brexit door.
May has been married to banker husband Philip May since September 1980. The couple first met at an Oxford University disco when they were introduced by future Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto, who was tragically assassinated in 2007. In typical English romantic style, May and her future husband first bonded over a shared love of cricket.
May is the longest serving Home Secretary for over a century, and has had responsibility for policing, immigration, the security services and national security since May 2010. This has seen her go toe-to-toe with the powerful U.K. Police Federation, the European Court of Human Rights and most of her own Cabinet colleagues. In 2013 she even flew to Jordan to personally negotiate a deal to extradite Islamic fundamentalist imam Abu Hamza. She also once got so frustrated with a No. 10 civil servant that she grabbed him by his jacket lapels and threw him out of her office!
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She’s a Bit Like Maggie
May is extremely dedicated to the job and will regularly pour over her ministerial papers until 2 a.m. before rising again at 6 a.m. She is also known to reply to emails on Christmas Eve and, like Maggie, isn’t afraid to stand up to men: she once posed in a Fawcett Society T-shirt emblazoned with the statement: “This is what a feminist looks like.”
In July 2013, May revealed that she had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. “It was a real shock and, yes, it took me a while to come to terms with it,” she told the Mail on Sunday. ” Despite the health risks, she vowed to continue and now carries a needle with her at all times for her twice daily injections. “The diabetes doesn’t affect how I do the job or what I do. It’s just part of life … so it’s a case of head down and getting on with it,” she said.
“There’s a great quote from Steve Redgrave who was diagnosed with diabetes before he won his last Olympic gold medal. He said diabetes must learn to live with me rather than me live with diabetes. That’s the attitude.”
She Has Wild Taste in Heels!
Not many people have met the Queen wearing patent leather, leopard-print over-the-knee boots, but that’s exactly what May did in March 2015. At other times she’s also donned rainbow-striped flats, leopard-print kitten heels, gold hologram wellies and Indian silk heels. In fact, she’s so famous for her shoes that in Feb 2015 a mystery bidder paid £17,500 ($23,000) to go shoe shopping with her at a fundraising dinner.