Biography/Profile/History Of Britain’s next prime minister “Theresa May”


stream_imgTheresa May has long held an ambition for the top job in British politics. Credit: PA

  • Date of birth: 1 October 1956 (aged 59)
  • Job: MP for Maidenhead since 1997. Home Secretary since May 2010
  • Education: Mainly state-educated at Wheatley Park Comprehensive School with a brief time at an independent school; St Hugh’s College, Oxford
  • Family: Married to Philip May
  • Hobbies: Cooking – she says she owns 100 recipe books. Occasional mountain walks. On BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs in 2014, she chose Abba’s Dancing Queen and Walk Like A Man, from the musical Jersey Boys, among her picks, alongside Mozart and Elgar.
  • On her party’s future: “(It is) nothing less than the patriotic duty of our party to unite and to govern in the best interests of the whole country. We need a bold, new positive vision for the future of our country – a country that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us.” Says people want more than just a “Brexit PM” and has vowed to unify the Leave and Remain factions in the party.160630151456-tory-leader-candidates-may-exlarge-169

Even before entering Downing Street, she made history by becoming the longest serving home secretary for more than 100 years. The daughter of a Church of England vicar, who died from injuries sustained in a car crash when she was only 25, Theresa May’s middle class background has more in keeping with the last female occupant of Downing Street, Margaret Thatcher, than her immediate predecessor.

May family handout of Theresa May at her wedding to Philip in 1980. From left - Philip's parents, John and Joy May, Philip and Theresa, Theresa's father Hubert, maternal grandmother Violet Barnes, and mother Zaidee in the wheelchair
Image captionTheresa May married her husband Philip in 1980

Born in Sussex but raised largely in Oxfordshire, Mrs May – both of whose grandmothers are reported to have been in domestic service – attended a state primary, an independent convent school and then a grammar school in the town of Wheatley, which became the Wheatley Park Comprehensive School during her time there.

Like Margaret Thatcher – with whom she also shares a love of the sitcom Yes Minister – the then Theresa Brasier went to Oxford University to study and, like so many others of her generation, found that her personal and political lives soon became closely intertwined.

She met her husband Philip, a president of that breeding ground for future political leaders, the Oxford Union, in 1976. The story has it that they were introduced at a Conservative disco by the subsequent Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto. They married in 1980.

Theresa May as a child with her parents
Image caption:Theresa May is seen here as a child with her parents Hubert and Zaidee

By that point, Theresa May, who studied geography at St Hugh’s College, was already beginning to forge a successful career in the City, initially starting work at the Bank of England and later rising to become head of the European Affairs Unit of the Association for Payment Clearing Services.

But it was already clear that she saw her future in politics. She was elected as a local councillor in Merton, south London, and served her ward for a decade, rising to become deputy leader. However, she was soon setting her sights even higher.

Mrs May, who has become a confidante as well as role model for aspiring female MPs – told prospective candidates before the 2015 election that “there is always a seat out there with your name on it”.

Theresa had a varied education spanning both the state and private sectors, and both grammar school and comprehensive school. She read Geography at St Hugh’s College, Oxford University. She started her career at the Bank of England and went on to hold posts at the Association for Payment Clearing Services (APACS) as Head of the European Affairs Unit and Senior Adviser on International Affairs.

Theresa has been involved in politics at all levels for many years, starting out 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 that time she was Chairman of Education between 1988 and 1990 and Deputy Group Leader and Housing Spokesman between 1992 and 1994.

Theresa was elected Member of Parliament for Maidenhead in May 1997. She lives in the constituency and is an active local campaigner. Her local activity has included campaigns to improve the local train service, bring a minor injuries unit to St Marks Hospital, and improve Maidenhead town centre.

She has held several positions within Parliament since 1997. She was a member of the Shadow Cabinet from 1999 to 2010, including as Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Employment, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, and Shadow Leader of the House of Commons. From 2002 to 2003 she was the first female Chairman of the Conservative Party.

VIDEO: Theresa May interviewed by Andrew Marr (06Oct13)

Theresa was appointed Home Secretary in May 2010. In this role she is leading the Government’s work to free up the police to fight crime more effectively, secure the borders and reduce immigration, and protect the UK from terrorism. She was also Minister for Women & Equalities from 2010 to 2012.

Theresa May sported a raincoat and a trilby hat as she allowed cameras to film her after winning election to Parliament in 1997.

Theresa May sported a raincoat and a trilby hat as she allowed cameras to film her after winning election to Parliament in 1997. Credit: ITV Meridian

Quick rise in Parliament

May was quickly promoted to prominent roles within the party.

She oversaw the shadow portfolios for education, employment, work and pensions and House of Commons leader, while also briefly serving as the Conservative’s first female chairman.

Theresa May earned her first shadow cabinet role under William Hague's leadership two years after being elected to Parliament.
Theresa May earned her first shadow cabinet role under William Hague’s leadership two years after being elected to Parliament. Credit: PA
Theresa May fell into Lib Dem MP Richard Allan's lap during a game of musical chairs in 2001.
Theresa May fell into Lib Dem MP Richard Allan’s lap during a game of musical chairs in 2001. Credit: PA

The coalition’s election in 2010 saw May installed as Home Secretary, as she became only the the fourth woman to occupy one of the four great offices of state.

At home making enemies

Her six year run in the department – the longest for more than 50 years – saw her establish her reputation as a tough politician happy to make enemies in pursuit of government policy.

David Cameron installed Theresa May as his Home Secretary when the Tory-led coalition came to power in 2010.
David Cameron installed Theresa May as his Home Secretary when the Tory-led coalition came to power in 2010. Credit: PA

She proved combative with the police force with a memorably attacking speech at the Police Federation’s annual conference in 2014 and consistently spoke out against the European Convention on Human Rights.

May survived criticism for failing to deliver on her government’s pledge to reduce immigration levels and despite being an ever-present in Cabinet, maintained a political distance from the power base of David Cameron and George Osborne without rocking the party boat.

As Britain’s longest-serving home secretary in more than 60 years, one of her notable successes was steering contested legislation through Parliament to expand the country’s law-enforcement surveillance capabilities. Ms. May ran into controversy with a 2015 speech urging tighter immigration restrictions and had run-ins with law enforcement over budget cuts and increased police oversight.

Obama administration officials said Monday they look forward to working with Ms. May, but they also face the job of getting to know her. The White House said President Barack Obama has yet to have a detailed conversation with her.

Ms. May has worked with U.S. law-enforcement officials but is less well-known in foreign policy and international security circles.

“She’s a well-known entity to senior U.S. officials as the longest-serving home secretary and had a huge portfolio in the bilateral relationship because of all the security information,” said Heather Conley, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “I don’t know if we know her wider foreign policy views well, but we’ll be looking in the coming days.” Still, she is considered unlikely to veer far from past U.K. foreign policy.

Her new job as prime minister will require negotiating an unprecedented series of trade conflicts, immigration rules and legislative business with the EU’s remaining 27 members and other countries.

One critical decision will be when to formally set in motion Britain’s exit from the bloc. An official notice of withdrawal under Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty opens a two-year negotiating window to complete terms of separation. European leaders have said they want that process to begin soon.


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