Theresa May: Will she prove to be the second Iron Lady UK needs after Brexit?

Even as Hillary Clinton comes dazzlingly close to script history in the United States, Theresa May has comfortably slipped into her new role as the premier of United Kingdom – becoming only the second woman in British history to hold the office.  

Updated: Aug 01, 2016, 12:09 PM IST

She aspired to be the first female prime minister of the United Kingdom, was peeved by Margaret Thatcher snatching the honour, waited for decades before Lady Fortune smiled at her, and is now finally the proud occupant of 10 Downing Street. Theresa May’s destiny finally caught up with her dreams when Michael Gove pulled off a nasty surprise on Brexit champion and PM hopeful Boris Johnson, who withdrew from the race for premiership.

Known as a no-nonsense home secretary, who lasted in a ministry notorious for its bosses playing musical chairs, Theresa May is viewed as strong willed, pragmatic and extremely meticulous; having weathered many a storm – whether it were the London riots, murder of soldier Lee Rigby or the potential terror strikes including the one that she helped deflect successfully in 2013. She also counts amongst her feathers the deportation of Jordanian Muslim cleric Abu Qatada as well as prevention of the extradition of hacker Gary McKinnon to the United States.

Wanting to prove herself a tough cookie, May recently, during a debate over the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons program, openly claimed that she would not hesitate to order a nuclear bombing even if she knew hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children would die. The dramatics might have been in line with a plot to script herself as a boss who can take tough decisions.

On the negative, Theresa has been less than efficacious as far as reducing the number of migrants is concerned, and has failed to help Britain reach the less than 1 lakh mark, a figure she promised to deliver as the home secretary. Another of her ill thought out schemes – the “Go Home” vans - drew only jeers as a scandalously low total of 11 migrants in the entire England chose the option of returning.

Theresa’s initiation and early years into politics were less than illustrious. She lost her debut election contest in North West Durham followed by a worse drubbing in Barking, east London two years later. She was third time lucky from Maidenhead in Berkshire, the constituency that has returned her ever since.

This followed with her holding a large number of low profile portfolios in shadow ministries till she got her surprise break as the Home Secretary, though Chris Grayling was the expected candidate.

As far as her background is concerned, May, like Thatcher comes from a middle class background. Her ancestry, in fact, shows that both her grandmothers were employed in domestic service, while another male member in her family tree was a butler. Herself a daughter of a Vicar, she lost both her parents before she turned even 25.

Thankfully, by then, she had found her better half – the story goes that Philip May was introduced to Theresa Brasier in her third year of graduation by former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto at a discotheque when he was the president of the Oxford Union.

The two are believed to have been inseparable since then. Unfortunately, the couple has not been able to have children, an issue that was distastefully thrown up by rival Andrea Leadsom, who later apologised.

Theresa May is known to have a fetish for shoes and fashion as also a love for cooking. She is known to have over a 100 cookbooks in her library.

That apart, as only the second woman PM and Leader of Conservative Party, Theresa has a task cut out for her in days to come as she steers a struggling UK through its Brexit decision. Though Theresa May was herself a ‘Remain’ advocate, she kept her opposition to quitting the EU on low chord as a deliberate move to not ruffle any side. Later she claimed “Brexit means Brexit” - meaning there could be no rethink as the decision was taken was final.

So, May would now have the unsavoury task of hammering out a deal with Europe where she would want a free movement of goods but not of people. The PM would also have to think of ways to prevent a capital flight from her country into Europe following the change in terms and conditions for most companies who had set up offices in UK as part of integrated EU.

The decision to pull out of EU has pushed England towards a dangerous precipice of uncertainty, and what the people would be most looking for would be a reassuring figure to lead them out of the tangle. Whether she will give them the same bolstering leadership Thatcher did - after the period that was known as the Winter of Discontent - is yet to be seen. But there can be no wager on whether the new PM would want to go down as another Iron Lady of Great Britain.