Theresa May is quoted as saying, “The country voted to leave the European Union, and it is the duty of the government and of Parliament to make sure we do just that.”
As prime minister, she has taken the approach that the referendum gave a clear Brexit result to leave the EU, so this was the path to be pursued. Repeatedly on the BBC News and in Parliament she emphasised that “Brexit means Brexit” and that “we are taking back control of our laws, borders and money”. However, it must be emphasised that she had given, what appeared to many, to be a lack-lustred support to the ‘remain’ campaign in the referendum in June 2016, which many commentators said was merely an act of loyalty to the then prime minister, David Cameron. Other commentators cynically suggested in giving her support to the ‘remain’ side and to Cameron she was just covering her back. Mrs May is fundamentally an English nationalist, pragmatist and a “One-nation Conservative”.
In the summer of 2016, she became prime minister; with a slim majority in Parliament, Mrs May decided to hold a general election in June 2017 with the hope of increasing her majority. But the results were disastrous for her Conservative government, as she lost some 13 seats (330 down to 317). As a result, she was forced into a Confidence and Supply arrangement with the ten Democratic Ulster Unionist MPs in order to form a new government.
It was reported in the media that in 2016 she turned down the suggestion of some professional business negotiators going to Brussels to negotiate the British withdrawal on behalf of the government; and instead asked the civil servant, Olly Robbins, to lead her negotiation. This delegated her various Brexit Secretaries, David Davies, Dominic Raab, and the present one, Stephen Barclay to virtually meaningless roles. She insisted in her various speeches on quitting both the EU single market and the customs union. Eventually Robbins came up with the current deal, based on the fact that the country had voted to leave, and business wanted to either stay or have very close relations with the EU. But, unfortunately, many of her party don’t like this result and want it scrapped. So what is she to do, while the Ulster Unionists snarl at her from the sidelines about the ‘backstop’?
What type of communicator is the Prime Minister? Mrs May comes over as a well trained forensic speaker. She is very precise and serious, and displays very little sense of humour. She certainly isn’t inspirational, and, in fact, once the message is understood, she tends to be boring. Indeed, she would have made a good ‘trust’ lawyer or a school headmistress if she had so chosen. On the other hand, she certainly isn’t afraid of criticism, and will fight back when attacked, as was seen in her recent visit to Brussels in December 2018. During her tenure at the Home Office, Theresa May had the reputation of being a tenacious and hard working minister, albeit with a secretive nature. This secretiveness has been seen in her success in manoeuvring and bringing the final vote in Parliament in January 2019 to one of accepting her deal or not.
Theresa Mary Brasier was born in 1956 and educated at Holton Park grammar school, Wheatley, near Oxford. Her father, Rev. Herbert Brasier, was an Anglo-Catholic clergyman who served at St. Mary’s Wheatley, and was tragically killed in a road accident in 1981. One year later, tragedy struck again, as her mother, who had been ill for some time, also died. After Oxford University, she spent six years working at the Bank of England, and later worked at the Association for Payment Clearing Services (banking) from 1985 to 1997. During this period she was a councillor in the London Borough of Merton, and made two unsuccessful attempts to enter Parliament. However, she was finally elected for Maidenhead in 1997.
When the Conservatives came back into power after the Blair and Brown years, she held various positions and ministries. In 2010 David Cameron appointed her Home Secretary, a position she held until David Cameron’s resignation in 2016. After a number of candidates for the leadership either dropped out or were eliminated, she, as the sole candidate, was elected leader. But is Mrs May the right leader, especially in a crisis such as this? Probably not, and according to one harsh critic, Polly Toynbee, writing in the Guardian, “In retrospect, she lacks any quality to make her even tolerably competent as prime minister”. This may be a little hard on her, as she tries to find a consensus on a middle way with her proposed deal. Perhaps Ms Toynbee is over attached to her belief in ‘remain’ as the only solution?
In December last Mrs May survived her leadership vote by pledging not to stand again. In her Brexit strategy she has got herself into a mess by needlessly drawing her red lines and refusing to consider any form of ‘soft’ Brexit. Has she landed herself in the worst of worlds with her deal and the ‘backstop’? On the other hand, she and her government appear to be preparing for a ‘hard’ Brexit with the enthusiastic support of the Ulster Unionists. But are these preparations designed to provoke some kind of extra concession from the EU? The people in Brussels must be watching in bewilderment!