Following on from the recent EU Referendum result, which led to David Cameron stepping down from his role as Prime Minister, SBT looks at Theresa May’s political background, addressing some of her decisions thus far and her future plans for the country

Theresa May – Photo by UK Home Office

Theresa May, born in Sussex’s very own town of Eastbourne on October 1st 1956, has stepped up as the UK’s brand new and second-ever female Prime Minister. Given the circumstances of her promotion, and her stance on Brexit, it’s no surprise that there’s some controversy across the nation. As such, May’s incumbency will not be easy and we’re all asking the question: will she live up to our expectations?

Theresa’s parents were successful people, giving her inspiration and motivation from a young age: likely one of the factors that pushed her to become the respected figure she is today. Theresa May had a very varied school-life, attending both private and state schools and, as well as this, going on to earn a place at Holton Park Girls’ Grammar School based in Wheatley.

After her school days were over, Theresa earned a place at the University of Oxford where she studied geography, graduating in 1977 with a second-class BA degree. Although now a well-known and respected political figure, Theresa May took her first job (post-university) at the Bank of England, where she worked for 6 years. As a determined young woman, Theresa kept pushing forward, earning herself a job at the Association for Payment Clearing Services as Financial Consultant – a role she kept for 12 years. During this period of her life, both of her parents passed away, yet she didn’t let this affect the career that she had worked, and continued to work, so hard to get.

Theresa May’s political career didn’t actually start until 1986 when she worked as a Counciller of Education for the London Borough of Merton. She served this position until 1994, alongside the role of Deputy Group Leader and Housing Spokesman. It wasn’t until the 1997 general election that the new Prime Minister was elected as the Conservative MP for Maidenhead.

Now having entered Parliament, Theresa took on several roles, including Shadow Spokesman for Schools, Disabled People and Women for William Hague’s Opposition team in 1998. Theresa has held numerous positions within Parliament since 1998, including Shadow Cabinet from 1999 to 2010, and she also became the first female Chairman of the Conservative party from 2002 to 2003.

Her hard work and dedication meant Mrs May was delegated the role of Home Secretary in 2010, and this led her to become the longest-serving Conservative Home Secretary for over 100 years. Her work ethic and care for the country she lives in no doubt was the critical factor in gaining the title of Prime Minister, appointed on 13th July after a tumultuous time to say the least.

Theresa May and Caroline Ansell in Eastbourne
Theresa May and Caroline Ansell in Eastbourne

Theresa May is undeniably taking on an incredibly important and difficult job, and this has once again caused debate amongst the nation. Having received an influx of post-Brexit emails containing statistics, predictions and opinions however, it seems the majority of the country – or our county at least – has May’s support, including Caroline Ansell, who has worked closely with the new Prime Minister on a number of occasions. Caroline, who was appointed as the Member of Parliament for the constituency of Eastbourne, says: “I supported Theresa from the start and I’m delighted she will be our Prime Minister. These are challenging times and now the hard work begins to leave the EU, unite the party and country and get the best possible trade terms for the UK.” She continued: “I’m also extremely pleased Theresa has recognised the Government must do more to help working people who have often felt their voice is not listened to. This One Nation approach is a must if the country is going to heal, it is a must for the people of Eastbourne and it is a must if everyone is going to feel they have a stake in Britain’s future.”

Ellen Walsh, Practice Leader at Grant Thornton Gatwick also added to the long line of congratulations: “We congratulate Theresa May on becoming the next Prime Minister and look forward to working with her to build a vibrant United Kingdom. Her swift appointment will be welcomed by the business community, providing stability and an experienced leader as Prime Minister in this time of uncertainty and change.”

10 Downing Street - Photo by robertsharp
10 Downing Street – Photo by robertsharp

Continuing on the subject of Brexit, Ellen said: “Alongside the international negotiations which follow the EU referendum, we support domestic reforms that build a more vibrant economy across all parts of the UK and provide longer term stability and sustainability. This should include increased investment in infrastructure and innovation to support growth in all our communities. In terms of getting the best deal for the UK in Brexit negotiations, we would encourage a focus on the trade and talent that will continue to support our dynamic economy. Brexit negotiations need to ensure the UK continues to benefit from the Single Market in goods and services. In a recent Grant Thornton survey, leaders of mid-sized businesses identified this as their number one priority for the government post referendum.”

Theresa May made her speech, outlining the steps and improvements she plans to make for our country and answering the burning questions that are on almost everyone’s minds after the unforeseeable result of the EU referendum. During her speech, the Prime Minister said: “As we leave the European Union, we will forge a bold, new, positive role for ourselves in the world. And we will make Britain a country that works, not for a privileged few, but for every one of us. That will be the mission of the Government I lead, and together we will build a better Britain.”

One of the main changes the new PM plans to bring to the table, and one element she seems to have emphasised the most, is to create an economy that is beneficial to everyone and not just the privileged minority. Financial decisions, she promises, will be made with the working, middle and upper classes in mind. Equally, she promises that ‘we will not be defined by Brexit – but instead build the education, skills, and social mobility to allow everyone to prosper from the opportunities of leaving the EU.’ This is a bold promise that we can only hope will be kept.

One of Mrs May’s first and most important decisions was on yet another topic that splits most rooms: whether to renew the Trident initiative. With previous leaders avoiding the question of a hypothetical big red button situation, Theresa May’s bold answer caused some outrage across the media, with comments batted around such as: “Theresa May says she would kill ‘100,000 men, women and children’ with a nuclear bomb.”

Her standing was a strong one, and ruthless of course, but her reasoning valid, very much a part of playing the ‘political game’ that arguably resides in the Cold War era, stating: “The whole point of a deterrent is that our enemies need to know that we would be prepared to use it.”

Theresa May wears pink for Breast Cancer campaign - Photo by UK Home Office
Theresa May wears pink for Breast Cancer campaign – Photo by UK Home Office

In addition, the new Prime Minister has been and will continue to be a renowned feminist, additionally supporting equality across the board, having spoken out to back gay marriage on a number of occasions, despite voting against the legalisation of adoption by gay couples back in the early 2000’s.

Inevitably, May has faced comparisons to our previous and first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher – at times accused of echoing her very voice. So, in true fashion, ‘Girl power’ will continue to prevail as Mrs May is expected to appoint a record amount of women to senior positions within the Government – from a third to half – as she adapts her cabinet. George Osborne, Michael Gove, John Whittingdale, Nicky Morgan and Oliver Letwin have all already been pushed aside by the new Prime Minister, whilst just four positions have remained the same. Although perhaps a slightly ruthless move to shift so many positions in the eyes of many critics, and some may say an almost ludicrous move on the part of Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary, others will undoubtedly view her first moves as a sign of strong leadership and professional focus. Theresa’s reformed cabinet now consists of figures with a range of different views, with around a third previously supporting the ‘leave’ campaign during the build-up to the EU referendum.

With such a split-vote on the issue of Brexit across the country, the cabinet quite rightly must represent the views of the nation; the arrangement involves people from both sides of the vote, making a fair outcome for most more likely. Coupled with Theresa May’s promise of equal opportunities across the board, things are looking hopeful for our little island. It’s not often that we at SBT get to indulge our concept of Made in Sussex to such a degree, so here’s hoping!