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Who is Theresa May?

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A true feminist, a devout Christian, and a leader with common sense will soon move into 10 Downing Street.

As excitement—and dismay—surrounded Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, Remainer and (former) prime minister, David Cameron announced his resignation from British parliament’s highest position. Today he officially leaves office, allowing Theresa May to become the next British Prime Minister.

Originally, Cameron planned to wait until October to pass the torch to the next leader, but on Monday he stated that, “we now don’t need to have a prolonged period of transition. And so tomorrow I will chair my last Cabinet meeting. On Wednesday I will attend the House of Commons for Prime Minister’s questions.”

The background on May’s rise to this office may be a tad complicated to Americans, even compared to our current messy presidential election.  Rather than a national vote for a new prime minister, in the British parliamentary system the ruling party’s leader (in this case, the Conservatives) automatically becomes prime minister.

Two candidates vying to take over the Conservative Party, and ultimately the prime minister’s seat, were May and Andrea Leadsom. But the two never went to election as Leadsom decided to drop out after people took offense to her suggestions that she’d make a better leader than May because she is a mother and May is not. The comments were particularly unacceptable, as May has been open about her desire to have a family with her husband of 35 years, Phillip John May, and that not having children is an “ultra-sensitive topic” for her. With Leadsom dropping out, May became leader of the Conservative Party and now will become the second female British prime minister, after Margaret Thatcher.

Theresa May had been the Home Secretary since 2010. There is no real American equivalent to this office, but the Secretary of Homeland Security is probably the closest. The Home Secretary reports to the prime minister and overseas British internal affairs.

While much news has focused on May’s propensity to wear eclectic and nontraditional shoes or her lack of children, more focus should be given to her faith.

She is the only child of Rev Hubert, a vicar, and Zaidee Brasier. The late reverend’s sense of duty and commitment to helping those around him inspired in his daughter a desire to become a politician also with a clear sense of duty to country and her people. “You don’t think about yourself,” she said. “The emphasis is on others.” She sees her political work as a vocation rather than a “job.” A typical Brit, May has attempted to keep her private and faith life out of the public eye and does not try to evangelize using her influence, “it’s good we don’t flaunt such things in British politics,” she once said when discussing her faith.

More than just simply growing up in a devout home, May continues to practice Anglicanism.  One of her favorite songs is “When I survey the wondrous cross” and when discussing religion, she said, “It is part of me, part of whom I am and how I approach things.”

She pays special attention to the vulnerable in society, and has called on other conservatives to fight against injustice in society:

If you’re born poor, you will die on average nine years earlier than others. If you’re black you will be treated much more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you’re white. If you’re a white working class boy, you’re less likely than anybody else to go to university … If you’re at a state school, you’re less likely to reach the top professions than if you’re educated privately. If you’re a woman you still earn less than a man. If you suffer from mental health problems, there’s too often not enough help to hand.

Also notable, since it arguably led to her becoming prime minister, is May’s stance on Brexit. Before the vote, she wanted to remain in the European Union, but since the country made the decision for Brexit, May has made it clear she will not attempt to undermine the voters’ decision. “Brexit means Brexit” she assured the British people. Moving forward she seeks “unity” and will focus on “negotiat[ing] the best deal for Britain as we leave the EU and forge a new role for ourselves in the world.”

Regarding her views on trade and the market, she’s kept mum. Political editor for the Financial Times, George Parker says that she was “short on specifics” when outlining her vision for business. Echoing that sentiment though going even further, Janan Ganesh calls her a “mystery.” Also writing for the financial times, he says that “[a]ll we can do is assemble clues” when attempting to summarize her economic views.

Only the second woman to be named British Prime Minister, someone who is firmly grounded in her faith, and a leader who puts her people and her country before herself, Theresa May’s new role is one that I think we can celebrate in the United States.

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Sarah Stanley

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