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Spotlight: Theresa May

James Marlow

Her rise to the top political job in England was steep and sudden, but Theresa May has stepped up with aplomb. Five things to know about Great Britian’s new prime minister

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

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Photo: Shutterstock.

Britain’s second female prime minister is the daughter of a vicar, a former Bank of England employee who joined Parliament in 1997. Her rise to the top political job in England was steep and sudden. After Prime Minister David Cameron failed to persuade his countrymen to remain in the European Union, he felt obliged to resign his post. Enter May, who until that point had served as Home Secretary for six years, a position that is widely regarded as the end of political careers, not a stepping stone to greater heights. But May, 59, is against all odds the newest resident of 10 Downing Street.

A Mixed Vote

May voted to remain in the EU “very reluctantly” according to insiders and colleagues because she wanted to remain loyal to David Cameron. Upon taking office, however, she acknowledged that the British people had spoken and “Brexit means Brexit.”

 
Good Manners

Despite just being given a day’s notice that she was to become prime minister, enter Downing Street, and form her own cabinet, May kept a long planned dinner engagement with Chief Rabbi Efraim Mirvis at his home in Hendon, North West London. Rabbi Mirvis took the opportunity to praise her turning up, seeing in her act a sure sign of deep friendship with the Jewish community.

 
Strong Impressions

On her first visit toIsraelin June 2014, Mrs. May stopped at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, calling the Shoah “the most terrible crime of history.” On her return toLondon, she told the Conservative Party Friends of Israel that in the face of threats from Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS andIran,Israelmust “maintain a strong defence and security capability and be prepared to deploy it if necessary.”

 

Photo: Shutterstock

Je Suis Juif

Days after the Paristerrorist atrocities, including the attack on a kosher supermarket in January 2015, Mrs. May famously held a sign proclaiming Je Suis Juif (“I am Jewish.”) Recognizing the anxiety that British Jews were experiencing, she immediately met with Jewish groups and confirmed that combating anti-Semitism would be a priority for the British government. “Without its Jews,Britain would not beBritain,” she said. As home secretary, she further granted almost £13.5 million ($20 million) of government money to boost the number of security guards outside synagogues and Jewish schools.

 
Good Middos

After her closest rival for the premiership told a newspaper that she would make a better prime minister because she had children and May did not, Mrs. May not only forgave her rival but gave Andrea Leadsom a cabinet position, making her secretary of state for the environment, food, and rural affairs.

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