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What You Need To Know About Britain's Next Leader

Theresa May wants to fight for the working class but keep immigration levels down.

12/07/2016 2:47 AM AEST | Updated 13/07/2016 5:46 PM AEST
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Theresa May is the last candidate standing to succeed David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister after Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom dropped out Monday.

The race dwindled down to May and Leadsom last week, meaning the U.K. would soon have its second female prime minister, following Margaret Thatcher, who was at the helm from 1979 to 1990.

May, 59, who is currently the home secretary, or interior minister, will inherit the position at a time of great turmoil following the referendum to leave the EU.

“In the coming weeks, I will set out [how] to take our economy through this period of uncertainty, to get the economy growing strongly across all parts, to deal with Britain’s long-standing productivity problem, to create more well-paid jobs, to negotiate the best terms for Britain’s departure from the EU and to forge a new role for ourselves in the world,” May said during a speech in Birmingham on Monday.

Here’s what you need to know about her:

Political Roots And Leadership Style

After a career in finance, May became chair of the Conservative Party in 2002, a role she held until 2010. She has been home secretary for the past six years. As of next month, she will have been in the position for longer than anyone else in the past century.

May has weathered a handful of political storms in her tenure and has earned a reputation as unwavering and difficult.

She’s a “famously reluctant delegator, needing to know exactly what her juniors are doing and to chew over every detail of decisions – a micro-management style she cannot hope to apply to an entire government,” The Guardian said.

But she’s also built a following among women in the Tory Party, who, according to The Guardian, have respect and admiration for her morally guided decisions.

She took down British police in a 2014 speech, for example, exposing their “contempt for the public,” their racism and their failure to properly handle domestic violence cases.

Last year, she launched an inquiry into the improper handling of child abuse.

“We the Conservatives will put ourselves at the service of ordinary working people and we will make Britain a country that works for everyone." Theresa May

The One Conservative Candidate Who Played For Team ‘Remain’

Although May quietly stood in the “remain” camp, she believes that Britain must act on the decision it made to exit the EU.

She expressed her disappointment in politicians and business leaders who “still don’t get it” during her speech Monday. 

Brexit means Brexit and we are going to make a success of it,” she said. “There will be no attempts to stay inside the EU, no attempts to rejoin it through the back door, and no second referendum.”

Champion Of The Working Class

May is now campaigning with a focus on Britain’s working class.

“We the Conservatives will put ourselves at the service of ordinary working people and we will make Britain a country that works for everyone, whoever you are and wherever you’re from,” she said Monday.

She said she plans to put workers on company boards, in addition to consumers. She also spoke of economic injustice in the context of race. 

“If you’re black, you’re treated 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,” she said.

But A Hard-Liner On Immigration? 

“There is no case, in the national interest, for immigration of the scale we have experienced over the last decade,” May said last October. She added that there’s a limit to what Britain can handle and that she wants to see immigration brought down to “sustainable levels.”

She worried that people in low-paying jobs would suffer from further wage cuts when more people enter the workforce.

Last week, her office said it couldn’t assure that EU nationals living in the U.K. would be able to remain post-Brexit.

Cameron lauded May on Monday as “strong, competent and more than capable of taking on the role of prime minister.” He plans to offer his resignation to Queen Elizabeth II on Wednesday.

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