Tags: Brexit | margaret thatcher | uk | theresa may | andrea leadsom

Thatcher Looms Large Over UK's Next Female Prime Minister

Thatcher Looms Large Over UK's Next Female Prime Minister
(Press Association via AP Images)

By Thursday, 07 July 2016 02:37 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Two women are finalists for a primary Sept. 9 in which 155,000 members of the British Conservative Party will choose a new leader to succeed David Cameron as prime minister.

They are Justice Minister Theresa May and backbench member Andrea Leadsom — and one of them will be the first female to live at 10 Downing Street since Margaret Thatcher a quarter of a century ago.

“This is a showdown between Mrs. Cathy Gayle and Mrs. Emma Peel,” is how one wag put it, referring to the two successive karate–chopping partners of suave spy John Steed on the storied 1960s TV series “The Avengers.”

But to simply observe that May or Leadsom will be the “second woman prime minister” overlooks the more significant legacy of the first woman to hold the office.

Mrs Thatcher remains both a beloved figure on the right but a controversial figure among the British to this day. Certainly some of the not-so-warm comments heard in televised post mortems following her death in 2013 indicate the consequence and controversy that surround the lady Conservative Party members refer to as simply “Maggie.”

Like Thatcher, both May and Leadsom come from the middle class and embrace the modern conservative tenets of smaller government and greater freedom.

Most significantly, just as Thatcher was a frequent ally of Euro skepticism, both are firmly committed to seeing through the mandate of the Brexit vote June 23rd and taking the U.K. out of the European Union.

“Tessie” May, who became the Conservatives’ first-ever female party chairman in 2002, is Britain’s longest-serving home secretary (overseeing law and order and immigration policy). She is known for taking a hardline on Islamic preachers and vowing to keep immigration to under 100,000 per year (she has not managed to reach this goal).

Largely out of respect to Cameron, May endorsed the “remain” position in the Brexit vote but stayed out of the campaign. In declaring for party leader, she said without hesitation “Brexit is Brexit.” She said she wouldn’t invoke Article 50 — the mechanism for formally taking the U.K. out of the EU — until next year.

In the campaign for leader, two outspoken Thatcherites recently weighed in for May: David Davis and Liam Fox, the former defense minister who drew 16 votes on the first ballot of members of parliament. Both Davis and Fox were opponents of Cameron in the last leadership race a decade ago.

But it is May’s refusal to endorse the “leave” position in the referendum that left some on the right cold and thus turning to Leadsom as the heir to Thatcher’s mantle.

“The prime minister resigned because he didn't support Brexit,” Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman of the Bow Group (the U.K.’s oldest conservative think tank), told me, “So it would be illogical for his successor to also be someone who backed Remain.”

To Harris-Quinney, that is Energy Secretary Leadsom. She promises to invoke Article 50 immediately. In addition, Leadsom fully embraces the comparison to Thatcher, telling the “Telegraph” recently: “As a person, [Thatcher] was always kind and courteous and as a leader she was steely and determined. I think that’s an ideal combination — and I do like to think that’s where I am.”

In contrast to most European politicians, Leadsom speaks openly and often of her Christian faith and how that is the foundation of her beliefs.

“Leadsom, due to her background and warmer personality, can reach parts of the country May won't and Cameron couldn't,” says Harris-Quinney, “The Conservative Party and the country need a fresh start and Leadsom is the only candidate who can deliver that.”

Others would argue that that “fresh start” is the vote Thursday that chose two contenders to be the next prime minister who are in so many ways less like David Cameron and more like Margaret Thatcher. In that sense, three years after the death of the Iron Lady, her legacy lives on.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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Nearly all commentators in the United Kingdom and worldwide were quick to note one obvious historical fact about the vote Thursday for leader of the ruling Conservative Party by the party's Members of Parliament.
margaret thatcher, uk, theresa may, andrea leadsom
Thursday, 07 July 2016 02:37 PM
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