New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. Election 2024
7 July 2016

Who is Theresa May? The lowdown on the Tory leadership finalist

Theresa May is experienced and serious. But will she see off Andrea Leadsom?

By New Statesman

Theresa May has won the second round of the Conservative leadership contest, but her rival to the crown, Andrea Leadsom, has popular appeal and the Leave campaign behind her. So what is she offering? 

Who? The longest-serving Home Secretary for more than 100 years, May has held the Great Office of State since 2010. Her hard line on immigration (everything from restricting foreign student visas to her Department mooting the infamous “Go Home vans”) has defined her time in office, although she has also been tough towards the Police Federation and her most memorable message has been for the Tories to shed their “nasty party” label.

Support base: An early advocate of Tory modernisation, the Home Secretary, 59, has won backers from the party’s liberal wing, including Jeremy Hunt, Justine Greening, Alan Duncan, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston. For political balance, her campaign is chaired by social conservative Chris Grayling and she is also supported by Brexiters such as Nadhim Zahawi, Kwasi Kwarteng and Mike Penning.

Pros: May has unrivalled ministerial experience. Her reluctant backing for the Remain campaign and anti-immigration stance make her acceptable to pro-Leave Tory activists, while her comprehensive education helpfully contrasts with the outgoing leadership. She is also popular in Whitehall, known for personally thanking civil servants in her Department for the work they do for her.

Cons: Her support for Remain, albeit lukewarm, exposes her to the charge that she cannot credibly lead the post-Brexit negotiations. May’s lack of charisma is also cited by opponents who believe the Tories need a more magnetic personality.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

Pitch to the party: A serious candidate for serious times. As the UK endures perhaps its greatest crisis of the post-war era, the Maidenhead MP offers herself as a competent, Merkel-esque figure.

Quotable quote: “My pitch is simple – I’m Theresa May and I think I’m the best person to lead this country.”

Content from our partners
"Heat or eat": how to help millions in fuel poverty
We need an urgent review of UK pensions
The future of private credit