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Britain’s new Prime Minister, Theresa May, has emerged from the chaos of the Brexit referendum unscarred, keeping a low profile throughout the campaign. She does portray herself, however, as the one who will lead the country out of the EU, insisting that “Brexit means Brexit”.
The second female British Prime Minister, she faces an uphill struggle to unite a country and a party deeply split by the referendum. She has been called a “bloody difficult woman” by a senior Conservative member, but claims this is the very quality which will stand her in good stead for the battles ahead.
She was born Theresa Brasier in the southern English seaside town of Eastbourne in 1956. Her father was an Anglican clergyman, and she was educated at a series of little known state and private schools. She met her husband, Philip, at Oxford University, and they married in 1980.
Ms May worked in finance before being elected as MP for the London commuter town of Maidenhead in 1997, and was named home secretary in 2010 when the Conservatives won the general election. Though holding the hardest job in government, which has wrecked a string of other political careers, she has kept the job for six years and is the longest serving interior minister since 1892.
In contrast to her sober dress sense and demeanour, Ms May is well known for her collection of leopard-print, kitten-heel shoes. She is a keen cricket fan, lists her hobbies as walking and cooking, and has the ABBA song Dancing Queen listed as one of her favourites.
Widely respected, she has been described as “incredibly hard-working”. The same source commented, “She’s always got up three hours before everybody else and knows five times more than anyone else in the room. Theresa is not going to do anything radical … she’s incredibly risk-averse, a safe pair of hands.”
Mrs May has vowed to lead a government that works for all, and to give struggling, hard-working people more control over their lives.