Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Theresa May: a new Margaret Thatcher?

Above: a horribly executed face-swap of
Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May
Yesterday, Andrea Leadsom withdrew her candidacy in the Conservative leadership contest leaving Theresa May as the last woman standing. Theresa May became leader of the Conservative party with immediate effect and yesterday afternoon David Cameron announced that he would step down as Prime Minister after PMQs on Wednesday. Quite rightly, there has already been plenty of speculation on what kind of Prime Minister May will be. Some have been bold enough to compare her to Margaret Thatcher. But is she going to be the next ‘Iron Lady’?

Obviously, they are similar in the sense that they are both women Prime Ministers (a rarity UK history) but, in terms of policy, May seems to be less radical on many issues.

Margaret Thatcher was conservative through and through. She took a hard-right social and economic stance; promoting privatisation, introducing poll tax, and doing nothing whilst inequality and poverty rates grew throughout the 1980s. Meanwhile, May is pro-hunting, pro-smoking in public areas, and has an inconsistent record when it comes to civil rights and liberties. She voted against a bill in 2002 which would allow gay couples to adopt children however in 2013 voted in favour of same sex marriage. Additionally, she has supported the 2015 Conservative manifesto pledge to abandon the Human Rights Act and replace it with a UK Bill of Rights (a bill which faced large public backlash so has since been put on the backburner). However, May has renounced Cameron’s austerity measures to eliminate the budget deficit before 2020 and stated that she thinks that workers should be on the boards of major firms. The case can therefore be made for May being an extremely moderate conservative. For every hard-right policy she has backed, she has supported a soft-right (sometimes even liberal) policy to balance it out.

Although May has been outlining her aims over the past few days, the public can’t be blamed for being bit confused about her positions regarding some key issues. For example, although she voted for increasing the rate of VAT to 20%, she has recently criticised David Cameron in The Times for doing that. Maybe May was forced to hold her tongue in the past and tow the party line (because of collective ministerial responsibility) so she could retain her position in the cabinet. It is clear that from the policy announcements she has made over the last few days, she is drawing subtle contrasts between her own agenda and Cameron’s. As for May being the next Margaret Thatcher, it seems unlikely but only time will tell.