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Theresa May’s Political Role: A Success or Failure?

Theresa May is a politician based in the United Kingdom, and has worked as such since 1986 exactly. Her most prominent role lie in her leading the Brexit negotiations, which are the negotiations that were meant to take place in order to ensure United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union through a peaceful way and the outreach of a deal. Throughout her political career, she went through many political positions that varied from councilor till she became prime minister. As a matter of fact, she’s the second female to hold the latter position from 2016 to 2019 after Margaret Thatcher (1979-1990). Not only was she the second woman to have held the position of prime minister but also she is the only woman in the United Kingdom that has held two Great Offices of State which are Home Secretary and the aforementioned prime minister, making her the fourth woman in this last domain after Margaret Thatcher, Margaret Beckett and Jacqui Smith. It’s important to note that she held this last position in the country’s most turbulent and disturbed time ever in its political history and life. Yet, in what measure did she have a strong political role in the United Kingdom?


I have chosen Theresa May as the political figure that I want to write about because she presents today’s general tendency and orientation to give more political power to women and to defy the dominating patriarchy. And this is because she occupied many important positions since she acceded the political line till she became prime minister in her country in 2016 which is the 21st century, and that is the most important person in the United Kingdom that rules the country’s affairs and is responsible of decision making. In addition, she was the head of the government through a most decisive time that would not only affect the future of the U.K. but many other parties in the world, which makes her in my opinion one of the strongest women in her era.


To begin with, Theresa May was born on 1 October 1956, grew up in Oxfordshire and was an Anglican clergyman’s daughter of a middle class family. She attended the University of Oxford where she majored in geography. She started her professional life as a banker, as she worked in the Bank of England then held the position as senior adviser for international affairs in the Association for Payment Clearing Services. May effectively began her life as a politician in 1986 as we previously mentioned, and started off as a councilor in Merton until 1994. In 1997, she became a Parliament Member of the Conservative right party in the United Kingdom where she actually presented Maidenhead according to BBC News.


This is where she became what was known as Shadow Spokesman for Schools, Disabled People and Women from 1998 till 1999. From 1999 till 2005, she had occupied the position of shadow secretary in different domains like shadow secretary for education, local government, regions, transport, family, media, culture, and finally later on she became the shadow leader for the House of Commons. It must be noted that she lead strong efforts to increase the number of female membership of parliament in the conservative party to be specific and to introduce innovations and modernizations in the system of the party as she became in 2002 the first woman in the country to lead the conservative party and become its head according to Maidenhead Conservatives.


Moreover, in David Cameron’s coalition government in 2010, she was named as the Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities. It’s a position that is equivalent to that of the Minister of the Interior and is in fact preoccupied with affairs related to internal security, law enforcement and immigration. As a home secretary, May defended important principles such as equality, and had certain strong reservations regarding immigration issues or its general affairs. To clarify, she called for limiting immigration and had openly expressed the country’s refusal towards the European Union’s refugee quota system, which was designed to be imposed on all countries members of the European Union. Generally speaking, Theresa May was notably known as a tough negotiator, strong character and as being very concerned with moralism when making new legislations. Not only did she address problems related to immigration but also she proceeded to make reforms in the police since she was criticizing it and went to introduce changes in the Police federation and a new drug policy alongside with the Modern Slavery Act in 2015. The home secretary introduced an Immigration Act to push away all illegal immigrants and made it obligatory for landlords to make sure and affirm the immigration status of their tenants; in order to ensure that they are not illegal. Known for being very strict in this affair, May has ordered the splitting up of over 30000 families in the country because they couldn’t make enough wealth to sustain them and she had also refused to determine the detention period of immigration detainees. Also, May has pronounced measures related to extremism with a plan and a promised counter-extremism bill that even sought to prevent specific extremists that did not commit any violence from free speech. In terms of surveillance, Theresa May had introduced new measures that aimed to decrease the level of surveillance over decent or good normal citizens and this was through annulling a measure taken by the Labour Party that was a national identity card scheme worth billions of sterlings. The tough politician has held a certain strict position towards what concerns Human Rights as she adopted the conservatory’s view in her speeches and had declared on several occasions her willingness to withdraw the United Kingdom from the human rights convention of the European Union. Nevertheless, the secretary has introduced reforms in what concerns child abuse and rape against minors, women and girls and beginning investigations in historical cases of these affairs according to the Guardian.


And so Theresa May stayed in her position as home-secretary for 6 years, which makes her set the record of the person who stayed the longest in this position specifically. Having said this, in 2016, David Cameroun the ex-prime minister had to resign after that more than 50% of the United Kingdom voted to “Leave” the European Union in a referendum. Many candidates appeared like Boris Johnson, Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom the Energy Minister and they were conservatives. After the elimination of Johnson and Leadsom, everything seemed ready for Theresa May to overtake. Therefore, she became the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister in 2016. She stayed as such until 2019 according to Britannica. She described herself as the fittest into this role and that she will definitely lead the country through the Brexit negotiations. It is important to note that she stayed thus for two terms known as The First May Ministry which was formed in 2016 and constituted a majority in the Parliament while in 2017 she formed The Second May Ministry but only based on a minority of the Conservative Party in the House of Commons. All along this very long process, May as a prime minister took many actions in several sectors. May sought to address inequality and uproot racism in public services. Moreover, in her government, many policies were set in the economic and business field to reduce the effect of a possible recession caused by Brexit as many people might become jobless and in consequence over 60 million sterlings were dedicated to for “investment in broadband infrastructure” and technical trainings were made for teenagers. Her government’s policies had attracted international investments in the country that it was classified in 2018 as the most suitable country for business. Unemployment had also fallen to its lowest rate and new jobs were created with 72% of the people satisfied with their working hours with the average wage increasing by 3,4% between 2018-2019. So, she has well maintained the economic situation. In the environment sector, the Prime Minister took serious measures to decarbonize the U.K. to the point where in 2016 it became the fastest country of the G20 to have low-carbon production. As a matter of fact, the coal consumption kept decreasing since 2016 till it reached 3% in 2019. Together with Canada, she founded in 2017 what is called “Powering Past Coal Alliance” to incite world countries to reduce coal consumption according to Tal Tyagi in Quillette.


In terms of the Brexit which is the most important incident during her leadership, May has promised to complete the process and this was through using Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. The Parliament rejected in the beginning her invoking Article 50 and it was not until 29 March 2017 that this happened to effectively begin the procedure and the complex negotiations and set initially the date of March 2019 as the date of the actual withdrawal of Britain’s from the European Union. She actually attempted to avoid referring to the Parliament but the High Court and Supreme Court judged it necessary. However, her majority at the Parliament was weakened after she called for snap general election in 2017 which was intended to increase her majority and help her tackle the divisions inside her party. This has made the Brexit negotiations more complex as she had to obtain the Parliament’s approval before taking any step. It had also divided the public opinion and the country over the question of Brexit between those who wanted a “Hard Brexit” and “soft Brexit” which has put further pressure over the Prime Minister. May herself was tending in the beginning towards Hard Brexit which meant that the United Kingdom shall no longer make part of the single market nor be put controlled by the European Court of Justice, a position that certainly displeased the EU state-members and consequently negatively affected her efforts to reach a deal with Brussels according to Bronwen Maddox in Institute For Government. Things didn’t go in her favor as every proposal she made was immediately rejected despite the evident efforts that were made to have a Brexit with a deal and in the most democratic and legitimate way possible by having the approvals needed for this case and avoiding chaotic economic and social consequences. She had declared her intention to “crush the saboteurs” who tried to stop Brexit according to Luke McGee in CNN. To make it clear, the conditions and the consequences of such a huge measure were making the process the most challenging because it treated questions like the deportation of EU and British citizens and economic repercussions and might re-awake the question of the borders between the two Irelands according to Pauline Schnapper in Journals OpenEdition. Unable to reach a deal, Theresa May had resigned he office as a prime minister in 2019, known most importantly for her efforts and ardent personality to reach a successful Brexit. She left a legacy of a persevering strong politician who aimed to achieve a hard bargain in the most challenging and complex context since WW2 in Britain, and it’s owed to her efforts and resilience that the procedure had begun.


To conclude, May is an apparently exceptional political figure due to the political positions she occupied which have been rarely taken by women in the U.K. She had a robust leadership style, which necessitated clarity and tolerated no deviation. Her efforts, specifically in Brexit affair, reflect determination and unprecedented persistence to achieve the wanted outcome which is an indispensable characteristic in any political leader. This persistence is clear also in her being among a minority of women in the Conservative Party and her being promoted throughout the 17 years she spent there. Moreover, her achievements and her life through the political line show dedication to her career making her the pride and the model to which every woman aspires to be in her professional life. The achievements she made as a home secretary were relevant and tough and their benefits reached a great number of the British society.


 


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