Conservative Politics

Conservative Leadership Runners & Riders: THERESA MAY

28 Jun 2016 at 09:45

FULL NAME: Theresa Mary May
BORN: 1 October 1956, Eastbourne
AGE: 59
EDUCATION: Wheatley Park Comprehensive, St Hugh’s College Oxford (Geography)
STATUS: Married to Philip, no children
FIRST ELECTED: 1997
CONSTITUENCY: Maidenhead
EXPERIENCE: Councillor, London Borough of Merton 1986-94, 1992 Parliamentary Candidate NW Durham, 1994 Parliamentary Candidate in the Barking by-election, MP for Maidenhead 1997 to present, Shadow Education Secretary 1999-2001, Shadow Transport 2001-2003, Conservative Party Chairman 2002-3, Shadow Transport 2003-4, Shadow Culture Media & Sport 2004-5, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 2005-9, Shadow Work & Pensions 2009-10, Home Secretary 2010-present.
OTHER EXPERIENCE: Bank of England 1977-83, Association of Clearing Payment Services 1985-95
MOST LIKELY TO SAY: “I’ll have a quiet night in.”
LEAST LIKELY TO SAY: “I’ve just bought a pair of flat shoes.”
FAMOUS QUOTES: “A lot of men in politics suddenly woke up to the issue of women in politics when they realised: hey, there are votes in this!” “There is nothing inevitable about crime and there is nothing inevitable about anti-social behaviour.” “On gay adoption I have changed my mind.”
STRENGTHS: Economic background, widespread experience of portfolios, courage, singlemindedness, record as Home Secretary
WEAKNESSES: Lack of allies on the Tory benches, not clubbable, little smalltalk
MAIN ADVISERS: Nick Timothy, Fiona Cunningham, Joey Jones, Stephen Parkinson
MAIN ALLIES: Michael Ellis, James Brokenshire, Karen Bradley, George Hollingbery
LIKELY TO STAND: 100%
LADBROKES ODDS: 9/4

SCOREBOARD
(scored by a panel of 50 Conservative activists, politicians and commentators)

Experience: 8.7
Negotiating Skills: 7.3
Star Quality: 6.4
Likeability: 5.5
Ability to take the fight to Labour: 6.8
Economic Competence: 6.8
Intellectual Capacity: 6.7
Ability to Unite the Country: 6.3
Ability to Unite the Party: 7.3
Integrity: 6.5
Courage: 6.2
Leadership: 7.2
National Appeal: 6.8
International Experience: 6.8

Theresa May beats Boris Johnson on Experience, Negotiating Skills, Economic Competence and Ability to Unite the Party, Integrity, Leadership Skills and International Experience. And in the end, these, many people will feel, are by far the most important criteria for the new Tory Party leader.

OVERALL RATING OUT OF 100: 68.1

MY ANALYSIS

Most people expect the final two contestants in the leadership ballot to be Boris Johnson and Theresa May. There is also a supposition that Boris Johnson would beat Theresa May among party members. A Yougov poll in The Times suggests that the reality is rather different and that it is neck and neck.

Theresa May is an atypical Conservative politician and one full of dichotomies. She has no natural constituencies on the Conservative backbenches. She’s not seen as very clubbable, and can sometimes appear rather cold and icy. It’s mainly because she doesn’t cultivate people in the way that ‘greasy pole’ climbers normally have to. At party conferences you’re more likely to find her having dinner with her husband, Philip, than wining and dining with newspaper editors, like most of her rivals. This gives her quite an advantage in that she owes no one anything and if she wins she can operate on her own terms.

In private, she has a waspish sense of humour and is always up for a laugh, but this doesn’t always come over in public.

Theresa May’s wealth of experience across shadow roles, her background in the Bank of England and her record as Home Secretary make her uniquely qualified as a leader. She exudes competence and reliability. She would immediately command the respect of the House of Commons and the other political parties. She may be less flamboyant than her main rival, but her campaign ought to be built on the fact that she’s as tough as old boots, can easily deploy a gimlet stare and has clear direction of travel.

Ah, say her opponents, but she didn’t support Brexit. No she didn’t, but she was hardly very vocal for Remain either. I suspect that she felt that as Home Secretary she had to plough a very difficult furrow. She didn’t do a Sajid Javid and disavow a very strongly held position. She didn’t do a Stephen Crabb and go so over the top with slavish devotion to the Prime Minister’s position. You could argue that if she had come out for Leave that the leadership would now be hers for the asking. I suspect the opposite is true. The very fact that Leavers can happily think of supporting her says a lot in her favour.

One of the main reasons for supporting a particular candidate will be their ability to negotiate our exit with European leaders or to stare down Vladimir Putin. The contrast between Boris Johnson and Theresa May’s respective abilities here may be crucial to the outcome of the leadership contest.

My information is that many Conservative Associations and their members are looking at Theresa May extremely favourably. There is, however, a danger for her. If the Conservative Party establishment is seen to row in behind her purely as a “Stop Boris” candidate, people may react against that. There is a suspicion that the Whips Office is already on manoeuvres in her favour. If that is true she would be well advised to stamp on it and make clear she doesn’t need any help, and she will succeed or fail on her own terms.

Coming Next: Andrea Leadson

Click HERE to read my profile of Boris Johnson.

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