Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The UK's new PM

The BBC has a profile of Theresa May, the new PM.

Who is Theresa May: A profile of UK's next prime minister
Theresa May is the new Conservative Party leader and will become the UK's second female prime minister on Wednesday, taking charge at one of the most turbulent times in recent political history.

The 59-year-old home secretary's carefully cultivated image of political dependability and unflappability appears to have made her the right person at the right time as the fallout from the UK's vote to leave the EU smashed possible rivals out of contention.

Long known to have nurtured leadership hopes, Mrs May - whose friends recall her early ambition to be the UK's first female PM - could have reasonably expected to have had to wait until at least 2018 to have a shot at Downing Street…

Another Iron Lady?
But it is her toughness which has become her political hallmark. She has coped with being one of only a small number of women in the upper echelons of the Conservative Party for 17 years and has been prepared to tell her party some hard truths - famously informing activists at the 2002 conference that "you know what some people call us - the nasty party"…

The daughter of a Church of England vicar… Theresa May's middle class background has more in keeping with the last female occupant of Downing Street, Margaret Thatcher, than her immediate predecessor…

Born in Sussex but raised largely in Oxfordshire, Mrs May - both of whose grandmothers are reported to have been in domestic service - attended a state primary, an independent convent school and then a grammar school in the village of Wheatley…

Like Margaret Thatcher, she went to Oxford University to study and, like so many others of her generation, found that her personal and political lives soon became closely intertwined.

In 1976, in her third year, she met her husband Philip, who was president of the Oxford Union…
Theresa and Phillip May

Her university friend Pat Frankland, speaking in 2011 on a BBC Radio 4 profile of the then home secretary, said: "I cannot remember a time when she did not have political ambitions…

An early advocate of Conservative "modernisation" in the wilderness years that followed [Tony Blair's election], Mrs May quickly joined the shadow cabinet in 1999 under William Hague as shadow education secretary and in 2002 she became the party's first female chairman under Iain Duncan Smith.

She then held a range of senior posts under Michael Howard but was conspicuously not part of the "Notting Hill set" which grabbed control of the party after its third successive defeat in 2005 and laid David Cameron and George Osborne's path to power…

Generally thought to be in the mainstream of Conservative thinking on most economic and law and order issues, she has also challenged convention by attacking police stop and search powers and calling for a probe into the application of Sharia Law in British communities…

Her social attitudes are slightly harder to pin down. She backed same sex marriage. She expressed a personal view in 2012 that the legal limit on abortion should be lowered from 24 to 20 weeks. Along with most Conservative MPs she voted against an outright ban on foxhunting.

What is undisputable is that at 59, Mrs May will be oldest leader to enter Downing Street since James Callaghan in 1976 and will be the first prime minister since Ted Heath who does not have children.

While the early years of Mrs May's time in Downing Street may be dominated by the process of divorcing the UK from the EU and the deal she will be able to strike, she has also insisted she won't be content with the "safe pair of hands" tag that is often attached to her.

Brexit, she has said, won't be allowed purely to define her time in office and she has promised a radical programme of social reform, underpinned by values of One Nation Toryism, to promote social mobility and opportunity for the more disadvantaged in society.

But with a slender parliamentary majority of 17 and a nation still riven by divisions over the EU referendum and anxiety over the future, she will face as tough a task, some say even tougher, than any of her recent predecessors in Downing Street.

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Just The Facts! 2nd edition is a concise guide to concepts, terminology, and examples that will appear on May's exam.


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Two pages summarizing the course requirements to help you review and study for the final and for the big exam in May. . It contains a description of comparative methods, a list of commonly used theories, a list of vital concepts, thumbnail descriptions of the AP6, and a description of the AP exam format. $2.00. Order HERE.

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