This week belongs to Theresa May. Although the longest serving Home Secretary in fifty years continues to dodge leadership questions, her movements over the next few days will make it harder to deny that she isn’t building up her public profile.
Today, she made a genial appearance on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, something she admitted was a ‘huge opportunity’. She also adorns the cover of the latest Spectator Life, out this week, where Harry Cole has compiled an extensive profile of May’s tribal approach to surviving in Westminster. And on Thursday, she will be the host of the Spectator’s Parliamentarian of the Year awards.
May is clearly on manoeuvres, and her Desert Island Discs appearance revealed some interesting tidbits about her character:
1. She hasn’t ruled out standing for leader
Presenter Kirsty Young asked May the obligatory question of whether she has aspirations to lead the Conservatives. Echoing the recent words of Michael Gove (another leadership contender), May remained steadfastly loyal to the PM:
‘My view is very simple. David Cameron is a first-class leader of the party and a first-class Prime Minister and I hope he is going to be doing that job for a very long time.’
And on the exasperation of leadership questions:
‘You say my heart sinks, it’s interesting but I can’t think of any other aspect of life where somebody would be elected to number one position and the journalists begin to start speculating who will take over’
Young had one final push, to which May responded, ‘I hope David Cameron will carry on being the leader for a very long time.’
2. May-ism won’t become the next big political ideology
Despite a pretty easy going appearance, May’s reputation as a tough pragmatist was still on show. She didn’t claim to be a Cameroon or Thatcherite, instead saying ‘I don’t have an -ism but I do believe in certain principles.’
When asked about how she might vote in a European referendum, May stuck close to the Prime Minister. ‘What I campaign for will depend on what package we have negotiated with the European Union.’ May pointed out the decision will be on ‘the Europe of the future, not of the past’.
She didn’t mention any other politicians as inspirations or friends — except the Prime Minister. While discussing her Type I diabetes, which requires her to inject insulin four times a day, May said her approach to her condition was similar to everything in life: ‘just get on and do it’.
3. May’s Anglican background plays a big role
Her father was an Anglican vicar, who died in a car crash in her mid 20s. Growing up as an only child, she was close to him and ‘never took issue with the church’ as it was ‘never imposed by her parents.’ She continues to be a practising member of the Anglican Church but does not like to flaunt her faith publicly, as American politicians frequently do:
‘It is part of me, part of whom I am and how I approach things. It’s good that we don’t flaunt such things in British politics.
4. She was bruised and battered over the EAW
After the fiasco in the Commons over the European Arrest Warrant, the Home Security was adamant she ‘certainly wasn’t trying smoke and mirrors’ over the votes. She admitted to feeling bruised and battered but would she have done things differently? ‘Given the understanding of how Parliament felt, perhaps I would.’
5. Women in politics don’t need to join the old boys’ network
May admitted she is not a very clubbable politician — ‘it’s not me’ — something she may have to revisit if she wants to build parliamentary support for a leadership bid. Referencing her song choice of Frankie Valli, May added ‘I’m very clear that women in politics..should be able to do the jobs as themselves and not have to walk like a man.’
Theresa May’s Desert Island Discs:
- Walk Like A Man – Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons
- The Pange Lingua Gloriosi Corporis Mysterium – Capella Gregoriana
- Concerto for Cello in E Minor – Edward Elgar
- Dancing Queen – Abba
- The Rondo from the Abdelazer Suite – Henry Purcell
- The Queen of the Night aria from The Magic Flute – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (desert island disc)
- The Compassionate Society – Yes, Minister episode
- While I survey the wondrous cross – Wesley Chapel Congregation
- Book: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
- Luxury: Lifetime subscription to Vogue magazine