As Britain’s second female Prime Minister, Theresa May has inevitably been compared to Margaret Thatcher. But she’s also been linked to a contemporaneous politician: Angela Merkel. Whilst some have dismissed the comparisons, it’s not only British journalists drawing on the similarities between Theresa May and the ‘Iron Frau’ – German newspapers are now doing the same. The initial parallels are clear; two middle-aged women who have fought their ways to the top of the male-dominated world of politics. However, both Bild and Die Welt – two of Germany’s biggest newspapers – believes there is much more which unites May and Merkel and has uncovered a surprising number of similarities to back up their argument.
The first curious correlation is that May and Merkel are both the daughters of pastors and maintain strong religious convictions. Furthermore, as one would expect of anyone in the highest office, German tabloid Bild notes that Merkel and May are strong-willed, thick-skinned and known for their ‘stubbornness’. The paper notes they are also Conservative-liberals, pragmatic, ‘down to earth’ and non-ideological. Thomas Kielinger, Die Welt’s London correspondent, says that May and Merkel are task-oriented and do not engage in ‘small talk’ or media speculation. As Mrs May has said herself she doesn’t ‘go drinking in Parliament’s bars’ or ‘gossip about people over lunch’. And it seems that Merkel is much the same.
Parallels have also been identified in the leaders’ private lives. Merkel and May are childless and have husbands who do not seek the glare of the media spotlight. The Bild points out both reportedly enjoy hiking and cooking. The German press also makes the inevitable clothing comparisons. Theresa May’s passion for fashion and footwear has been well-documented in Britain and the German press notes that she is an ‘image of political style’. It is also stated that Merkel and May have both been seen sporting mint and turquoise outfits.
Trivialities aside, it is clear that Merkel and May are both forces to be reckoned with. On opposing sides, the two leaders will personify Britain’s negotiation and withdrawal from the European Union. It will certainly be a duel worth watching. But whether Merkel and May’s similarities help or hinder the negotiations over the coming months and years, only time will tell.