Date of birth: 1 October 1956
Job: Home secretary
One of the longest-serving home secretaries in British history, Mrs May, who turns 60 later this year, has long been regarded as a potential future leader of the party.
An early advocate of Conservative “modernisation” with a famously exotic taste in shoes, she is seen as one of Westminster’s toughest and shrewdest operators.
Her political stock rose when, in 2013, she succeeded where many other home secretaries before her had failed and successfully deported radical cleric Abu Qatada. But she has faced constant criticism over the government’s failure to meet its promise to get net migration down to below 100,000 a year.
First elected to Parliament in 1997 as the MP for Maidenhead, Mrs May joined the shadow cabinet in 1999 as shadow education secretary and in 2002, she became the party’s first female chairman. She ruffled feathers at that year’s Conservative conference when she told party members that they were seen as members of the “nasty party”. Some in the party have never forgiven her for it.
Mrs May – who became the UK’s most senior female politician after being appointed home secretary in 2010 – has been a prominent advocate of positive action to recruit more women Tories to winnable seats. She has persistently called for the UK to leave the European Convention on Human Rights but she has said she would drop this policy if she became prime minister, saying there is not a parliamentary majority for it.
In 2014, she stunned the annual conference of the Police Federation by telling them corruption problems were not just limited to “a few bad apples” and threatening to end the federation’s automatic right to enrol officers as its members.
In the same year, she got into a bitter public row with cabinet colleague Michael Gove over the best way to combat Islamist extremism, which ended with Gove having to apologise to the prime minister and Mrs May having to sack a long-serving special adviser.
Prior to her parliamentary career, Mrs May worked at the Bank of England, and rose to become head of the European Affairs Unit of the Association for Payment Clearing Services.
Mrs May, who revealed in 2013 that she has type 1 diabetes, grew up in Oxfordshire, the only child of a Church of England vicar. She met her future husband Philip at university, where she studied geography, and they were married in 1980. The couple have no children.
Education: Mainly state-educated at Wheatley Park Comprehensive School with a brief time at an independent school; St Hugh’s College, Oxford
On her party’s future: “(It is) nothing less than the patriotic duty of our party to unite and to govern in the best interests of the whole country. We need a bold, new positive vision for the future of our country – a country that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us.” Says people want more than just a “Brexit PM” and has vowed to unify the Leave and Remain factions in the party.
Where she stands on Brexit: Backed Remain campaign but says vote to come out must be respected. “Brexit means Brexit. The campaign was fought, the vote was held, turnout was high and the public gave their verdict. There must be no attempts to remain inside the EU, no attempts to rejoin it through the back door and no second referendum.” Mrs May also said there should be no general election before 2020 and no “emergency” Brexit budget – and that she would abandon the target of eliminating Britain’s Budget deficit by the end of the decade – a day before the chancellor himself abandoned it.
When she would trigger Article 50: Would not push the button to take Britain out of the EU before the end of 2016, to give Britain time to “finalise” its negotiating stance.
Free movement policy: “It must be a priority to allow British companies to trade with the single market in goods and services but also to regain more control of the numbers of people who are coming here from Europe.”
She has said the status of EU nationals living in the UK would form part of the forthcoming Brexit negotiations, refusing to guarantee that they will be allowed to remain, in contrast to her rivals. She has also suggested migration could rise ahead of the UK’s eventual exit from the EU but remains committed to the government’s aim of getting net migration below 100,000 a year.
What the press say: “In a political party that struggles to shake off its elitist, old Etonian, yah-boo-sucks reputation, May represents a different kind of politician: a calm headmistress in a chamber full of over-excitable public schoolboys. She holds herself at one remove… her obdurate stance has earned her some vociferous critics. There are those who claim that, while she takes care never to sully her own hands with the grubby business of political backstabbing, she will send out her team to issue ferocious briefings against her rivals.” The Guardian.
The new PM is known for her exotic taste in shoes.