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It's all change at Number 10

12:00am | & News

Today the UK gets a new Prime Minister, as Theresa May moves into 10 Downing Street and David Cameron moves out.

Tomorrow will be three weeks since the EU Referendum, and what a three weeks it has been for British politics! Who could have predicted on June 23rd that less than three weeks later we would have a new Prime Minister preparing to take us out of the EU?

Mrs May becomes only the second woman to serve as Prime Minister, following in the footsteps of the late Margaret Thatcher. That legacy could prove a help or a hindrance, depending on your view of Mrs Thatcher, but Mrs May has said she intends to be her own woman and make her own mark. 

Born in Eastbourne, Sussex, in 1956, Theresa Brasier was a Vicar's daughter and an only child who excelled at school, winning a place at grammar school and then at Oxford University, where she read geography at St Hugh's College. After graduating in 1977, she worked at the Bank of England for six years then, from 1985 to 1997, as a financial consultant and senior advisor in international affairs at the Association for Payment Clearing Services.

Her interest and active participation in politics goes back to at least her university days, where friends recall her ambition to become the UK's first female Prime Minister, a historic milestone which Mrs Thatcher beat her to by 37 years. She also met her future husband, Philip May, while at university, the couple marrying in 1980.

Mrs May's first foray into party politics came as a local councillor in Merton, South London, where she served her ward for a decade and rose to become deputy leader of the council. In 1992 she was selected as the Conservative candidate in North West Durham, but it was a safe Labour seat where she was seen as a southern outsider. She finished a distant second to Labour's Hilary Armstrong, but well ahead of another would-be MP, Tim Farron, current leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Two years later she stood in a by-election in Barking, East London, but with the Conservative Government by then deeply unpopular she polled less than 2,000 votes. That unpopularity saw the Tories suffer a landslide defeat in the 1997 General Election which brought Tony Blair's 'New Labour' to power, but it also saw Mrs May win the seat of Maidenhead, in Berkshire, which she has held ever since.

While the Conservative Party endured its 'wilderness years', Mrs May began to make her mark, quickly promoted to the shadow cabinet and becoming the party's first female chairman in 2002. It wasn't all plain sailing though, as Mrs May was not part of the so-called "Notting Hill set" who seized control of the party around 2005 and laid the path to power for David Cameron and his team.

Despite this setback, she was appointed Home Secretary in 2010 in the new Conservative-led coalition and in the years that followed forged a reputation as a hard-working, tough-talking and very capable senior politician. Her tenure in the Home Office is the longest of any Home Secretary for more than a century, giving her valuable experience at the highest levels of national and international politics.

Now entering Number 10, Mrs May has been absolutely clear on one thing – that "Brexit means Brexit and we're going to make a success of it". Although she was a member of the Remain campaign, she fully accepts the referendum result and has stated her intention to negotiate the best deal possible for the UK on leaving the EU. Her first priority is to "steady the ship" in the wake of the referendum vote.

At 59 she is the oldest leader to enter Downing Street since James Callaghan in 1976, but her maturity is seen as one of her strengths. Although reluctant to talk about her private life, she did reveal in 2013 that she had been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, requiring twice daily insulin injections for the rest of her life.

Her fondness for shoes has also kept press photographers busy over recent years and she is known to be a very keen amateur cook, owning more than 100 cookery books. However, she will have to cook up her own recipe for steering Britain through what could be a few stormy months and years ahead.

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