We’re yet to know Theresa May, yet it’s been all but one appearance on PMQ’s and the comparisons, good or bad, are already swooping in: “Maggie is back”.
It has long been the goal of Conservatives to bring Thatcher back into power, Major became leader simply because he was as much like her as possible without actually being her; Cameron was the chubby young face of Thatcherism when he was first elected. Neither PM managed to quite re-kindle the flame of Thatcher, neither reformed nor inspired as much as she once did.
The Major premiership lacked the flare of Thatcher. An uncharacteristic leader, Major’s policies were a continuation of his predecessor’s without the command, intimidation or iron will. Recession and controversy rocked his premiership.
Cameron on the other hand was a flying success, a young, brave and witty leader willing to make controversial decisions for the good of the country. Of course, Cameron is a descendant of King William IV, his upbringing was described as ‘upper-upper-middle class’ and his father ran a multi-million pound off-shore investment fund. His past is hardly the stuff to inspire the young impoverished to vote Conservative, nor does it defy the stereotype of the Conservative Party as a privileged club.
Cameron’s past and Major’s charisma could not compare to the modest yet striking Thatcher.The daughter of a grocer, raised in a flat, she was not a well versed public speaker and originally failed to win election into parliament. However, she was fearless. When asked a question she was prepared, unlike Major she began to take up the role of an orator and leader; when she spoke her opponents were intimidated.
And now Theresa May enters the scene, the latest in the long line of post-Thatcher leaders. Like The Iron Lady, May comes from a modest background, the daughter of a vicar in Sussex; she was primarily educated in state school and has a degree in geography.
The underdog background of both women is inspiring, it cannot be claimed that either had their careers handed to them on a silver platter, both had to work their way to the top through fearless determination to reach the top, and May is now there.
With her leopard skin shoes firmly planted in power, all eyes now turn to how she will present herself to the public. Her first endeavour into Prime Minister’s Questions would be her proverbial stage. It was from this venture that the comparisons to Mrs. Thatcher truly began to spark, immediately conjuring a comparison between her and Thatcher she asks “what does The Conservative Party do for women? It keeps making us Prime Minister”. Surprisingly she goes on to act as a witty performer welcoming the prospect of debating Corbyn for “many years to come”.
There were many highlights from the performance, the most noted involves a crushing blow to Corbyn after inquiring about unscrupulous bosses and job insecurity. “There might be many members opposite who are familiar with an unscrupulous boss” she goes on to list “a boss who doesn’t listen to his workers, a boss who requires some of his workers to double their workload, or maybe even a boss who exploits the rules to further his own career”, the house roars, May ends by asking, “remind him of anybody?”.
The air of Thatcher-esque theatrics to her answers cannot be denied, she is clever and commanding at the dispatch box, members are quick to sing their praises.
Yet there is still much to be desired. Thatcher was radical in her time, her policies were unthinkable. A PM who’s only desire was to quell the uninterrupted road to socialism? Since the end of the war, her policies for considered unthinkable: mass privatisation, spending cuts, focus on inflation, the list goes on. Thatcher’s policies have since become the centre ground of politics that all parties vie for, Blair was infamous for purging the socialist aspects of Labour, Miliband ran his election campaign as the famed ‘austerity light’ candidate to Cameron’s full austerity plan.
For May to continue to work on the much touted ‘long term economic plan’ would be nothing radical or different, the ‘long term economic plan’ has been carried out by most governments since Thatcher under different names, it always revolves around cutting and privatising.
How can May be as fresh as Thatcher once was? The troubles facing Britain must be recognised, May must be fearless in taking them on just as Thatcher was with socialism. Brexit, immigration, terrorism, all issues which May should and must tackle if she wants to become the Conservatives second Iron Lady.
If May were to become the next Thatcher, she should not only adopt her policies or her demeanour as she has successfully done, she must also adopt the sense of fearlessness, she must be willing to be different, to take control and command respect for doing so. Thatcher swam against the current and turned it her way, will May do the same?