Theresa Mary May is a British politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party from 2016 to 2019. May served as Home Secretary from 2010 to 2016 and has been Member of Parliament (MP) for Maidenhead since 1997. Ideologically, she identifies herself as a one-nation conservative.
May grew up in Oxfordshire and attended St Hugh’s College, Oxford. After graduating in 1977, she worked at the Bank of England and UK Payments Administration. She also served as a councillor for Durnsford in Merton. After two unsuccessful attempts to be elected to the House of Commons, she was elected as the MP for Maidenhead in 1997. From 1999 to 2010, May held a number of roles in Shadow Cabinets. She was also Chairwoman of the Conservative Party from 2002 to 2003. When the coalition government was formed after the 2010 general election, May was appointed Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, but gave up the latter role in 2012. Reappointed after the Conservative success in the 2015 general election, she became the longest-serving home secretary in over 60 years. During her tenure she pursued reform of the Police Federation, implemented a harder line on drugs policy including the banning of khat, oversaw the introduction of elected Police and Crime Commissioners, the deportation of Abu Qatada, the creation of the National Crime Agency, and brought in additional restrictions on immigration. She is to date, the only woman to hold two of the Great Offices of State.
In July 2016, after David Cameron resigned, May was elected as Conservative Party Leader unopposed by party members, becoming Britain’s second female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher having been the first. As Prime Minister, May began the process of withdrawing the UK from the European Union, triggering Article 50 in March 2017. The following month, she announced a snap general election, with the aims of strengthening her hand in Brexit negotiations and highlighting her “strong and stable” leadership. This resulted in a hung parliament, in which the number of Conservative seats fell from 330 to 317, despite the party winning its highest vote share since 1983. The loss of an overall majority prompted her to enter a confidence and supply arrangement with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to support a minority government. After forming a second ministry on 11 June 2017, she faced a significant number of ministerial resignations.
May survived a vote of no confidence from Conservative MPs in December 2018 and a Parliamentary vote of no confidence in January 2019. She said that she would not lead her party in the next general election scheduled for 2022 under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, but did not rule out leading it into another snap election before then. She carried out the Brexit negotiations with the European Union, adhering to the Chequers Agreement, which resulted in the draft Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU. This agreement was defeated by Parliament in January 2019 in the largest majority against a British government in history. She later announced a revised deal, but this was defeated in Parliament by 391 votes to 242. In March 2019, May committed to stepping down as Prime Minister if Parliament passed her Brexit deal, to make way for a new leader in the second phase of Brexit; however, the Withdrawal Agreement was rejected for a third time. On 24 May 2019, she announced her resignation as party leader which took effect on 7 June. She stated that she would remain in office as Prime Minister until a successor was appointed. She stood down as Prime Minister on 24 July, following the election of her former Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, to replace her; but remains as MP on the House of Commons as a backbencher.