Expert comment: Is Theresa May a smart choice for the country?

Posted by ap507 at Jul 13, 2016 11:22 AM |
University of Leicester experts comment on the new Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 13 July 2016

Academics at the University of Leicester have commented on the appointment of Theresa May as the new Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party, replacing David Cameron.

In a series of articles written for Think: Leicester, the University’s platform for academic opinion pieces, the researchers discuss the prospect of Mrs May making positive Brexit negotiations with Angela Merkel, her opportunity to introduce greater representation for women in British politics - but also ways in which her new position of power may not be a cause for celebration for some women.  

Dr Rob Dover from the University of Leicester Department of Politics and International Relations said: “The selection of Theresa May for leader of the Conservative Party and so the new Prime Minister is potentially a very smart choice both for the Party and for the Country. Mrs May has a strong reputation as a tough and careful negotiator, which is exactly the right mix for the impending Brexit negotiations with fellow EU heads of Member State.

“The prospect of negotiations between Mrs May and Mrs Merkel are substantially more encouraging than between Merkel and Boris Johnson or any of the other Brexit leaders in the UK. Mrs May was a very discreet campaigner for Remain, and has undoubtedly reaped her reward for this understated approach. The Brexiteers have knocked each other out, whilst she watched patiently from the side allowing them to make their mistakes.

“Mrs May's elevation is significant for its gender dimension. As the second female Prime Minister many will watch to see if she makes any moves towards a parity cabinet or towards the fuller substantive representation of women in British politics. Mrs Thatcher was poor in this regard, but Mrs May has the perfect opportunity to make these advancements.”

Dr Jilly Boyce Kay from the Department of Media and Communication and Media and Gender group said: “It is true that the very fact of having a woman as Prime Minister will inevitably change the gendered nature of the game, which is so skewed towards the privileging of men’s voices over women’s  – witness, for example, the ways in which the media reporting of the EU referendum was reduced to a political duel between Cameron and Johnson.

“However, when we ask whether May’s new position at the pinnacle of British political life is empowering for women, we need to consider which particular women we are talking about. For women with disabilities whose benefits have been cut because of policies that she voted for; for migrant women who were subjected to the ‘Go Home’ billboard vans that she oversaw; for feminists who do not simply want to see women rising to the top of a system that is predicated on inequality, but who want to change the system itself – May’s new position of power is hardly a cause for celebration.”

ENDS 

Notes to editors:

To interview Dr Robert Dover contact rmd27@leicester.ac.uk or Dr Jilly Boyce Kay on jilly.kay@leicester.ac.uk

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