Theresa May will become prime minister on Wednesday afternoon, but where does she stand on key issues? These are her beliefs, her successes and failures, and how her views have evolved:
May’s work on immigration during her long tenure at the Home Office is how most will know her politics. She did not herself propose the target of reducing net migration to tens of thousands, but she has repeatedly committed herself to trying to meet it. Net migration stood at 330,000 at the last count.
One of her most controversial policies, aimed at drastically reducing immigration from outside the EU, was a new rule barring British citizens from bringing their spouses or children into Britain unless they earned more than £18,600, regardless of how much their non-British spouse earned. Families are currently challenging the law in the supreme court, and pressure groups say it is causing young children to have long-term separation from their families.
One of her biggest embarrassments in the Home Office was the widely criticised “go home vans”, which drove round the country offering illegal immigrants help to return to their home countries. As well as being roundly mocked and plagued with hoax calls, the scheme resulted in just 11 people leaving the country.
In her only key intervention during the EU referendum, May hinted that Britain should withdraw from the European convention on human rights regardless of the referendum result. “The ECHR can bind the hands of parliament, adds nothing to our prosperity, makes us less secure by preventing the deportation of dangerous foreign nationals, and does nothing to change the attitudes of governments like Russia’s when it comes to human rights,” she said.
However, asked directly about her plans to withdraw from the ECHR at her leadership launch, May said she would no longer seek to leave the convention.
May sees the deportation of Abu Qatada as one of her key achievements as home secretary, after she was repeatedly advised it would not be possible because of concerns about his treatment in Jordan. She is also prepared to block the deportation of British citizens, including that of the computer hacker Gary McKinnon.
She clashed with the Conservative grandee Ken Clarke during a party conference in 2011 after she claimed that one immigrant was not deportable because he had a pet cat. Clarke said he would happily have a small bet with his colleague that no one had ever avoided deportation on those grounds.
May is one of the key backers of the snooper’s charter, and was accused of trying to rush the bill through parliament earlier this year, before being forced to agree on a number of privacy concessions.
Women and equality
May has consistently described herself as a “one-nation Tory”. Her warning to Tory activists in 2002 that the Conservatives were seen as “the nasty party” was a modernising call to arms. She voted in favour of legalising same-sex marriage, saying: “If two people care for each other, if they love each other, then they should be able to get married.”
Her views have clearly evolved over the years, as she previously voted against repealing section 28, a law that had banned schools from intentionally promoting homosexuality, and against reducing the age of consent for gay sex.
May spoke about equality of opportunity during her leadership speech, saying: “If you’re a woman, you still earn less than a man.”
As home secretary, she pushed for more action on domestic violence, including a law against coercive control and a nationwide inquiry by the HMIC into the treatment of domestic violence victims by police. Campaigners point out, however, that May has been far less concerned about the treatment of migrant women, refusing to end the detention of pregnant women in Yarl’s Wood.
As minister for women and equalities, May was criticised by the Labour party for scrapping a legal requirement on public bodies to try to reduce class inequalities. “That was as ridiculous as it was simplistic,” she said.
Business and workers’ rights
May made workers’ rights the cornerstone of her leadership speech on Monday, saying: “Under my leadership, the Conservative party will put itself – completely, absolutely, unequivocally – at the service of working people.”
May has pledged to give workers a place on company boards and for the annual shareholder vote on executive pay to become binding, not advisory.
She has not always been a strong supporter of workers’ rights, making several speeches opposing a mandatory national minimum wage a year after she was first elected in 1997. “In the national minimum wage, the burden is being shifted from state welfare spending to businesses,” she said. The government should consider “allowing employers to step aside from the provisions of the national minimum wage for a limited period in extreme economic circumstances,” May added.
May has changed her stance over the years on university tuition fees, voting against top-up fees in 2004 and against raising the tuition fee cap. There was a quick reversal on this when in government, however. May voted to raise the cap in 2010.
She is a strong supporter of Michael Gove’s free schools endeavour, setting out her opinion in a 2009 speech on allowing “educational charities, philanthropists, existing school federations, not-for-profit trusts, cooperatives and groups of parents to set up new schools in the state sector”.
In 2007, after Gordon Brown took over in Downing Street from Tony Blair, May was on the Conservative frontbench pushing for a general election. “The prime minister is running scared of a general election,” she said.
But when May officially launched her Conservative leadership bid, she ruled out an early general election. “There should be no general election until 2020,” she said.
This article was written by Jessica Elgot, for theguardian.com on Monday 11th July 2016 17.49 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010