London (CNN)Things have been going Theresa May’s way lately. As a Remainer, she was on the losing side of the EU Referendum vote. But then she became the first of David Cameron’s team to announce her bid to succeed him as Prime Minister and soon most of her rivals self-combusted.
Boris Johnson, the original favorite among the Brexiteers, was impaled on the dagger of his friend Michael Gove, who launched his own leadership bid with the damning statement: “I have come reluctantly to the conclusion that Boris cannot provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead.”
Gove then blew his chances with a clumsy attempt to get May supporters to vote tactically and keep Andrea Leadsom out of the final head-to-head leadership battle.
The real elephant in the room is immigration, a subject that all except Johnson concede was a major focus in the referendum campaign.
As Home Secretary, May failed to meet the Government’s targets to reduce the numbers coming in, largely thanks to the EU’s policy of free movement of people. If she does not get the numbers down with Britain outside the EU there will be a backlash, to the benefit probably of UKIP.
Defense and spending
Other early decisions facing May as she steps across the Downing Street threshold will include pressing ahead as she has vowed with renewing Britain’s Trident nuclear missile system, the infrastructure spending boost promised by the Treasury and the go-ahead for a massive new nuclear power station at Hinckley Point.
That last is now a more expensive project than it already was thanks to the post-Brexit fall in the value of the pound.
Theresa May has a reputation as a safe pair of hands, an unflustered coper with crises and a tough negotiator. She is going to need to demonstrate all those qualities. Above all she will need to live up to the assessment of a former Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer Kenneth Clarke who was recorded off-air after a television program describing her as “a bloody difficult woman.”
Showing a humor that has not regularly been part of her political makeup, May said that the next person to discover that she was a bloody difficult woman would be Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, who transparently exulted in Britain’s impending EU departure.
The Brexiteers will hold her to that.
Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/11/opinions/oakley-tests-for-theresa-may/index.html