LONDON: “Brexit means Brexit,” Theresa May said as she kicked off her campaign Thursday to become the second female British prime minister after Margaret Thatcher.
A serious, no-nonsense politician: If she says Brexit means Brexit, it probably does.
May said that she was the one to unite the country and lead it forward after British Prime Minister David Cameron announced his resignation last week when his pro-European Union side lost the EU referendum.
“My pitch is simple: I’m Theresa May, and I think I’m the best person to be prime minister,” she said.
May also campaigned to remain in the EU, but not loudly, and she is known for her Euro-skeptic views.
On Thursday, she ruled out a second referendum, as well as a general election before 2020. She also said that under her leadership, Britain would not apply to leave the EU before the end of the year.
In her speech Thursday morning, she sought to paint herself as a serious politician, in contrast to Boris Johnson, the flamboyant former London mayor who had not yet delivered the big “whoa” moment of the day, when he dropped out of the race.
“I’m not a showy politician. I don’t tour the television studios. I don’t gossip over lunch. I don’t drink in Parliament’s bars. I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve. I just get on with the job in front of me,” she said.
May is Britain’s long-serving Home Secretary, where she oversees the vexing issue of immigration. She is praised by some in her party for taking a tough stance on immigration and for introducing visa restrictions on non-EU immigrants in an attempt to drive down net migration. For instance, as of April, Americans and other non-Europeans living in the U.K. for more than five years have to earn 35,000 pounds, or about $47,000, if they want to stay.
She is also reviled by some on the left. Her critics were outraged over a speech she gave last year to the Conservative Party in which she suggested that immigration makes Britain a less cohesive society.
“When immigration is too high, when the pace of change is too fast, it’s impossible to build a cohesive society,” she said.
She once famously said that many voters saw the Conservative Party as the “nasty party.” On Thursday, she praised Cameron for helping to detoxify the image of the party.
But while she was mostly full of praise for Cameron, she did say that she wouldn’t sign up to the current government’s plan to turn the budget deficit into a surplus by 2020. She said it was “vital” to continue along a similar path, but she added, “We should no longer seek to produce a budget surplus by the end of the Parliament.”
The 59-year-old is a daughter of a Church of England clergyman and says that public service is “part of who I am.”