When Theresa May officially took over as Britain’s prime minister on Wednesday, in theory she was bringing new leadership to the country at a dramatic and tumultuous time. But in another way, she doesn’t look so new. No sooner had she delivered her first remarks as prime minister than Adam Boulton of Sky News remarked that May, whose speech focused on inequality and social justice, “reminded me a bit of Margaret Thatcher: ‘Where there is discord, let us bring harmony.’”
Foes and friends alike have repeatedly invoked the Iron Lady’s memory as May has risen to the fore in the weeks following the June referendum on whether the U.K. should leave the European Union, and the political chaos and leadership vacuum that ensued.
One telling example came last week, when an unkempt, red-cheeked Ken Clarke, a Conservative politician, had a hot-mic moment with another former Tory government minister, Sir Malcolm Rifkind. At the time, May was not yet the last person standing in the race to succeed David Cameron, who resigned after having staked his career on holding the Brexit referendum, in which he campaigned for the U.K. to stay in. Clarke and Rifkind seemed to believe they were off-air when they began dissecting May’s last two remaining rivals in the leadership contest, but they were caught on live camera annihilating both Michael Gove (“we’d go to war with at least three countries at once”) and Andrea Leadsom (“so long as she understands she’s not to deliver on some of the extremely stupid things she’s been saying”), before directing their remarks to May.