CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Memories of ‘Essex girl’ Theresa May

New book tells the inside story of our prime minister – and why Brexit is her greatest challenge

10 March, 2017 — By Gerald Isaaman

SHE wore a short skirt, albeit not a luxury leather one costing almost £1,000, in her first bid to become a Tory parliamentary candidate in the safe Labour seat of Holborn and St Pancras in 1989, but Prime Minister Theresa May was unsuccessful – by just one vote.

The local party, Rosa Prince reports in her biography of The Enigmatic Prime Minister: “The men all voted for her because she was wearing a leather skirt – they loved it. It was too much for the women, however, and they voted against her.”

But determined Theresa, a vicar’s daughter, subsequently took on formidable Margaret Hodge, former Labour leader of Islington Council, in Barking, east London, at a by-election in 1994, again being defeated. Indeed, the Tory vote dropped by an eye-watering 10,000 to a miserable 1,976.

Hodge, who still lives locally, recalls: “My memory of her at the count was of a woman who chose to dress like an ‘Essex girl’ and that she wore the most eye-catching shoes. So that trait was already there.”

And Labour councillor colleague Jeannette Alexander agrees with the Essex girl image, adding: “She had very blonde hair and a short cerise-coloured suit. Within a couple of weeks of the by-election in Barking, she wore long skirts and pearls ready for the next seat she tried for.”

It was not until the following year that Theresa May threw her hat into the ring for the new constituency of Maidenhead, in Berkshire, being selected from 300 applicants for what was considered a safe Conservative seat, and at last becoming an MP.

In conclusion, Rosa Prince points out that the greatest challenge for Theresa May is Brexit, let alone the election of President Trump on the international scene alongside Vladimir Putin’s machinations and the collapse of the NHS.

“Divisions among the public remain high following the bitter referendum campaign, with a substantial increase in hate crime; the prison system is on the cusp of meltdown; the inquiry into child sex abuse becomes more dysfunctional by the week; the economy remains in flux.

“These are just some of the legion of challenges facing May and her Cabinet. Yet through it all, with no real opposition to worry about, one thing is clear – the vicar’s daughter remains in control.”

Time – and this week’s budget – may well prove otherwise.

Theresa May: The Enigmatic Prime Minister. By Rosa Prince, Biteback Publishing, £20

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