Even With “Boris and the Brexiters,” May’s Cabinet is Mixed Bag for the Right

“Brexit is Brexit,” declared May in spelling out her position to execute the will of the voters in wanting to leave the European Union. Certainly her tapping of Johnson, Fox, Davis and several others are strong signs she means it and will act accordingly. But whether May goes on to become another Margaret Thatcher is a saga that is yet to be written.

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By John Gizzi | l August 9, 2016

Cabinet

“Margaret Thatcher Reincarnated” is how the Russian Defense Ministry publication “Red Star” characterized Theresa May on July 14, the day after she became the second woman after Thatcher to move into Number Ten Downing Street.

Other news outlets dubbed the new British Prime Minister “the Steel Lady,” an obvious play on the nickname “Iron Lady” bestowed upon Thatcher.

Whether “Tessie” May is in fact more like the right-of-center icon Margaret Thatcher or instead like her more centrist predecessor David Cameron is unclear at this time. Judging from the Cabinet May unveiled, it would appear safe to say that the new prime minister has left admirers on the right and in the middle quite unsure as to which direction she will lead.

May did stun the nation and the world by naming former London Mayor Boris Johnson foreign secretary. Often likened to Donald Trump for his unruly white hair and outspoken comments, Johnson was the public face of the “Leave” campaign in the recent “Brexit” referendum.

With his own bid to be party leader and thus prime minister dashed when one of his closest supporters abandoned him, Johnson appeared headed for the political “wilderness.” May rescued him by bestowing upon Johnson the premier Cabinet post of all.

Johnson was soon making strong statements on the terrorist tragedy at Nice to the attempted coup in Turkey (weeks after he won a contest by writing the “most offensive Erdogan poetry”—a limerick about the Turkish president having sex with a goat and rhyming “Ankara” with “wanker”).

Other “Brexiters” given spots in the May Cabinet included Liam Fox (secretary of state for industry) and David Davis, who will oversee negotiations for exiting the European Union. Both Fox and Davis were right-of-center opponents to Cameron in the 2007 race for Conservative Party leader.

Also named to cheers on the right were Chris Grayling (secretary of state for transport), Preti Patal (secretary of state for international development), and Andrea Leadsom (environment secretary), who was May’s last opponent standing in the race for leader before bowing out.

But, Ben Harris-Quinney, president of the conservative Bow Group, sees it differently. As he pointed out, “the fact the cabinet is made up of 75% of remainers [from Cameron’s Cabinet], largely from the left of the party who will be focused on running the country.”

As examples of what he means, Harris-Quinney cited May’s promoting her close ally Liz Truss to the Justice Department. Truss, he noted, is considered a moderate in the Cameron mode “with no experience in the law.”

May also promoted another close ally Amber Rudd to be Home Secretary, the post May herself held for six years at the Home Office and which oversees immigration and law and order. However, Rudd is thought unlikely to be committed to reducing immigration, which could prove politically problematic with the post-Brexit British electorate.

Two of the most important portfolios were given to “Cameroons” considered more technocrat than ideologically committed: Phillip Hammond, Cameron’s foreign secretary, as Chancellor of the Exchequer (treasury chief) and Michael Fallon, who was retained as defense secretary.

Both Hammond and Fallon were on the “Remain” side in the vote to leave the EU.

“Brexit is Brexit,” declared May in spelling out her position to execute the will of the voters in wanting to leave the European Union. Certainly her tapping of Johnson, Fox, Davis and several others are strong signs she means it and will act accordingly. But whether May goes on to become another Margaret Thatcher is a saga that is yet to be written.


John Gizzi is the White House correspondent and chief political columnist for Newsmax. He is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.

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