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British Home Secretary Theresa May Set To Become Next Prime Minister


Britain's home secretary, Theresa May, will become prime minister this week after her last rival dropped out of the race to lead the country's ruling party.


THERESA MAY: I am honored and humbled to have been chosen by the Conservative Party to become its leader.

SIEGEL: That's May thanking her colleagues outside parliament today. Lauren Frayer reports from London on May's background and on the huge task facing her once she's prime minister.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: As part of her job as Britain's home secretary, Theresa May is been in charge of the police. Every year, she speaks to the Police Federation. She's played bad cop.


MAY: If you do not change of your own accord, we will impose change on you.

FRAYER: And she's played good cop.


MAY: These are reforms that hardworking police officers should welcome. Winsor...

FRAYER: And every year, she gets booed and heckled. Confrontations like this have earned her descriptions like hard as nails, another Iron Lady. The original Iron Lady was Margaret Thatcher, who led Britain from 1979 to 1990. She was the daughter of a grocer. And May echoed Thatcher's language when she announced her candidacy for prime minister late last month.


MAY: I grew up the daughter of a local vicar. And I know I'm not a showy politician. I don't tour the television studios. I don't gossip about people over lunch. I don't go drinking in Parliament's bars. I don't often wear my heart on my sleeve. I just get on with the job in front of me.


FRAYER: Gossip in bars - a veiled reference to infighting within the U.K.'s Conservative Party over Brexit. One by one, the male politicians who led a campaign to leave the EU have backstabbed one another and dropped out of the race. Sarah Gordon is the Financial Times' business editor.

SARAH GORDON: There is a definite feeling that we need politicians to show more maturity and, frankly, less ruthless ego. And in this situation, you've had a number of women coming to the fore who do appear really like the adults in the situation compared to the men.

FRAYER: Like Angela Eagle, who launched her bid today for leadership of the opposition Labor Party after its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, lost the support of most of his MPs. Britons remember Eagle as being on the receiving end of a 2011 taunt by Prime Minister David Cameron during a rowdy session of Parliament.


DAVID CAMERON: Calm down, dear, calm down. Calm down.


FRAYER: Many found his scolding sexist. Cameron issued an apology. Since then, women have surged into power here. Nicola Sturgeon is Scotland's first minister. In fact, the leaders of the three main parties in Scotland are all women. So is the first minister of Northern Ireland.

Theresa May's main rival in the prime minister's race was also a woman, Andrea Leadsom. She suggested May has less stake in the country's future because she has no children. Today she apologized and dropped out of the race.


ANDREA LEADSOM: I wish Theresa May the very greatest success. I assure her of my full support.


FRAYER: She's likely to angle for a cabinet post instead. Leadsom voted to leave the EU, like a majority of U.K. voters, while May campaigned to stay in. That's something that concerns some Leave voters like Dave Cooper, who runs a pub in Leadsom's home district of South Northamptonshire.

DAVE COOPER: I did an internal poll within my pub. It's about 80 percent wanted out - very, very popular. So I hope Theresa May can run a country wanting to be in Europe.

FRAYER: May said tonight, Brexit means Brexit, and that she'll carry out the will of the people even though it wasn't her own. Outgoing Prime Minister Cameron says he'll go to Buckingham Palace on Wednesday and submit his resignation to the Queen. May should be in 10 Downing Street that night. For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lauren Frayer covers India for NPR News. In June 2018, she opened a new NPR bureau in India's biggest city, its financial center, and the heart of Bollywood—Mumbai.